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Countdown to Oscars

Tuesday, January 14, 2014
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Potential Nominees Who Are Overdue for Oscar Wins

By Mark Pinkert
Contributor

One of the most popular Oscar hopefuls this year is Bruce Dern, who has gotten a lot of love from critics and from his peers for a great performance in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska. But, other than the role itself, what has made his story so special is that he’s had an extremely prolific film career–mostly as a supporting actor–and is finally getting Oscar recognition for the first time at the age of 77.  (Dern did get nominated for Best Supporting Actor thirty-five years ago for Coming Home (1978).) Even getting a nomination, though, will be an uphill battle, as he’s in a tight race with the likes of Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Matthew McConaughey.

Unfortunately for Dern, he’ll also have to squeeze past another 77-year-old, Robert Redford, who is due for a win as well. Surprisingly, this iconic actor has never won an Oscar for Best Actor; he was nominated in 1973 for The Sting, but lost to the late, great Jack Lemmon. (Redford has had other Oscar nominations in the Director category: he won for Ordinary People (1980) and was nominated for Quiz Show (1994).) This year, Redford is an Oscar hopeful by way of All Is Lost, a film in which there is no one–literally, no one–to steal his acting spotlight.

On the female side of the aisle, Judi Dench is also overdue for a win, perhaps surprisingly as well. She has been nominated four times for Best Actress, but has yet to win. She did win Best Supporting Actress for her role in Shakespeare in Love (1998) and was nominated for Chocolat (2000), but despite her illustrious, fifty-five year career, never took home the lead actress prize. This year she could do it for Philomena, but, like Dern and Reford, she’ll have some tough competition.

Whether or not these actors–Dench, Dern, and Redford–get nominated and win this year, they at least have the advantage of recognition going into the voting. Everyone in the Academy knows them and might even appreciate that they’re long overdue for wins. On the other hand, people in technical, non-acting/directing fields have a much more difficult time getting over the Oscar hump. This is because they can be voted in only by their peers (who more closely recognize the mastery of their work) but once they are nominated, they are voted on by all Academy members (who may be swayed by the movies themselves rather than the isolated work of the technical nominees). In other words, a composer nominated for Best Original Score might lose to a lesser score from a better film, or a makeup artist–iconic among his or her peers–might get several nominations from the Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Branch only to lose each time in the final, full-Academy vote.

This year, the composer Thomas Newman falls into that category of incredibly prolific, respected by his peers, and still without an Oscar win. Whether or not Newman has just had bad luck and always lost to truly better scores is debatable; what is known is that he has ten Best Original Score nominations without a single win (he also has a Best Original Song nomination, and still no win). In fact, Newman had double odds in 1994 with two nominations (one for The Shawshank Redemption and one for Little Women), but still could not pull of the Oscar. It’s not that he is unknown in Hollywood–in fact, he’s part of one of the most famous film-scoring families in history, which includes his father, David Newman, and his cousin, Randy Newman. But ten films without one win? That’s about as overdue as it gets. And I’d be interested to see if he would have won any of the Original Score awards had the category been voted on by the music division alone. This year, Newman will likely get a nod for Saving Mr. Banks, but will then have to go against Hans Zimmer, who has the advantage of a better movie, 12 Years a Slave, and John Williams, the most prolific and recognized composer in film history.

Like Newman, Roger Deakins is an overdue technical artist without the advantage of on-screen recognition. His name, though, is hopefully familiar to most, as he’s had a prolific career doing cinematography for Joel and Ethan Coen and Sam Mendes. Deakins’ streak is similar Newman’s in that he’s had ten nominations, been extremely hot since 2000, had a double nomination along the way (in 2007 for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and No Country for Old Men), and is still yet to win an Oscar. Despite his unbelievable resume and the fact that he’s incredibly overdue, this still might not be the year for him. He is the director of photography for Prisoners, which despite strong critical reception has lost steam over the last four months since its release in September. He’ll have tough competition, too, specifically from Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki), which is a huge frontrunner at this point, and even if Gravity doesn’t win, Deakins will still have to go up against the ultra-hyped 12 Years a Slave (Sean Bobbitt) and the standout black and white cinematography of Nebraska (Phedon Papamichael). Then of course there’s the Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis, which Deakins couldn’t work on because of an overlap in projects. Talk about a tough break if Deakins’ replacement, Bruno Delbonnel, wins this year.

Finally, there’s Patricia Norris, who is the least recognizable name outside of Hollywood circles, but who has made significant contributions to several iconic films (including Scarface (1983)) as a costume designer. Norris is now 82 years old and, despite five nominations, has not yet won an Academy Award for Costume Design. This year she’ll be in the hunt for 12 Years a Slave and can hopefully ride some of the film’s hype to a win. But, like every other overdue hopeful, she’s got tough competition, especially with all of the other, colorful period pieces this year, like American Hustle, The Great Gatsby, and Saving Mr. Banks.

photo courtesy of Digititles

 

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