Why do kids have a hard time breaking through at the Oscars?
It’s an interesting question, and one that is dissected over at Gold Derby this morning, where they point out that multiple Oscar-worthy performances from underage talents could be overlooked this season if the Academy’s tendencies disrupt the momentum of select campaigns.
Make no mistake about it: Viola Davis is the best thing about “The Help” (Disney, 8/12, PG-13, trailer), just as she’s the best thing about virtually every project that she’s a part of, and she probably deserves another Oscar nod for her efforts to go along with the one that she received three years ago (for her brief but unforgettable turn opposite Meryl Streep in “Doubt”) and her two Tonys (best performance by a featured actress in a play for “King Hedley II” in 2001 and best performance by a leading actress in a play for “Fences” in 2010).
At a time when Hollywood headlines are dominated by the likes of Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, and Lindsay Lohan, it’s easy to despair about the future of show business. But then one watches Hailee Steinfeld, a 14-year-old who had never before acted in a feature film, totally stealing “True Grit” from her A-list co-stars en route to an Oscar nod… and Saoirse Ronan, a 16-year-old from Ireland, making a killer-on-the-loose far more frightening than any muscled thug ever could have in “Hanna”… and Elle Fanning, a remarkably poised 13-year-old, outshining even the most impressive visual effects in “Super 8,” this summer’s most acclaimed film, with her undeniable talent and screen presence… and one realizes that there is actually plenty of reason for hope.
This afternoon, I had the opportunity to spend a half-hour with yet another of Hollywood’s exciting up-and-comers — in this case, one of my personal favorites, and one of the youngest of the lot at just 11 (“and-a-half,” as she notes): Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper, the troubled daughter of Don and Betty, on Matt Weiner’s 1960s-set drama “Mad Men” (2007-, AMC). As you can see in the above video, she is as freakishly impressive off-screen as she is on, which is saying a lot!
There are a significant number of pundits who are betting that Hailee Steinfeld, the 14-year-old star of “True Grit,” will win the best supporting actress Oscar over Melissa Leo, the veteran thespian who won top honors this year from the BFCA, HFPA, and SAG for her performance in “The Fighter.” As great as Steinfeld is in her film — and she is great — the following stat may make them reconsider their pick…
Los Angeles Times: Michael Palin, an actor who is best known for his BAFTA Award winning performance as a stutterering buffoon in “A Fish Called Wanda” (1988), pens an op-ed in the New York Times in which he shares the story of his father’s real battle with a stutter, his own work to help those who suffer from the affliction, and his feelings about the importance of “The King’s Speech.”
The Odds: Steve Pond shares a slideshow of recent street-art that has gone up in and around Hollywood and is believed to be the work of Banksy, the famously-anonymous street artist who is now an Oscar nominee for his documentary (feature) “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” Is this, as Pond and others have suggested, part of an unconventional “Oscar campaign”?
MSNBC: Mickey Rooney, the 90-year-old Hollywood legend who I had the privilege of interviewing back in July, has been granted a restraining order against his 52-year-old step-son, whom he is accusing of abuse and intimidation.
Vanity Fair: Matt Tyrnauer, the director of the grossly-underappreciated doc “Valentino: The Last Emperor” (2009) and a great writer, has penned one of the finest long-form articles that I have ever read about Hollywood — or anything else — in this month’s magnificent “Hollywood Issue.” Do yourself a favor and read this remarkable true story of Janet de Cordova, a Beverly Hills socialite, and Gracie Covarrubias, her loyal friend.
My conversations with industry insiders and Academy members lead me to believe that Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”) remains the favorite to win the best supporting actress Academy Award, despite — or perhaps even because of — the recent brouhaha over her “Consider” advertisements. In terms of statistical analysis, though, one can find cause for both confidence and concern about her Oscar prospects…
Last night, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented its Virtuoso Award to five very different actors who enjoyed breakthroughs, of one sort or another, in 2010: Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”), a Golden Globe nominee for best supporting actor, who will soon be seen in the “Spider-Man” reboot (and who was unable to attend the ceremony due to a last-minute filming conflict); John Hawkes (“Winter’s Bone”), a best supporting actor SAG and Oscar nominee, who is finally being recognized for decades of strong work that has heretofore flown under most people’s radars; Lesley Manville (“Another Year”), the National Board of Review’s best actress winner, who is writer-director Mike Leigh’s most frequent collaborator; Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”), a best supporting actress SAG and Oscar nominee, who is only 14 years old; Jacki Weaver (“Animal Kingdom”), a best supporting actress Golden Globe and Oscar nominee, who is a 63-year-old giant of Australian stage and screen.
Aw, check out Hailee Steinfeld, the 14-year-old best supporting actress nominee for “True Grit,” in this pre-fame video: a trailer for a 2009 short called “She’s a Fox” in which she plays the adorable love interest of an elementary school student…
On Saturday afternoon, I had the opportunity to spend a half-hour at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills with Hailee Steinfeld, the 14-year-old best supporting actress SAG Award nominee/Oscar hopeful for her performance as a young firebrand in Ethan Coen and Joel Coen’s “True Grit” (Paramount, 12/22, PG-13, trailer), which ranks among the greatest big screen debuts of all-time. The night before we met, we both attended the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, which are determined by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, of which I am a member. I had voted for Steinfeld in the category of “best young actor/actress,” and sure enough she won, prompting a loud ovation from the audience and a charming speech from her. When I walked into her hotel suite for our interview the next day, she was still on a high from the excitement of attending her first awards show — and winning her first acting award — but laughingly noted that she could do without having to wear super-tight dresses like the beautiful one she wore — sans shoes — during our time together.
Hitfix: Greg Ellwood notes that Magnolia Pictures feted the Italian film “I Am Love,” which has been one of the biggest hits in the studio’s history, and the film’s star, best actress longshot possibility Tilda Swinton, at a party at the Tower Bar in West Hollywood last week. Hosted by Quentin Tarantino, a big champion of the film, “the room was filled with industry fans of the film including Willem Dafoe, Marisa Tomei, Marilyn Manson, Amy Poehler (yes, that Amy Poehler), Amber Tamblyn, pretty much the entire Italian consulate to Los Angeles, and numerous critics and journalists who have supported the underdog film during awards season,” Ellwood reports.
New York Times: Melena Ryzik chats with “127 Hours” co-screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and learns that the film’s third act, as scripted and shot, was much more extensive than the one that ultimately made it out of the editing room. Beaufoy tells her, “We had a much more resolved ending, so they [the audience] had an emotional connection. There’s a long scene with his mother in the hospital, there’s a long scene with the ex-girlfriend where she told him a few hard truths, there was a scene at his sister’s wedding, which he referenced in the movie. So we had this very unusual movie, and we resolved it in this very Hollywood way.” The day before the film was due, and despite very favorable test screenings, Beaufoy says, “We were looking at it in the cutting room and we had been debating it and we said, it’s a great ending, but not for the movie that we made. It felt dishonest. So we cut it. We felt that the movie really needed to — once he got rescued, it needed to punch out. I felt, emotionally, the movie was over when he says the words, ‘I need help.’”
The Wrap: Brent Lang reports that Michael Russell, a widely-respected veteran publicist who represented the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for 17 years before its president Philip Berk abruptly terminated his contract last year, is now suing the HFPA for $2 million in lost salary and additional damanges. In the suit, Russell alleges that the organization, which puts on the annual Golden Globe Awards, is rife with fraud and corrupt practices that “could endanger the Globes’ non-profit status.”
Photo: Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech.” Credit: The Weinstein Company.