David Poland’s Oscar underdogs … where are the ladies?

Posted by · 1:50 pm · November 13th, 2009

Tilda Swinton in JuliaFor those of you bored of reading the same ever-narrowing list of names in the assorted Oscar-speculation pieces across the web, David Poland’s latest column is a slight breath of fresh air.

Decrying the fact that many pundits are making ludicrous long-shot calls like “This Is It” for Best Picture, while ignoring more deserving contenders who could use the attention, Poland provides a list of less-hyped contenders in the top categories that he feels merit consideration.

His definition of the term “underdog” ranges from genuinely fanciful contenders (Catherine O’Hara and James Gandolfini for “Where the Wild Things Are,” “In the Loop” for Best Picture) to names still very much in the race who  have lately lost a bit of steam (Matt Damon, Jeremy Renner and Viggo Mortensen, all in the Best Actor category).

Some of his picks aren’t really underdogs at all: Christopher Plummer looks well-positioned for a Best Supporting Actor nod for “The Last Station,” though Poland oddly has him in the Best Actor category. (He also has Tobey Maguire in supporting for “Brothers,” though the stuio has other plans.) Of course, the Academy can upgrade him if they disagree with the campaign, as Kate Winslet found out earlier this year.

Though I haven’t seen the film myself, I’ve been thinking for some time that “The Last Station” would worm its way onto the Best Picture list. Poland thinks similarly, claiming that the film “is practically precision-measured for success with the only audience that matters in this situation… Oscar voters.”

I like a number of the names Poland singles out for attention in the male acting categories, including Michael Stuhlbarg and Fred Melamed (“A Serious Man”), Clifton Collins Jr. (“Sunshine Cleaning”) and the little-mentioned Brian Geraghty alongside Anthony Mackie in “The Hurt Locker.” I’d add John Malkovich (“Disgrace”) and Rupert Friend for “The Young Victoria,” among others, but it’s a thoughtful list.

On the other hand, I find it immensely depressing that Poland finds only two names apiece to mention in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories. Why must bloggers continue to perpetuate the myth that the female races are starved for worthy contenders?

For Best Actress, he names Shohreh Aghdashloo (“The Stoning of Soraya M”) and Rachel Weisz (“The Brothers Bloom”) as deserving of greater attention. But how come no mention of Tilda Swinton, whose incendiary performance in “Julia” towers over those of the category’s current frontrunners, by any measure? Charlotte Gainsbourg hasn’t a chance of a nod for “Antichrist,” but she’s a more notable no-hoper than Aghdashloo or Weisz. Brenda Blethyn? Michelle Pfeiffer? Charlize Theron? Amy Adams? Could Poland really think of only two ladies?

O’Hara and Julianne Moore (“A Single Man”) are his supporting actress picks. Many will take issue with his classification of Moore as an “underdog,” but I’m kind of with him there — many are deeming her a frontrunner based on name alone, but it’s a brief role and a mannered performance that won’t be to all tastes.

But where are Rosamund Pike, Kim Basinger, Jessica Haines and Samantha Morton? Many would call for the inclusion of Melanie Laurent, though I’m less enamored of her work in “Inglourious Basterds” than most. (Still, while we’re talking “Basterds,” doesn’t Michael Fassbender rate a left-field mention for Best Supporting Actor?)

Different strokes, I guess. But the ladies deserve better. Check out Poland’s full column here.

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15 responses so far

  • 1 11-13-2009 at 1:56 pm

    mark said...

    I watched julia it is hard to sit at 2hrs 20mins through, swinton is great later on but i found her floundering early simply cos i couldn’t buy her as sexy to everyman.

  • 2 11-13-2009 at 2:19 pm

    billybil said...

    I just did a “quick” review of all the oscar prediction sites I know about and discovered the followng:

    10 most Best Picture predicted nominees:
    Avatar (interesting!)
    An Education
    Hurt Locker
    Lovely Bones
    Serious Man (interesting!)
    Up in the Air

    Top 5 Best Actor predicted nominees:
    Firth (on the most lists)

    Top 5 Best Actress predicted nominees:
    Mirren (most for Last Station but 1 for Love Ranch!)
    Ronan (interesting!)

    Top 5 Best Sup Actor predicted nominees:
    Damon (on as many lists as Molina & Walz)
    Tucci (most for Bones but also for Julie & Julia)

    Top 5 Best Sup Actress predicted nominees:
    Cruz (on more lists than Farmiga and almost as many as Kendrick!)

    These are not the same as the current Guru list.

  • 3 11-13-2009 at 2:30 pm

    billybil said...

    To expand this “quick” research – these are the “pool” of contenders according to the people on these sites:

    For Best Picture:
    The above 10 plus – Inglourious Basterds, Simple Man, and The Last Station

    For Best Actor:
    The above 5 plus – Mortenson, Damon, Bridges, Holbrook

    For Best Actress:
    The above 5 plus – Swank, Cornish

    For Best Sup Actor:
    The above 5 plus – McKay, Duvall

    For Best Sup Actress:
    The above 5 plus – Sarandon, Dench, Laurent, Cotillard, Samanta Morton

  • 4 11-13-2009 at 2:36 pm

    M.Harris said...

    I definitely thing that the “Big studio three” – “Nine” “Invictus” and “The Lovely Bones” will have a lot to say in regards to what actors get nominated,in each category.

    Until we see those I think that there’s at least two nominations in each acting category that are up for grabs.

    Sure you have your locks like Mo’Nique,Cristoph Waltz and Meryl Streep – just to name a few.But from the big three you could possibly have up to eight nominations,in a best cast scenario.

  • 5 11-13-2009 at 2:59 pm

    Marshall said...

    Thank you for mentioing Rosamund Pike! I loved her…she made the absolute best out of very little to work with to create a great character.

    I would like to submit Zooey Deschanel in “(500) Days of Summer” as an underdog Best Actress candidate. She ranks with Mulligan among my favorite performances of 2009

  • 6 11-13-2009 at 3:08 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    inglorious basterds isnt going away, i like the fassabender mention, laurent was fantastic and her role is so powerful for a female role, quentin often is ignored for giving women the roles they deserve, the bride is a clear example, if nine isnt fantastic basterds could end up the nomination leader this year, the globes will support it, even if the critics ignore it, it will have a large showing

  • 7 11-13-2009 at 4:03 pm

    John said...

    Hey, Academy! Look at these!

    ACTOR: Sam Rockwell (MOON)
    (I couldn’t push him for an Oscar with a straight face, but hopefully the Globes’ comedy line-up will include Woody Harrelson in ZOMBIELAND)

    ACTRESS: Isabelle Fuhrman (ORPHAN)

    SUPPORTING ACTOR: the Zachs… Quinto for STAR TREK and Galfianakis for THE HANGOVER


  • 8 11-13-2009 at 4:14 pm

    Andrew L. said...

    Swinton is still my “Best Actress of 2009”

    As much as O’Hara and Gandolfini elevate WTWTA, if Ellen Degeneres didn’t get nominated/wasn’t considered for Finding Nemo, then they won’t either.

  • 9 11-13-2009 at 5:03 pm

    Amanda said...

    I still would love for Amy Adams to get some sort of recognition for Sunshine Cleaning. She was just so good in it.

  • 10 11-13-2009 at 5:35 pm

    Scott said...

    Swinton. I can see why a lot of people wouldn’t sit through the film, but I haven’t seen a better performance this year. I really hope lists like these keep her name in the mix. And I’m really happy to see lists like this, period. There’s a lot of work worthy of being considered in these conversations.

  • 11 11-13-2009 at 5:58 pm

    Nigel Bridgeman said...

    Melanie Laurent was excellent in “Inglourious Basterds”. Her two second breakdown after her meeting with Waltz is probably my favourite filmic moment of the year thus far (closely followed by the Expectation/Reality scene in “(500) Days of Summer”).

  • 12 11-13-2009 at 11:26 pm

    Paul Outlaw said...

    This week I’ve seen four “dark horse” Best Actress candidates: Emily Blunt in The Young Victoria, Robin Wright Penn in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Penélope Cruz in Broken Embraces, and Natalie Portman in Brothers. Of the four, RWP’s performance is my personal favorite. Would love to see her shake up the race.

  • 13 11-14-2009 at 12:01 am

    Dustin said...

    Best Picture: Avatar
    An Education
    The Hurt Locker
    Inglorious Bastards
    A Serious Man
    A Single Man
    Up In the Air

    Supporting actress: Mariah Carey, MoNique, Paula Patton, Anna Kendrick, and Julianne Moore.

    Supporting actor: Chris Plummer, Christopher Waltz, Stanley Tucci, Matt Damon, Tobey Maguire.

    Actress: Hellen Mirren, Carey Mulligan, Maggie Gylenthol, Gabby Sidibe, and Meryl Streep.

    Actor’: Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Daniel Day Lewis, Colin Firth, Morgan Freeman

  • 14 11-14-2009 at 12:03 am

    red_wine said...

    I agree Guy, Fassbender is definitely worthy of a nom in Basterds. He has exactly 3 scenes, or 1 chapter in the movie but he’s superb. Specially in the much loved tavern scene in which August Diehl also does a splendid job.

  • 15 11-14-2009 at 1:01 pm

    JAB said...

    Guy I just watched Julia, and I’ll be damned if that’s not one of the best performances i’ve seen in years.