Unlucky thirteen?

Posted by · 7:07 am · January 27th, 2009

Stu Van Airsdale is cheekily posing a scenario whereby “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” converts precisely zero of its 13 nominations into victory on Oscar night.

It’s not really worth picking holes in his argument — though we could start with the fact that “Button” is nominated for Sound Mixing rather than Sound Editing, or that he doesn’t seem to consider “Slumdog” the frontrunner for Film Editing — because the article is less interesting for its specifics than for how it taps into the general indifference that “Button” seems to be facing. Has a film with such an impressive Oscar tally ever looked a less formidable competitor going into the race?

On nomination day, AwardsDaily posted a handy list of the ten previous films that have received 13 or 14 nods. Seven of them won Best Picture. Two of them (“Mary Poppins” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”) each took a healthy haul of five awards apiece, major acting trophies among them. The last, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” was limited to technical victories, though in an odd year, with splintered support for “Moulin Rouge!” and eventual champ “A Beautiful Mind,” it wasn’t a complete non-starter — and in any case, everyone knew there was more to come.

Right now, I side with Kris in predicting a scant three trophies for “Button,” in the Art Direction, Makeup and Visual Effects field. (Unpredictably scattered as the tech categories have been in recent years, I’d be very surprised if it missed in the latter two categories, at the very least.) So, is the film set to reap an all-time low from its nomination tally? Or are we underestimating it?

As it stands, I’m starting to wonder if Taraji P. Henson may have more of a shot in the comparatively open Best Supporting Actress field than I thought earlier. Last year, Tilda Swinton eked out a victory in the same category after “Michael Clayton” fans realized she represented the film’s only shot at a major award. If voters don’t want to humiliate the season’s biggest, most-nominated film, could Henson be a similar beneficiary? Just a thought.

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29 responses so far

  • 1 1-27-2009 at 7:22 am

    McGuff said...

    Guy, I’m starting to think the same thing. I currently have Henson winning the Supporting Actress race, though I admit being biased by my own admiration for her performance. We also disagree on Best Actress, as I think Streep is going to get it now.

    Now if only I could pick a winner in this two-man Best Actor race…

  • 2 1-27-2009 at 7:30 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Hmm, I’m still at the theorising stage. I love Henson, but I’m not sure how much the performance registers with voters. I can’t she’d be my first choice in that category.

    As for Streep, I just don’t see where she has an advantage over Winslet.

    I must say, between the two of them, I’d prefer Streep to win — even though I really don’t like her performance. I just want Kate Winslet to win for a better film/role than this one.

    How did such a quality field boil down to such a dreary choice?

  • 3 1-27-2009 at 7:46 am

    mikey67 said...

    I’d give Henson a bigger shot if it was the kind of movie people would go back and watch again, specifically to evaluate her performance since she’s nominated. But the running time and my feeling that there was nothing exciting about the film in general leads me to think people won’t watch it again. I think I’d watch all four other nominees again first. Still, she’s charming in the film and on the circuit, so who knows?

    As for Kate W., I would also rather see her win for a home run, rather than this solid double. Also, reading the book now, the character in the book is very much a supporting role. The shift to film changes the perspective.

  • 4 1-27-2009 at 7:50 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    A home run, exactly. She has another “Eternal Sunshine” in her yet.

    She’s only 33, for Chrissake — the way people are so desperate to award her, you’d think this was her last shot.

  • 5 1-27-2009 at 8:31 am

    J.S. said...

    I hope not. I don’t even think Henson deserved a nomination, as charming as she is off-screen. I currently have her at No. 5. I understand the argument, but I just cannot see this scenario playing out.

  • 6 1-27-2009 at 9:06 am

    Earl said...

    Henson was just pulled in by the film… She is good but she is no higher than 4th. With the crazy wierdnes of Winslet being in the lead category for the reader instead of in supporting, Cruz should win this category in a walk. If not it will be Tomei, but she already has one and it is always harder to get the 2nd. Frankly Henson and Davis do not belng here at all. I can’t believe how small Davis’s role is but Tilda Swinton’s role was a joke and she still got the oscar. Who knows? There are often surprises in the supporting category.

  • 7 1-27-2009 at 9:27 am

    N8 said...

    I agree with the three you predict it to win (all of them deserved), but I hardly consider three Academy Awards “scant”. For the last several years, three or four awards has meant a good night. The last time any movie won more than four Oscars was in 2005 (The Aviator). Gone are the days when you could count a film’s Oscar victories on two hands. Nowadays, to even say a film has more than ONE is impressive.

  • 8 1-27-2009 at 9:27 am

    Ryan said...

    “A home run, exactly. She has another “Eternal Sunshine” in her yet.”

    They’ll just have to give Kate her second Oscar by then. Problem solved. :-)

  • 9 1-27-2009 at 10:09 am

    Jeremy said...

    “I can’t believe how small Davis’s role is but Tilda Swinton’s role was a joke and she still got the oscar.”

    I agree about Davis, but I feel the complete opposite about Swinton in “Michael Clayton”. I thought she was incredible in that movie — the hesitancy, the self-loathing, the panic. She was the third-most important character in the movie, and she created a fully complex character. Far from a joke.

    Anyway, I’ll go the other way here: I think “Benjamin Button” is the only movie with a shot to take down “Slumdog Millionaire” for Best Picture. I don’t think it will, mind you, but I do think it has a Best Picture feel to it, the way it’s richly dramatic and vaguely epic. Plus, I think voters might just look at the sheer number of nominations it received and get sucked into thinking it’s better than it is. (For what it’s worth, I really like “Benjamin Button”, but it’s no “Slumdog”.)

  • 10 1-27-2009 at 10:19 am

    Eunice said...

    “A home run, exactly. She has another “Eternal Sunshine” in her yet.

    She’s only 33, for Chrissake — the way people are so desperate to award her, you’d think this was her last shot.”

    I know. What year are we in? Last time I checked, actresses weren’t getting washed up in their 30s.

    And yes, she does have another ‘Eternal Sunshine’ in her. I, for one, would love to see her in a Danny Boyle or Chris Nolan movie. Or better yet, another Michel Gondry film with a high-quality script. And I’d love to see Kate Winslet sweep an entire year, just like Heath Ledger is doing now, hopefully in the near future. Just to see her seal the deal.

    It’s not like she’s going to be washed up by 40 anyway. And, Winslet really does deserve to be rewarded for something other than Revolutionary Road and The Reader.

    With the way the Supporting Actress race is going, I think Davis will sneak in and win it. Her part’s only for 12 minutes, but as has been proven in this particular acting race, it’s not quantity, it’s quality.

    As for ‘Button’, it might walk away with the three awards you mentioned, Guy. It just might.

  • 11 1-27-2009 at 10:37 am

    /3rtfu11 said...

    I’m not giving up on Viola Davis. She’s the one nominee who will likely not be nominated again. Not because she isn’t a talent actress but she’s a real true blue character actress that people won’t remember her name.

    She has the benefit of being directed by Denzel Washington, Steven Soderbergh (who has casted her 3 times), co-starred with George Clooney, it was also James Cameron production (he loves black character actresses). I think her Doubt castmates and director will also push for her.

    I think the best supporting actress race is between the Davis camp and the Cruz camp which includes Hayek, Bardem, Tom Cruise.

  • 12 1-27-2009 at 11:27 am

    hammerjacko said...

    Oscar history is littered with “make-up” awards, a la Bette Davis for Dangerous, Jimmy Stewart for The Philadelphia Story, Henry Fonda for On Golden Pond….and on and on. Why shouldn’t we reach back to the golden age of movie history and reward our beloved Kate for a “less-than-deserving” performance? Do you think Barbara Stanwyck or Deborah Kerr would object? :)

  • 13 1-27-2009 at 11:31 am

    T.S. said...

    It’s an interesting theory, Guy, and part of me can’t help but be seduced by the logic of its illogical nature (the Oscars and their perpetual bending over backwards to justify not only their existence but to make sure films “take home something,” deserved or not). I’ve given up the predictions game, but I’d like either Cruz or Davis to win – as I see it, both of those actresses were the only affecting elements in their respective films, and for their fleeting moments on screen, I couldn’t avert my eyes.

    I’ll bite my tongue on Winslet. I love her, but the rush to put an Oscar statuette in her hands has left me pretty cynical. Then she goes and says she’s “speechless” after winning the SAG Award – as if the critics awards, the two Golden Globe awards, and the Oscar nomination aren’t indicative of chances of winning something from her guild. Maybe people will realize she has better performances in her, more deserving of gold than “The Reader.” Maybe that’ll really leave her speechless.

  • 14 1-27-2009 at 11:54 am

    A.J said...

    Cruz lost buzz and momentum because of Winslet. With Winslet out of the way, will Cruz regain momentum or will someone else gain momentum? BAFTA will tell but I’m pretty sure the Doubt ladies are out and it’s a three horse race between the other three…..is it too late to write-in Rosemarie DeWitt?

  • 15 1-27-2009 at 12:02 pm

    Jamian Bailey said...

    How is Davis out she has passion behind her performance, and Meryl Streep has been endorsing her every where. She and Henson are kind of like Swinton last year. Hard working who have made a favorable impression upon the other lesser known branches of the Academy. Davis is a major threat to win

  • 16 1-27-2009 at 1:07 pm

    michael mckay said...

    I think Marisa Tomei may come away with the Best Supporting actress trophy.

    Wouldn’t it be bizarre if Marisa got an Oscar, and Mickey didn’t??

    Besides the categories you mentioned, I think Button also has a shot of winning for Best Score. I’m predicting it wins four Oscars..not a bad haul.

  • 17 1-27-2009 at 1:52 pm

    Cassidy/Pam said...

    Agree! Marisa deserved it like nobody. Alternate choice is Amy Adams.

    Marisa was trully stunning, Amy was indrecible, Viola was really sure & shine in her lines. Penelope & Taraji was playing not for Oscar. Especially the last. Rosemarie De Witt must be nominated without her.

  • 18 1-27-2009 at 2:32 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    I think Button will get 4 trophys orso. Visual Effects and Score for certain. The other two could be anything.

  • 19 1-27-2009 at 3:38 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “She’s the one nominee who will likely not be nominated again.”

    I disagree with this ENTIRELY. Davis is going to be a star. Didn’t you hear Streep at the SAG awards? “Somebody give her a movie!” It’ll happen, and she’ll finally arrive.

  • 20 1-27-2009 at 5:14 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Exactly. Davis is the kind of actress for whom an Oscar nomination makes all the difference to her career. I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more of her in years to come — not unlike Marcia Gay Harden — whether she wins or not.

    I still have her as second-favourite to win after Cruz.

  • 21 1-27-2009 at 6:05 pm

    Eduardo Gigante said...

    I think Button will only three oscars (although only make-up is guaranteed).

    Furthermore, I also believe Wall-E will be the second film with most Oscars (Animated film, original screenplay, sound editing, song), behind Slumdog with 5 (film, director, adapted screenplay, editing, score).

    Anybody with me on this?

  • 22 1-27-2009 at 7:10 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Should win:

    Adapted Screenplay
    Art Direction
    Visual Effects
    Original Score

    I think it’ll probably win at least 4 of those.

  • 23 1-27-2009 at 11:33 pm

    PJ said...

    I think Davis has the potential to sneak a win here. If not, it has to be Cruz. And totally in agreement about the points on Winslet. She’s an amazing actress, but it’ll be far more satisfying to see her win her Oscar for her best performance, which, by all accounts, does not appear to be “The Reader”.

  • 24 1-27-2009 at 11:36 pm

    Glenn said...

    “after “Michael Clayton” fans realized she represented the film’s only shot at a major award. ”

    But they’ve let other highly-nominated films go unrewarded in the past (“Color Purple”, anyone?) so I never quite bought that argument for Swinton’s win.

    I’m predicting Cruz. She’s great, they like her and it feels exotic (they’re on an exotic trip lately). Plus the Javier thing will add to the show. This whole “make them wait” thing is what got them into trouble with Kate Winslet. Just give Cruz the damn prize and let her go on making Almodovar films.

    But, then again, I didn’t like Henson at all…

  • 25 1-28-2009 at 4:41 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I dunno, “Michael Clayton” had a surprisingly keen band of supporters in the Reel Geezer vein who rallied for it. (Yeah, I have no idea why, either.)

    That said, I have no idea if “Button” has a similar group of cheerleaders. Like I said, just a theory.

    I confess I’m still baffled by Swinton’s win, great actress that she is. I guess not enough voters bothered to watch “I’m Not There” or “Gone Baby Gone,” whereas everyone saw “Michael Clayton.”

  • 26 1-28-2009 at 6:09 am

    Jim said...

    Winslet gave imo a performance better than anything (I’ve seen) in the past and considering she has been nominated so many times (I think that is the important thing and not so much her age) she deserves the Oscar.

    PS: If she doesn’t win, she’ll have a chance in, I don’t know, 3 years, 4?? Consider that she doesn’t have any immediate plans for a film and she will probably not get nominated for her next film(she can’t get a nod for everything)

    PS2: I haven’t seen Doubt but I think I want Henson to win. The Best thing in the movie and flawless all the way.

  • 27 1-28-2009 at 6:16 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    “Winslet gave imo a performance better than anything (I’ve seen) in the past.”

    You mean better than anything you’ve seen from Winslet in the past, or ANYTHING, period? I hope you mean the former, even if I still disagree.

  • 28 1-28-2009 at 7:20 am

    Jim said...

    Yes I mean from Winslet. :p