For our first Oscar roundtable, I welcomed Sasha Stone of Awardsdaily.com, and USA Today film reporter Susan Wloszczyna to lay out the early shape of the Best Actress race. And, having posted a list of the serious contenders, I tossed out the first question: Is Viola Davis going to be considered a lead role, and is she at the top?
Sasha Stone: I’m getting that winner vibe from Viola Davis this year. I know that Glenn Close is way overdue and this would be the perfect year to award her but I have a feeling Davis will win in whatever category she’s put in, supporting or lead. Partly it’s because the film is so successful but mainly because her character is so admirable.
Susan Wloszczyna: If she were in the supporting category — not that I think that where she necessarily should be, but she could be — I believe Davis would have a much better chance of winning at least at this stage of the game. But if Michelle Williams pulls off a miraculous incarnation of MM, she might get the edge for actress. Not only does she have two previous nominations, but if she is fabulous, she might outdo Cate Blanchett’s winning turn as Kate Hepburn.
SS: Susan, I’m not sure Michelle Williams is quite ready for a win. She’s going to have to top Glenn Close, who is running on overdue status, Meryl Streep AND Viola Davis…I can’t imagine a scenario, unless she gained 30 pounds and murdered people, where she could pull this off. Not feeling it quite yet for her.
Blanchett won in supporting, which is an easier feat to pull off for a role that’s exactly like another actress – in fact, Blanchett won as a win for that movie too. There was Aviator heat building that year. I am not sure the Marilyn movie is going to be a strong Best Picture contender. So I guess I have trouble seeing where the incentive to vote for her would be, over all of those other strong performances. I can’t see it happening. We’ll have to wait and see.
SW: Sometimes they go with the overdue. Sometimes they invest in the future. And sometimes the actual role counts as much if not more than the career status of the nominee. As much as I love Mamma Mia! I am not sure about Phyllida Lloyd’s skill as a movie maker — therefore to me Iron Lady is a question mark.
And as much as I think Close does deserve an Oscar, after seeing Alfred Nobbs, I am not so sure this role will do it for her. For one, Janet McTeer pretty much steals the show. For another, her performance did not move me as much as I would have expected. It’s not like how I felt after seeing Bullock in The Blind Side. Meanwhile, someone like Williams could be akin to Portman or Cotillard in terms of their preference. The influx of young actors who vote could also cause more shifts in the conventional wisdom side of things. Basically, I think it is too early to hand it all to one actress candidate.
Oh and my choice of overdue status this year is Vanessa Redgrave, who is astonishing in Coriolanus — but in supporting. Her Julia statue is pretty dusty too.
SS: Susan, you make great points. But remember, we’re still talking about a performance no one has seen in Williams. It’s sort of like talking about War Horse winning Best Picture – yes, if the stars align perfectly it will happen but it’s unknowable. It’s impossible, then, to really read the Best Actress race accurately without having seen everything. But I’ve not yet seen Michelle Williams turn in the kind of performance she’d need to beat Davis, Close, Streep, etc. I think she was wonderful in Blue Valentine but she wasn’t playing someone whose voice we all know so well, whose face we have studied for decades, someone whose relationship with the camera was second to none – and that’s Marilyn, and those are big, big shoes to fill. I’ve seen many actresses try to nail Marilyn over the years and somehow I am still skeptical that this one girl can do it that well. Don’t get me wrong, I think she’s really good. But playing Marilyn is like playing JFK – almost impossible.
Cate Blanchett is a different actress from Michelle Williams. Blanchett can completely disappear into a persona, as she did with Hepburn and with Bob Dylan. That has not yet been what Williams has done – and it’s really hard to do. You have to be a mimic and a good actress at the same time.
I agree that McTeer pretty much steals Albert Nobbs and that Close’s performance wouldn’t win on its own. But then I think of Paul Newman in The Color of Money and that quiets my doubt. I still think Viola Davis has it in the bag but my next in line, at this stage of the game, without having seen Williams, is still Close.
TA: Well, Sasha and Susan, I’m hearing early buzz on Marilyn the movie is that it’s light, lighter than expected. That said, it’s still in the New York Film Festival. And the reaction to Nobbs at Toronto was, in general, respectful rather than passionate. And Susan raises a red flag regarding Director Phyllida Lloyd — can she pull off a movie about Margaret Thatcher that is as complicated as that world leader, or equal to Streep? Again, early buzz is that The Iron Lady is not The Golden Statuette material above and beyond the central performance.
Of course, only seeing the films will tell, but does the success of the movie overall (not just box office, but emotionally) have an impact on who wins? That’s an open question to those joining our virtual roundtable.