Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Daniel Getahun of Getafilm recently wrote a fascinating piece in which he describes how the story of The Blind Side would have been much more effective in the documentary format. It was a great article that stirred up a lot of debate in the comments section, and I'd like to write somewhat of a follow-up article, simply asking (and doing my best to answer) this question: Why is Sandra Bullock going to win the Best Actress Oscar?
With all of the hype surrounding Sandra Bullock this year, from The Proposal to The Blind Side, her current status as the Oscar frontrunner seems more orchestrated from her general likeability among voters and fans rather than her actual performance. It seems that people are more enthusiastic about her as a person than the work she did in the film. I'm sure if you look back on all of the awards interviews she has done thus far, at least 90% of them at some point mentioned her box office success in 2009. The financial success of her films is certainly something to be proud of, but since when has the box office determined who wins an acting Oscar? You can look at films like Titanic and Avatar and make the argument that commercial success is a main factor as to who wins the Best Picture Oscar, but with acting awards, I don't see that correlation at all. Take a look at some recent winners: Charlize Theron (Monster), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose), Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Sean Penn (Milk). While all of these films weren't necessarily commercial bombs, their box office performance was probably the last thing that affected the Academy's decision.
Another thing the Academy is notorious for in the acting categories is giving out the "career achievement" Oscar. Heck, as good as Jeff Bridges is in Crazy Heart, his projected win would still be a part of that "career" category, and if you ask me, the Bullock win would feel the exact same way, mostly because there's no realistic passion out there for The Blind Side. She's still only 45, and for some reason, the Academy has felt the need to take a whole year to recognize her as an actress. Why?
Her resume up to this point has been sketchy to say the least, and she even managed to earn a Razzie nomination this year for All About Steve. Talk about inconsistency. What do the Academy members see in her? She has been in one major awards film so far (Crash), and although her performance was well-received, she was still unable to receive an Oscar nomination. If you go to her IMDb page and take a look at her filmography, there's really not much to get excited about. What has she done in her career that is making these awards voters fall head over heels?
When it comes right down to it, I think the real reason for her awards season success this year is simple: she is the best among the worst. In terms of real Oscar contenders, this year's list of nominees is incredibly weak. Carey Mulligan (An Education) and Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) are both terrific in their respective films, but they're both too young, unknown, and unestablished to win an Oscar at this point (even though Mulligan was once widely considered the frontrunner). Helen Mirren (The Last Station) won an Oscar three years ago for The Queen, and her 2009 film is about as silent as anything out there, so I don't see any reason why the Academy would rush to give her another Oscar.
And then there's Bullock main contender, Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia). It makes for an interesting race because, like Bullock's buzz, the praise surrounding Streep stems mostly from a "career" foundation. It has been forever since she won her last Oscar, and many voters out there might think, "What the heck? Let's just give it to Meryl to quiet everybody down." There is a chance she might win just to get the monkey off of her (and the Academy's) back, but I see it as a slim chance at best. Bullock won the Globe and the SAG, not to mention the fact that The Blind Side received a Best Picture nomination, and there seems to be absolutely no noteworthy support behind Julie & Julia as a film. Like Bullock, Streep delivers a watchable performance in a forgettable film.
So there's my opinion. Bullock will win this thing simply by process of elimination. But my main question remains: In a year where many other great female performers could have been considered, why is Bullock the one at the center of the conversation? And try not to use the words "box office success" in your answer because, like I stated before, I truly don't believe that commercial success is an important criteria in determining Oscar-winning performances. If you really believe that it is, share your thoughts on the topic, and I'd be glad to consider them.