The 90th anniversary of the Oscar ceremonies is being held this year in the Dolby Theatre, Los Angeles on March 4. Sadly, the possibility that home favourite Saoirse Ronan will reprise her Golden Globe victory for Lady Bird has been ruled out by the bookies. They make Frances McDormand the hot favourite for Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri. It’s Saoirse’s third nomination after Brooklyn and Atonement.
Equally hot favourite in the Best Actor category is Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour. The Best Film is likely to be The Shape of Water but Three Billboards isn’t too far behind it in the betting stakes.
Why is it not automatic that the Best Director award be given to whatever wins Best Film? This is something I address in my book And the Loser is, which has just been published by Vernon Press. I subtitled it “A History of Oscar Oversights”. There’s never been a year when I didn’t feel some contender wasn’t unfairly passed over.
A number of extraneous factors usually impinge on the eventual decisions. Some of the voters, I believe, haven’t even seen the films they’re voting on.
The off-screen popularity of a star is also a factor. Or events going on in their lives that have absolutely nothing to do with the film in question. Sometimes I think the Globes or the Cannes Film Festival are better barometers of real entitlement than the Oscars.
Sometimes people win because they’ve been unsuccessfully nominated before and are given a compensatory award to make up for the lapse. It usually happens to veterans, where the award can double as a kind of Life Achievement citation.
Gary Oldman (old man?) falls into that category and so does Frances McDormand to an extent. A more pertinent side issue with McDormand is the fact that she’s playing a strong woman fighting the system, something Hollywood will applaud as the long knives continue to come out for Harvey Weinstein and women campaign for a more equitable industry.
Humphrey Bogart liked to say, “The part creates the Oscar.” He believed the only way one could have a truly objective decision was if every nominee played the same role.
This would obviously be impossible from a logistical point of view but it’s an interesting way of looking at it.
If one plays a dysfunctional character, one’s chances of winning seem to be amplified. Likewise if a character has a physical disability, like Daniel Day-Lewis (also a nominee for Best Actor this year for Phantom Thread) in My Left Foot, or the blind Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, his chances are enhanced. That’s not to say these people weren’t deserving winners; merely that their odds were shortened because of their circumstances.
Last year there was the muddle of all muddles when Faye Dunaway read out the wrong name for Best Film. Heads rolled at Price Waterhouse, the firm responsible for the envelope mix-up, after the cringe-inducing incident.
You can bet your boots that won’t happen again.