Oscar Watch: Academy Awards 2001 - Nominations, Best Actress
by Kenneth Leung
Published: February 1, 2002
With any voting procedure, there is bound to be controversy. Elections are filled with stories of vote fixing, enticing voters with gifts & concessions and the history of the candidate placed under a microscope. The Best Actress category threw up a few sticky points after the SAG announcement on Tuesday. Eyes were definitely wide open with the omission of Nicole Kidman’s name but more significantly is the inclusion of Jennifer Connelly for “A Beautiful Mind” in the leading performance area. Despite winning numerous awards as a supporting actress for her role as Alicia Nash, Universal Studios made a submission error by placing Connelly in the same category as Sissy Spacek and Nicole Kidman rather than Marisa Tomei and Cameron Diaz. If the executives at the film lot were clever enough, they need to enter Jennifer Connelly as a Best Supporting Actress as the Academy Awards. Less competition is present in that category, as opposed to the might of Sissy Spacek in “In the Bedroom”.
Since Jennifer Connelly was moved up into this area, one actress had to make way. To everyone’s surprise, entertainer of the year Nicole Kidman gave up her spot. Maybe it was easy to forecast the omission, having two marvellous performances being considered. As I last mentioned with Billy Bob Thornton, voters for Nicole Kidman could be undecided between her two films. This could split her vote, letting somebody else take over.
With this year, will Sissy Spacek (or even Judi Dench) win her second Oscar or will there be a new queen to the throne? Let’s find out…
The ‘Shoot me if these are not nominated’ category
Sissy Spacek – “In the Bedroom”
Background: Former Oscar winner tries for a second golden man by playing mourning Ruth Fowler.
Chances: Out of all the major categories, Sissy Spacek could be described as a sure favourite. The winner for Best Actress for “Coal Miner’s Daughter” has virtually gathered the entire major critics award for the past year, including the Golden Globes and prizes from Los Angeles and New York. Despite the publicity surrounding her performance, Sissy Spacek is one performer who shuns away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, choosing her roles when she wants to. This unique selection process has established a very consistent and much admired repertoire for Spacek. At this stage it would be very hard to dethrone her from the lead.
Nicole Kidman – “Moulin Rouge!” / “The Others”
Chances: Which to choose from – the courtesan Satine or the scared mother Grace?
Background: Was it really a surprise to see Nicole Kidman omitted from the nominations on Tuesday? To a certain extent, ‘Yes!’ This was supposed to be the icing on the cake for the Aussie actress. With no fault of her own, being left with two kids would make anybody cry. Yet the former Mrs. Cruise went back to work but did it better, wowing audiences with two great performances. Adding more weight to her cause was her second Golden Globe win, this time for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy for “Moulin Rouge”.
Yet her omission from the SAGs just highlighted how far everybody is behind Sissy Spacek. Other than her Golden Globe win, Nicole Kidman has very little to boast about in terms of other awards. I have already mentioned the vote splitting but will voters be clever enough to focus all their efforts on one film, just like the admirers of Steven Soderbergh did last year? If Miramax wanted to virtually assure a win for Sissy Spacek, they could increase the publicity for Nicole Kidman in “The Others”, taking ballots away from 20th Century Fox’s “Moulin Rouge”.
The ‘So close! It just lacks something extra’ category
Naomi Watts – “Mulholland Drive”
Background: The complete unknown actress from the land Down Under plays an aspiring actress helping an amnesiac woman reconstruct her life.
Chances: It seems weird for Naomi Watts to be vying for an Oscar nomination. Virtually an unknown in both her native homeland and in the United States, Naomi Watts was thrust on to centre stage thanks to David Lynch’s failed TV pilot turned movie. Usually the Academy is against awarding for raw green talent but it has happened before. Watts’s chances depend on how much publicity she has received (which looks to be very little, since she did not receive a mention at the SAG Awards nominations) and whether voters at the Academy remember her wins at four film critic associations.
Renee Zellweger – “Bridget Jones’s Diary”
Background: American actresses playing British characters! Whatever next!
Chances: This is one of few performances I have seen all year and I found Ms. Zellweger very impressive. Many have tried & failed to cross the pond and imitate their Atlantic cousins (Note: Keanu Reeves in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and Brad Pitt in “The Devil’s Own”) yet the actress who came into prominence for her role as Dorothy Boyd in “Jerry Maguire” manages to speak in a fluent English accent, add weight to her physique and portray Bridget Jones to perfection. The Academy likes when performers have to endure hardships to bring their performances to a higher lever and highlighting the scoffing of pizzas and saying tomato the *right* way should be noted by Academy members.
Judi Dench – “Iris”
Background: The Dame plays another larger than life character, the author Iris Murdoch.
Chances: If there are two things to mention about Dame Judi Dench, is that she has class and admiration from her fellow peers. She brings enthusiasm to every role she has played and the character of an author suffering from Alzheimer’s is bringing her accolades. The Miramax publicity machine plus the SAG Award nomination could bring the actress her fourth nomination in five years. What I am weary of is the overkill or the overindulgence factor – Academy members maybe sick to death to see so much of a good thing.
Halle Berry – “Monster’s Ball”
Background: Former model and beauty pageant contestant stars as Leticia Musgrove, a soon to be widow of a death-row inmate.
Chances: The National Board of Review award and her SAG nomination should place her high on a pedestal, so why is she the most likely actress to miss out this year. I could play the skin colour issue again but I think that this is more likely she has yet to establish herself as a leading lady and she does have a less than impressive filmography at times (lets forget about “B.A.P.S.” won’t we?). “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge showed she could act but would Academy members give a hoot about a TV movie?
Tilda Swinton – “The Deep End”
Background: The British actress plays a blackmailed mother, trying to cover up the death of her son’s friend.
Chances: Like Naomi Watts, her anonymity is going against her. She has nothing to speak of, except the titular role in Sally Potter’s “Orlando”. With “The Deep End” released so long ago and the depth of her field, Tilda Swinton is moving further back in the pecking order.
The ‘Look out for these dark horses’ category
Cate Blanchett for “Charlotte Grey” and Stockard Channing for “The Business of Strangers” could have been in the running, if their movies were much better. Reese Witherspoon could be a surprise for “Legally Blond” while the most likely would be Thora Birch in “Ghost World” and Audrey Tatou in “Amelie”.
We come to the men behind the men with Best Supporting Actor next time…