Thursday, December 23, 2004
Oscar needs to rethink women
By CHRIS HEWITT
The people the academy likes to nominate didn't make movies in 2004. And those actresses who did have meaty roles were not in the tasteful, "important" dramas that tend to get nominated. This is confusing to Oscar voters for three reasons:
1. They have to learn some new names.
...Oscar voters need to go outside their comfort zones to complete their ballots. Some newcomers to think about: Rachel McAdams, who helped "The Notebook" transcend its tear- jerky, based-on-a-crummy- book limitations; Tea Leoni, who is said to give a bravely unlikable performance in "Spanglish"; Emmy Rossum, doing double duty, singing and acting, in "The Phantom of the Opera"; and Bryce Dallas Howard, whose confident performance was the backbone of the underrated "The Village."
2. They have to speak other languages.
There's no "American" in "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences," but Sophia Loren is the only foreign speaker who has won the award. This would be a good year to rethink that. Catalina Sandino Moreno is amazing in the Spanish-language drama "Maria Full of Grace." Maggie Cheung gives soul to "Hero." Audrey Tautou, denied a nomination for "Amelie," is terrific in "A Very Long Engagement." Her fellow Frenchwoman, Isabelle Huppert, has never been Oscar-nominated despite dozens of blistering performances, the latest in "La Vie Promise" and "Time of the Wolf."
Maybe the most astonishing performance of 2004 is So-ri Moon's in the South Korean "Oasis." Her character has fantasies in which her severe disabilities vanish, and Moon shifts with seeming effortlessness from fantasy to reality, sometimes within a scene.
3. They have to look beyond the Oscar-tested, Oscar-approved movies trumpeted for awards.
...Oscar voters are also not fond of dark, strange films, which is why no one is talking about Nicole Kidman. Normally, you'd expect her to be on the list. She has been on the Oscar ballot twice, and she received great reviews for both "Birth" and "Dogville," films that feature the kind of flashy, attention-getting scenes Oscar voters dig. But both are controversial: "Dogville" is a shocker that many dismissed as anti-American, and "Birth" features a scene in which Kidman hops in a bathtub with a 10-year-old boy. ...
There are plenty of great female performances waiting for Oscar voters to discover this year, if they're willing to rise to the challenge.
acknowledgement: Arts Journal