Some people are adamant that Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, the co-leads of “The Kids Are All Right” (Focus Features, 7/9, trailer), cannot both be nominated for the best actress Oscar this year. That’s a bunch of malarkey. Not only can they, and not only should they, but — if Focus genuinely fights the good fight for both of them, as studio insiders emphatically insist to me that they will — they will be.
Those who say that it cannot happen point to the large number of quality contenders in the category this year and insist that there isn’t room for two people from the same film. I disagree. Bening and Moore are together in virtually every scene of the film (Moore actually has a few more scenes, alongside Mark Ruffalo). Both actresses have some terrific moments in the film (especially Bening’s return to the dinner table after discovering Moore was having an affair and Moore’s subsequent soliloquoy on the challenges of marriage). And both are highly-respected by their peers, who have never been shy about nominating them before (the Academy has recognized Bening with three nods and Moore with four, but neither has won yet). Some people are pushing the line that Bening has a leg up on Moore because she’s “Hollywood royalty” (as if people are going to vote for her because she married Warren Beatty) and because she’s made the right friends (she’s a longtime member of the Academy’s Board of Governors), but for all of the aforementioned reasons I simply cannot see a voter sitting down and voting to nominate one but not the other.
As I first wrote back on July 25, the Academy has nominated two best actress nominees from the same film in five of the 82 years (6% of the time) in which the category has existed:
- Anne Baxter and Bette Davis for “All About Eve” (1950)
- Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor for “Suddenly, Last Summer” (1959)
- Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine for “The Turning Point” (1977)
- Shirley MacLaine WON and Debra Winger for “Terms of Endearment” (1983)
- Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon for “Thelma and Louise” (1991)
Some people have looked at that stat and said that it illustrates how rare it is for such a thing to occur. I beg to differ. How many quality movies, other than those listed above, have ever revolved around two women? Not many.* The problem is not the Academy failing to recognize co-leading ladies, but the fact that so few movies feature them. It seems to me that if ever a movie could produce two best actress nominees, “The Kids Are All Right” — the story of two women struggling through problems in their marriage — would be it.
Some people are privately suggesting that Focus intends to seriously push only push one of the two actresses (Bening) because having both of them nominated would probably result in neither of them winning (due to a splitting of the vote). I believe that this logic is preposterous — it’s far from a sure thing that Bening or Moore would win even if the other was not nominated — and Focus agrees. A studio insider told me, “Focus is supporting and pushing both actresses equally. Focus would love nothing more than if they both got nominated.”
In the meantime, Bening, who has done virtually no press for “The Kids Are All Right” (or for Sony Pictures Classics’ “Mother and Child,” which is also pushing her for best actress) other than attending its Sundance premiere back in January, will be making her first public appearance of the awards season on October 25th at the Hollywood Film Festival’s awards gala, where she will be presented with the best actress award. Moore will be representing the film at its London Film Festival gala premiere that same night, and subsequently on the covers of November’s Allure and December’s Out.
*Arguments could be made for “A Place in the Sun” (1951, for which Shelley Winters was nominated but Elizabeth Taylor was snubbed), “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962, for which Bette Davis was nominated but Joan Crawford was snubbed), “The Accused” (1988, for which Jodie Foster was nominated but Kelly McGillis was snubbed), “One True Thing” (1998, for which Meryl Streep was nominated but Renee Zellweger was not), “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006, for which Streep was nominated but Anne Hathaway was snubbed), and “Julie & Julia” (2009, for which Streep was nominated but Amy Adams was snubbed). Thanks to Melissa Silverstein for helping me to come up with this list.
Photo: Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in “The Kids Are All Right.” Credit: Focus Features.