Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Deadlocked Duel of 2011

Welcome back to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Wednesday Oscar Retrospective. The Deadlocked Duel was the fourth in a series of projects looking back at the past eight years of the Oscars, dating back to the first ceremony I watched and closely followed. Since I started this feature back in 2010, I’ll now be filling in the past two years.

Each year after the Oscar nominations are announced, there’s at least one category where two nominees end up in a heated battle for the award right up until Oscar night, dividing predictors and keeping Oscar watchers anxiously in suspense. This series is devoted to analyzing the biggest and most intense of those battles each year, in any category.

The Deadlocked Duel of 2011:

Viola Davis (The Help) vs. Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) for Best Actress

The background: Prior to the nominations announcement, Meryl Streep was the most-nominated performer in the history of the Oscars, with sixteen nominations and two wins from the very beginning of her career, in 1979 and 1982. Viola Davis, who made her first film and television appearances in 1996, had one Oscar nomination, for 2008’s “Doubt,” in which she co-starred with Streep, and two Tony Awards. Both had appeared in two of the most notable female-led films of the year.

Why it was just the two of them: Earning her second consecutive nomination, Michelle Williams probably had a better shot than the year before for her Golden-Globe winning portrayal of Marilyn Monroe. Still, being up against another master imitator, Streep, didn’t help her chances one bit. Glenn Close was well overdue for an Oscar win after losing five times during the 1980s, but the twenty-three-year time gap between her fifth and sixth nominations made that less relevant, as did her two Emmy Awards for TV’s “Damages.” Rooney Mara barely made it in for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and a debut performance like that was just strong enough to capture voters’ attention, but not win them over entirely.

Setting the stage:The Help” opened strong with five Golden Globe nominations and four SAG nods, while mentions for “The Iron Lady” from both organizations were reserved only for Streep. Though the former film had a greater nomination tally at the Golden Globes, Streep managed to eclipse that win. Come the SAG Awards, however, Davis triumphed, as her film took home the Best Cast award as well. The Oscar nominations revealed a surprising lack of enthusiasm for “The Help,” which lost out on writing and costume nods, earning three acting nominations and a Best Picture mention, while “The Iron Lady” performed as expected, with a nod for Streep and another for makeup.

Oscar night: This awards enthusiast cautiously predicted Streep to win mainly due to the low nomination tally for “The Help.” There was little to indicate either outcome, save for Oscar history and the fact that Streep had only won twice out of sixteen tries thus far. When the category finally arrived towards the end of the Oscar ceremony, Streep was the victor, earning a well-deserved standing ovation.

Consolation prize for the loser: Streep presented her good friend Davis with the Women in Film’s Crystal Award this past June.

Come back next week for a look at the Deadlocked Duel of 2010. If you have a prediction or a suggestion, please leave it in the comments.

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