Is Amy Adams a threat after all?

Posted by · 8:43 am · February 11th, 2009

Tariq Khan thinks so. Tom O’Neil reports that the Fox News pundit is predicting a major upset by the “Doubt” star, largely on the basis of what he perceives as “soft support” for frontrunner Penelope Cruz.

Before you dismiss his ideas completely, it’s worth pointing out that his track record is pretty strong — he foresaw Kate Winslet’s category switch for “The Reader,” and apparently predicted all of last year’s winners correctly. Here, Khan constructs detailed arguments both against Cruz and for Adams, including this fairly astute point:

(Adams) has the largest role in this category. As I explained above, size does matter. Adams is the only one in this category with a semi-leading role. She has plenty of dialogue and good dramatic scene work, managing to more than hold her own while acting opposite Meryl Streep for much of the film. Don’t think that voters won’t take that into account. And while the much talked about brief performance by Viola Davis might have a greater impact, many will feel that it’s just too brief to deserve an Oscar. Even veteran Ruby Dee lost for her small role in “American Gangster” last year, despite winning the SAG award just a few weeks earlier. If Dee couldn’t win, there’s probably no way that Davis can.

Other factors listed in Adams’ favour include the possibility that voters may wish to convert one of “Doubt”‘s four acting nods into a win, Adams’ exceptional personal likeability and her significant box-office clout. Against Cruz, he cites her Globe and SAG losses (though I’m not sure I’d count those, given this year’s odd Winslet scenario), her limited screentime (not to mention her delayed appearance) and the Academy’s apparent indifference to “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” itself. (Not on his list, but a factor in my mind, is that Cruz looks set to have a big 2009, and may well be an even stronger contender for next year’s honours.)

I agree with Khan that Cruz is far from a sure thing (I’m still leaning towards Davis myself), and his case for Adams is convincing on paper, except for one crucial point that he doesn’t mention — her performance, while perfectly respectable, really isn’t all that.

I find it hard to imagine that “Doubt” fans would be more moved by Adams’ work than by Davis’ brief but galvanizing appearance, whatever the difference in their screen time. Yes, the Brits nominated Adams ahead of Davis, but I can’t shake the suspicion that many of them hadn’t seen the film and were voting on name recognition alone.

I think it’s very likely that Adams will have her day in the sun eventually, for several of the reasons mentioned by Khan. But this year? I don’t quite buy it.

→ 27 Comments Tags: , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

27 responses so far

  • 1 2-11-2009 at 8:53 am

    Lev Lewis said...

    “If Dee couldn’t win, there’s probably no way that Davis can”

    Except that Dee was horrible in her few minutes of screentimes, whereas Davis was brilliant.

    And, I can’t shake the feeling that Henson is gonna win this. I don’t have much to back it up, but I really get the feeling.

  • 2 2-11-2009 at 8:53 am

    Lev Lewis said...

    “If Dee couldn’t win, there’s probably no way that Davis can”

    Except that Dee was horrible in her few minutes of screentimes, whereas Davis was brilliant.

    And, I can’t shake the feeling that Henson is gonna win this. I don’t have much to back it up, but I really get the feeling.

  • 3 2-11-2009 at 8:54 am

    Lev Lewis said...

    sorry for the double post.

  • 4 2-11-2009 at 8:54 am

    James D. said...

    I have to agree with your assessment. It will be Cruz or Davis. I prefer Cruz.

  • 5 2-11-2009 at 9:00 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Lev: Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say she was horrible (unmemorable, certainly), I agree that Ruby Dee’s nod was pretty ridiculous. That was purely sentimental voting, whereas Davis got in principally on her performance, so Khan’s comparison perhaps isn’t very apt. But I thought the point about Adams’ screentime was a valid one.

    My vote would go to Tomei, personally. Then Cruz.

  • 6 2-11-2009 at 9:03 am

    Adam K. said...

    I don’t buy this Adams talk. Well, to be specific: I buy it only to the extent that votes for Adams will hamper Davis’ bid for the win, and they’ll cancel each other out. That’s what has always seemed most probable. It’s quantity v. quality with the two of them, star power v. performance power. For the same film. I don’t see either prevailing.

    That leaves an opening for the BAFTA winner, critics’ darling, and “it” girl on a roll, whose boyfriend and co-star gets to hand her the oscar. No other scenario makes sense to me.

    As for the VCB screenplay snub, I don’t really think that’s relevant. I’m one of those who didn’t love the film as a whole, and didn’t find the screenplay nomination-worthy, but thought Cruz’s fantastic perf made it worth seeing. Absolute best part of the film. I bet a lot of voters agree.

  • 7 2-11-2009 at 9:11 am

    J.S. said...

    I don’t buy this argument. Cruz had no problem winning as her film’s only nomination at the BAFTAs.

  • 8 2-11-2009 at 9:12 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    “whose boyfriend and co-star gets to hand her the oscar”

    Not so, apparently. Looks like Condon and Mark are dispensing with the tradition of the previous year’s winners handing out the acting awards. Silly move, in my view, particularly with such an obvious hook in the Bardem/Cruz possibility.

  • 9 2-11-2009 at 9:26 am

    Brad said...

    Very little screen time is hardly a factor in whether a nominee wins or not. It all depends on impact – Beatrice Straight and Judi Dench both had a lot of impact in their small roles and both deserved the win. Ruby Dee had no impact at all. Viola Davis has the same kind of impact that Straight had – thus, Davis will win.

  • 10 2-11-2009 at 9:31 am

    Tim said...

    I could definitely see Adams winning, and I personally thought she was phenomenal in Doubt. I don’t understand why everyone thinks she was so weak, she held her own admirably against two of the best actors working today (Streep/Hoffman). And Supporting Actress is so split at this point, ANYONE could win and I wouldn’t be shocked. Just look at last year, and this year has been even more mixed up with Winslet thrown into most of the supporting races. What if Cruz and Davis split the vote and make room for Adams, Tomei or Henson? Supporting Actress is easily the hardest to predict category this year. And I’d be happy to see Adams pick up the trophy, I still think she was robbed when she lost for Junebug. But if she loses, she’ll have plenty of other chances I’m sure. As will Cruz.

  • 11 2-11-2009 at 9:37 am

    Roger said...

    For myself, i’m not a real fan of Actors winning oscars for such a limited screen time… and don’t see it as fair… I loved Davis, and her perfomance put all adams down, but that’s because of her inocent part… and Adams just did it perfectly… I still Wonder if Meryl Streep won’t be Knocking Winslett out and if Tomei won’t score some heavy points. You’ve seen it happened before. I don’t thinks it’s fare for Either Cruz, Tomei or Adams to loose in such great perfomances to someone with such a small Screnn time. Nomination, yes, Win, i’m not sure… Besides, Cruz and Tomei have such great amazing parts, and extremly important to the plot… But they really Show what Supporting means… My vote is with Tomei… Even as far as it might seem…

  • 12 2-11-2009 at 11:29 am

    Lev Lewis said...

    Guy – I still think “you look like just like an angel” was one of the worst lines and line-readings of last year.

    Then again, I thought the whole movie was awful.

  • 13 2-11-2009 at 12:19 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    “Not so, apparently. Looks like Condon and Mark are dispensing with the tradition of the previous year’s winners handing out the acting awards.”

    WHAT?!? That’s stupid, why the hell would they do that?

  • 14 2-11-2009 at 12:50 pm

    matt said...

    While I thought the movie was barely average, I really felt that Adams was the best part of it.

    That being said, she won’t win. Cruz has this. Adams and Davis will cancel eachother out, Tomei has won before, and Henson was underwhelming. Cruz has: star power, a previous nomination, babe factor, stole every scene she was in, we have been talking about her since Cannes, BAFTA, and a ton of critics awards. The race may be tight, but it is all about Penelope this year.

  • 15 2-11-2009 at 12:53 pm

    The InSneider said...

    Funny, I had this SAME argument with myself last night when I was trying to decide who I think SHOULD win. I think Penelope Cruz will end up winning because she’s built up a lot of good will recently with Volver and Elegy, and it is a fireball of a performance. I’m not sure who was “better” between Davis and Adams, because they were both great. Everyone in Doubt has a specific thing to play and Adams’ character is crippled by UNCERTAINTY, a very difficult thing for an actor. She’s being pulled in both directions as Streep and Hoffman battle over her conscience. It’s a really tricky role and she nails it. That said, Davis has the showier role and the more powerful moments. Still, I don’t see how Tomei can be left out of the discussion. She gave the bravest performance of all of them, leaving it all out there almost to the extent that Mickey does. I’ll admit that after the first time I saw The Wrestler, I wasn’t blown away by her work (I preferred her in BTDKYD) but after the second viewing, I really appreciated the depth she brought to the character. I think this one is WIDE OPEN but Cruz is a veteran and she plays the game well (including the press), plus she’s beautiful and her acceptance speech is sure to be fun. But I wouldn’t count the Doubt girls or Tomei out either. Henson has NO SHOT. Can’t believe she’s here over DEWITT. Biggest snub of all!

  • 16 2-11-2009 at 1:07 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Cruz is still the frontrunner if not only for the fact the movie has no other nods. I feel that Davis comes a close second, her scene has the biggest impact of the film and is one of the few memorable bits of the film.
    I understand the “Adams semi-lead” theory but I don’t think it’ll be enough for the win. And for the Babe factor: this category is 100% that.

  • 17 2-11-2009 at 1:47 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    “And for the Babe factor: this category is 100% that.”

    Try telling that to Kate Hudson. ;)

  • 18 2-11-2009 at 8:00 pm

    Markku said...

    Am I really the only one who thinks Adams gives one of the worst nominated performances of the decade? Yes, the character is supposed to be naive and childish, but Adams’ little girl voice and ridiculous line-delivery (“Well, I LIKE Frosty!”) just make her seem like, well, a child playing an adult.

  • 19 2-11-2009 at 8:33 pm

    Frank said...

    Amy Adams was excellent! I just don’t understand why people consistently say that her performance is weaker or lesser than the others.

    I have never been so convinced by someone’s pain. The compassion and self-guilt Adams evokes is amazing, and it’s so underrated because she didn’t have a “freak out/super crying” scene.

    Amy Adams is at least the equal of her fellow nominees!

  • 20 2-11-2009 at 9:15 pm

    Jamian said...

    I personally don’t think Adams and Davis will split votes. From what I heard Davis has a bigger base with the voters than Adams does. Also if you think Cruz has this locked up I have to say you need to settle down. VCB was not well liked as a movie, and I just have a instict that Cruz won’t win. She’s a great actress, and I see a win in her future not this year though.

  • 21 2-12-2009 at 4:44 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Frank: I certainly don’t think Adams is weaker than the others, but then, I’m not a fan of the film. For what it’s worth, I think Adams is a lot better than Streep in it.

  • 22 2-12-2009 at 8:13 am

    J.S. said...

    Markku – I have to agree with you. I usually like Adams, but I think her nomination is one of the worst of the decade. I really don’t think anyone from “Doubt” deserved to be nominated this year.

  • 23 2-13-2009 at 1:21 am

    rudy santos said...

    Both Davis and Adams were very good in Doubt. Davis had a showier role that required a gamut of emotions: confusion, anger, helplessness. How she was able to exhibit such in 12+ minutes proves her brilliance as an actress. However, Adams had a role that required her to be consistently subdued and subtle all throughout her screen time. This for me is even more difficult to pull off, considering the temptation “to act”, rather than, “to be”. Hence, if you have two equally brilliant acting pieces, screen time might be a factor.

  • 24 2-13-2009 at 5:15 am

    Markku said...

    I found nothing subtle or subdued about Adams’ shrill whining and wide-eyed childishness. Davis conveys much more with a simple shrug of her shoulders. Granted, her part is much more baity and dramatic, but the difference in the quality of the performances is glaring.

  • 25 2-13-2009 at 7:01 am

    GFH said...

    When was the last time an actor won the Oscar without winning one single precursor award? Not even a regional critics group prize, nothing at all. That’s Amy Adams’ situation. Will the Oscars really be the only organization to honor her? I was considering a possible win at the BAFTA, so I could think of an Oscar win for her. Having lost it, she went through all season showing up as a nominee most of the time but never as a winner. That doesn’t translate to an Oscar win.

  • 26 2-13-2009 at 7:15 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    GFH: If I’m not mistaken, James Coburn hadn’t won a single 1998 precursor before scooping the Oscar. Marisa Tomei also comes to mind.

    So yeah, it’s a very rare occurrence. Personally, I don’t think Adams stands a snowball’s chance.