Why there’s no Gosling “dilemma”

Posted by · 6:40 am · September 13th, 2011

Kris wrote a thorough piece yesterday on the vast number of hard-working actors this year who seem to have two or more dogs in the Oscar hunt — one to which many of you responded with even more names to add to the conversation.

In many cases, talk drifted away from serious awards potential and toward the less unusual occurrence of actors who simply had more than one film out this year: lord knows we all love Marisa Tomei, but nobody’s pretending she has more than a 0-for-2 shot at a nomination this time round.

The name that everyone seems to be zeroing in on, however, is Hollywood’s current man of the hour, Ryan Gosling: with three prominent films to go with his endless portfolio of magazine covers, style-page paeans and blogosphere valentines, many are quick to assume the Academy will naturally fall in line, despite (or, some will reason, because of) their failure to acknowledge his career-best turn in last year’s “Blue Valentine.”

Dave Karger fed the fire recently with a piece in which he ruminated on the “dilemma” the actor faces in having to compete against himself for Oscar attention in “The Ides of March” and “Drive,” and drawing some rather bemused-sounding answers from Gosling himself on the subject. For some reason, Gosling’s one of the few actors I believe when he says he doesn’t much think or care about the awards game; he certainly didn’t campaign very hard last year, as co-star (and eventual nominee) Michelle Williams worked the circuit.
Even so, I can’t help but think Karger and several others are inventing this dilemma out of thin air: viewed realistically, with an eye to the tastes and trends of the Academy rather than the media, only one of Gosling’s three 2011 performances is a viable Oscar possibility, and even that one’s far from a sure thing. That’d be George Clooney’s “The Ides of March,” where Gosling headlines as a disillusioned political spin doctor, in the kind of moral middlebrow drama that Oscar often looks kindly upon.

I wouldn’t say it’s Gosling’s best work of 2011, much less his career, and I do wonder whether it’s too impassive a performance for the actors’ branch — who tend to make younger actors work harder for nominations as it is. But if industry and media momentum is going to build around a Gosling nod this year, this is the vehicle for it to take.

I prefer Gosling’s coolly mannered work in “Drive” myself, and I hardly need to reiterate my love for the film on these pages. But to pretend that laconic, image-oriented performance has any chance of Oscar recognition is to enter a parallel history where Steve McQueen was nominated for “Bullitt” rather than “The Sand Pebbles,” and where Matt Damon was nominated for his work in the Bourne trilogy instead of “Invictus.”

It’s a bona fide movie-star turn, but the Academy will always prefer capital-A Acting to action heroes — particularly when “Drive,” critically beloved and Cannes-honored as it is, is hardly parked up their alley. (Talk of a supporting nod for “Crazy, Stupid, Love” strikes me as even more far-fetched: that’s possibly the category where voters are least sympathetic to jazzy eye-candy support.)

I’d be as pleased as anyone to see Gosling land his (overdue) second nomination this time round, but if it’s going to happen, we need to start looking past his ubiquity and at the individual performances — to see the trees for the forest, as it were. In the meantime, the excitement of watching a genuine star emerge after years of careful investment is a phenomenon that needs no Academy rubber-stamping.

[Photo: Zimbio]

→ 38 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

38 responses so far

  • 1 9-13-2011 at 7:05 am

    JJ1 said...

    Excellent article, Guy. Glad you addressed him because it seems like a lot of people are invested in him this year (growing popularity, last year’s Blue Valentine miss, etc).

    It does seem like it may not happen for Gosling this year. And it seems like his best ink of the year was for CSL and Drive, not necessarily the more Academy-friendly Ides of March.

    Golsing is in the mix, but as of now (and subject to change many times), I see the Best Actor’s field narrowed to: Oldman, DiCaprio, Clooney, Dujardin, Pitt, Shannon, and maybe Plummer. Hardy’s stock went down, for me, with the poor Warrior opening.

  • 2 9-13-2011 at 7:13 am

    Aaron said...

    Great article. I could possibly see Gosling getting nominated for Drive if the Academy really feels this momentum for Gosling, although I guess the Ides performance is more likely (however, judging by the lukewarm response to the film, maybe The Ides of March won’t be a major player like we all thought).

    And just to rant for a brief moment, but I still don’t understand how he missed out on a nomination last year for Blue Valentine. That has to be one of the worst mishaps by the Academy, ever. And I don’t really remember Williams doing that much publicity for the film either other than the “Oscar Roundtable” discussion for Newsweek.

  • 3 9-13-2011 at 7:22 am

    Steve said...

    I’m not convinced that a campaign in supporting for CSL is out of the question. A win, most certainly not. But he was incredibly charismatic and fun — which we don’t always see from him of late. If the film hadn’t thrown him away in the last third, I could definitely see a play at a nomination there.

  • 4 9-13-2011 at 7:49 am

    Frank Lee said...

    I’m not sure if the changes to the Academy’s voting system affects this, but under the old system, if Gosling received 150 votes for “Drive” and 200 votes for “The Ides of March,” the Academy automatically treated that as 350 votes for “The Ides of March.”

  • 5 9-13-2011 at 7:54 am

    JJ1 said...

    I’ve heard that, Frank Lee. To anyone, was that the case in the past? And is it still?

  • 6 9-13-2011 at 8:33 am

    red_wine said...

    I find Gosling to be slightly mannered and smug, I haven’t really admired a performance of his, not even Blue Valentine.

    But looking forward to Drive.

  • 7 9-13-2011 at 8:54 am

    Dean said...

    @Frank Lee, that’s never how it’s worked and they haven’t changed any rules for nominations in the acting category.

    To take DiCaprio in 2006 as an example, because he was nominated for Blood Diamond, he had to have enough votes on ballots for Blood Diamond alone. It is likely he had enough for The Departed as well but the nomination only goes to which performance had more votes.

  • 8 9-13-2011 at 9:26 am

    Graysmith said...

    This year seems too fiercely competitive in the Best Actor category for Gosling to have a shot. Early reviews don’t seem to think he gives any kind of unstoppable tour-de-force performance in The Ides of March, so I can’t imagine a nomination happening for him unless the film goes over in a major, major way (BP, BD, writing and so on).

    At the moment I’d say Clooney, DiCaprio and Dujardin are a given, and then there’s the likes of Oldman, Pitt, Fassbender, Fiennes and Hardy all very much in the running for the fourth and fifth slot, and they all seem to have more buzz for their performances than Gosling does.

  • 9 9-13-2011 at 10:11 am

    Fitz said...

    One can hope that a Drive nomination may sneak into the Best Picture race. I’d love to be surprised, but as Guy said it seems unlikely since it’s a genre flick.

  • 10 9-13-2011 at 10:22 am

    JJ1 said...

    And as Toronto rolls in, I’m reading some slightly less enthusiastic accounts for ‘Drive’ and ‘Shame’. Not that Festival buzz affects AMPAS directly; which has been noted here a lot, lately.

  • 11 9-13-2011 at 10:33 am

    Keith said...

    Gosling is one of my favorite actors. I love his quiet intensity, mix of vulnerablity and masculinity. He’s a still sort of actor; I love reading the thoughts/emotions of his characters on that long, sad-eyed face. Sorry, told you I was a fan. ha!

    So I’d like nothing more than to think he simply has a delimma of choosing between those two performances to get nominated. But I would be really surprised to see him nominated for either. Karger’s questions were ridiculous, by the way.

    I’m reading raves about his performance in Drive, granted, it’s not the scene-chewing stuff the Academy typically loves. But, as Guy has pointed out, I just can’t see him getting nominated for it. The Actor race seems really competetive this year, with 3-4 slots (Mark Harris’ scolding notwithstanding, ha!) already sewn up. In my ideal scenario, Gosling’s performance in Drive wins some critics awards at the close of the year (but even that will be tough), keeping his profile high enough so the Academy could be persuaded. But if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet on him making the final cut.

  • 12 9-13-2011 at 10:54 am

    JJ1 said...

    Good post, Keith. I agree with you. And it’s nice to read a half-gush, half-common sensical account from a big fan of anyone.

  • 13 9-13-2011 at 11:08 am

    w23 said...

    Gosling has become a talking point in the media for sure, which is why I never wish for good actors to become “stars” or anything akin to that (the way I keep reading similar wishes for Fassbender to become a star this year) because it inevitably leads to things like Karger’s piece. While not entirely fashioned out of thin air, it does greatly overstate the supposed dilemma of Gosling having more than one film (potentially) in play for awards consideration. And pieces like Karger’s lead to pieces like this which equally exaggerate things (“endless portfolio of magazine covers, style-page paeans…” Really, Guy? He’s not a Kardashian) and now his work is being juxtapose against this need to either make him a star or poke holes in the idea of him being a star. The actual work gets lost or cast aside in favor of ulterior motives/agendas.

  • 14 9-13-2011 at 11:45 am

    kel said...

    Wasn’t Steve McQueen (the actor) nominated for The Sand Pebbles in the 60s?

  • 15 9-13-2011 at 11:53 am

    Graysmith said...

    I feel fairly confident that Michael Fassbender will be nominated for Shame, even if the film won’t have anything to do with the Best Picture race. If it’s as great a performance as it seems to be, given Fassbender’s rise to stardom (and quite frankly amazing acting skills) I just don’t see how they can pass him up. And it’s not like the Academy’s acting branch doesn’t nominate performances in films that aren’t generally their cup of tea as long as the performance is that good. Just think of Javier Bardem in Biutiful, as a very recent example. I’d also throw in Ryan Gosling since we’re on that topic, whose nomination for Half Nelson was a similar kind of breakthrough role in a film that otherwise wouldn’t have registered (and didn’t) with the Academy.

  • 16 9-13-2011 at 12:02 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Kel: D’oh! Serious brainfade there, but you’ve helped me clarify my point. Thanks.

    W23: I’m not poking holes in the idea of him being a star — I like the magazine covers and style-page tributes. He deserves them. Maybe there are more of them here in the UK than the US, but in the publications I read, he’s been made into something of a symbol of contemporary cool. Movie stars have always been about more than what’s on screen — there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m merely pointing out that the Academy places less stock in such intangibles (sometimes to their discredit, sometimes not).

  • 17 9-13-2011 at 12:04 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Graysmith: I’d go into more detail about why I don’t share your confidence, but what does this really have to do with the article at hand?

  • 18 9-13-2011 at 1:42 pm

    James said...

    I’m curious if most of the various critics award groups got behind Gosling’s work in Drive then maybe it would help him. Then again, it probably doesn’t matter how many nominations he received for his performance, the Academy would probably still pick of Ides of March. I’m excited to see both.

  • 19 9-13-2011 at 1:44 pm

    Graysmith said...


    Nothing really, just thinking out loud about the Best Actor category.

  • 20 9-13-2011 at 1:49 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    James: As popular as the film is with critics, I don’t really see them rallying around this performance either. (Not that I’m saying they should.)

  • 21 9-13-2011 at 1:55 pm

    James said...

    Side question if you don’t mind. Albert Brooks….got a shot for a supporting nomination?

  • 22 9-13-2011 at 2:28 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    See my Drive review, and my predictions.

  • 23 9-13-2011 at 2:57 pm

    tony rock said...

    If only Blue Valentine had been released this year.

  • 24 9-13-2011 at 4:42 pm

    Fitz said...

    If Blue Valentine were released this year the same problem would persist. Crowded field, multiple performances to choose from, depressing material.

  • 25 9-13-2011 at 5:46 pm

    julian said...

    There is simply not room for a Gosling nomination this year with Fassbender, Oldham, DiCaprio, Dujardin, Clooney and Pitt in the game. His turn in Ides of March has gained a lukewarm reception and you are absolutely right, that Drive is not an Oscar vehicle for Gosling. To me, he is the best young actor in the business, but it is not happening for him this year Academy-wise.

  • 26 9-13-2011 at 9:00 pm

    JJ1 said...

    And I feel that a Supporting effort put in for Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love would come up way short, too.

    I just think he’s destined to have three solid-to-great performances this year … which is great. CSL is a hit. And like Fassbender, he doesn’t appear to be rah-rah for nominations.

  • 27 9-13-2011 at 9:53 pm

    John-Paul said...

    I don’t see him being nominated this year. However, all the good will created by his rather impressive year will almost certainly put him in that rare category of actors who get Oscar buzz for nearly every performance they do. It may be a Christian Bale-like scenario, and by that I mean that EVERYONE knew Bale was talented, and there were a lot of buzzed-about performances he gave that ultimately went nowhere Oscar-wise, but once he landed that role where everything came together, they jumped at the chance to finally give it to him. I think Gosling will follow a similar path (although he does already have one nod under his belt). Once he’s in a knockout role in a serious Oscar movie, I think they’ll be aching to let him win.

  • 28 9-13-2011 at 11:09 pm

    Dana Jones said...

    I am seriously puzzled as to why anyone would consider rallying behind a supporting nom for Gosling in C, S, L?!? That is not an Oscar-worthy performance, albeit a very entertaining and well-acted part (with a side dish of delicious thanks in part to his beautiful bod, but that’s neither here nor there). I’m baffled that anyone would find it Oscar-worthy.

    The mixed ‘Ides’ reviews have weakened my hopes for a Gosling Oscar nom, but who’s to say- he might still have a shot.

    Maybe 2013 will be kinder to him and ‘Gangster Squad’ or ‘The Place Beyond the Pines’ (when does that come out?) will be the film to land him his second nom. Here’s hoping anyway.

  • 29 9-13-2011 at 11:12 pm

    Dana Jones said...

    “For some reason, Gosling’s one of the few actors I believe when he says he doesn’t much think or care about the awards game; he certainly didn’t campaign very hard last year, as co-star (and eventual nominee) Michelle Williams worked the circuit.”

    I actually think he did more press for ‘Blue Valentine’ than any other film of his. I would reckon MW and him were equal in terms of time spent working the circuit. I do agree though that he probably didn’t care as much but I do think he campaigned hard for the sake of the film and his visible respect and adoration for Cianfrance.

  • 30 9-14-2011 at 3:01 am

    Carlo said...

    Boy that was such a shame that Gosling got shut out last year for Blue Valentine. I have to agree though on your point about The Ides of March, but based on the reviews I’ve read, it’s certainly be a shame he’s more likely to be nominated here rather than the more unique Drive.

    Let’s hope for the best though!

  • 31 9-14-2011 at 9:42 am

    Frank Lee said...

    Did anyone else see the New York Times article today identifying the Canadian Gosling as “among the most disarming of young American actors”?

  • 32 9-14-2011 at 5:13 pm

    Lucky said...

    I just wanted to bring up Lars and the Real Girl, since it hasn’t been mentioned and I consider his performance there his best.

    And although I’d like it to happen, I doubt he’ll get nominated this year. Dujardin, Clooney and DiCaprio are pretty locked up, with Oldman and Pitt possibly taking the fourth and fifth slots.

    That’s a shame for Fassbender, Shannon and Gosling, all underrated actors.

  • 33 9-14-2011 at 5:55 pm

    The Other James D. said...

    I flove Lars and the Real Girl, and I’ve always mentioned it here and elsewhere that I think it’s his best as well. Glad that opinion is shared :).

    As for the predix, I doubt those five are locked and loaded. I think with Fox Searchlight on its side, Shame could be one of the surprises of the year. Many thought Black Swan wouldn’t appeal to the Academy, despite some indications. Yet that turned out nicely. So hopefully, at the very least, they’ll pander properly for the sake of Fassbender, after his wonderful Venice win. Maybe Mulligan and the screenplay could even benefit as well, but one step at a time.

  • 34 9-14-2011 at 6:01 pm

    Dana Jones said...

    Lars and the Real Girl FTW!

  • 35 9-14-2011 at 6:02 pm

    Keith said...

    I also loved Gosling in Lars. Really sensitive work in that movie.

    I’ve been enjoying all the interviews with him this week as Drive rolls out. His insights into Drive and why he was interested in doing it sure make it sound like he was much more than just an actor in the film, also collaborator, at least in helping Refn crystallize his ideas.

    I also think Fassbender is still in the race.

  • 36 9-14-2011 at 7:31 pm

    JJ1 said...

    ‘Lars’ is also my favorite Gosling performance. So happy to see the love, here. REALLY thought he should have been Oscar nommed that year (was nommed at SAG).

  • 37 9-16-2011 at 11:09 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    The Other James D: Very tardy response this, but since I’ve seen others making the Black Swan/Searchlight comparison with Shame, I have to point out that the latter isn’t going to make $100 million. That does make a difference.