Well, the Oscar nominations have been released, and yet again I haven't seen any of them yet (though a couple are in the ole Netflix queue). It doesn't seem as though there are a lot of surprises as to what gets nominated and what wins--usually Oscar bait comes in the following forms:
1) Films that took place in the past, preferably an important historical era. Had "Die Hard" taken place in a skyscraper taken over by terrorists back in the 1700s, with muskets and swords, Bruce Willis would be our generation's Laurence Olivier.
2) Performances where the actor mimics a famous character. This form of acting is more like doing impressions--Jamie Fox in "Ray" or Will Smith in "Ali" or Joaquin Phoenix in "Walk the Line" are recent examples, but this was even done in the '80s by Ben Kingsley when he did a great sendup of Ghandi. Since this standard wins Oscars, I'm waiting for Rich Little to get his Lifetime Achievement Award. Or maybe Christian Slater for portraying Jack Nicholson in all of his films.
3) Performances that were passable but not "great", by actors who were "due". This is the de facto Lifetime Achievement Oscar--Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart" or Al Pacino in "Scent of a Woman". Look for Wynona Ryder to win an Oscar in 2025 for playing a housewife who switches bodies with her "cool kid" teenage daughter--all to make up for her not getting the Oscar in 2018 for playing Queen Victoria in "Sunset Never Falls".
4) Movies with pretentious titles like "Sunset Never Falls."
5) Movies where a well-known actor plays a completely different accent. Like when Sean Penn played a townie moron in "Mystic River" or Daniel Day Lewis played a non-Irishman in "There Will Be Blood" or Tom Hanks kept his thick cockney accent hidden for his whole career.
So how best to score an easy Oscar? Simple--make a movie taking place in 1866 war-torn Mexico starring John Travolta doing a German accent as he plays Emperor Maximilian who tried to rule Mexico (despite his Austrian-ness). You could call the movie "Under the Blood Red Sun".
If Soderbergh steals that idea I'm suing the hell out of him.
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