With summer nearly halfway over (though it’s always summer here in Bangkok), we’re closing in on my favorite time of year: Oscar season, those autumn months when Hollywood puts away its summer toys and begins to regularly treat us to films about adults, starring adults, made for adults.
And once again, we get to fill our heads with wishful thinking: Which long overdue star will finally get some Oscar love. In 2012, it was Christopher Plummer. In 2010, Jeff Bridges. But what about the ladies? Kate Winslet, who finally struck gold in 2009 for The Reader (Why? Why? Why?) after five failed attempts was the last belated female winner. Will any of the actresses on my personal wish list get her shot in 2013?
Cicely Tyson Angela Bassett, Alfre Woodard, and Viola Davis (always the bridesmaids — which reminds me, couldn’t Maya Rudolph have had at least one black friend in Bridesmaids? — never the brides), get in line! It’s too late for anyone other than Halle Berry to claim the title of the first black actress ever to win Best Actress, but no black woman is more overdue than Tyson, 78, last seen onscreen in The Help, whose first and only nomination was for Sounder back in 1973. Yes, she slums a lot — in television, in film, in a Willow Smith video — but if Monique Angela Imes can go from being “star of the UPN sitcom The Parkers” to “Academy Award winner Mo’Nique,” then anyone can overcome rotten career choices, right?
Glenn Close, Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Pfeiffer Until Glenn Close got her sixth nomination this year for Albert Nobbs (belated payback perhaps for being overlooked for 1990’s Reversal of Fortune), none of these legends of the ’80s and early ’90s (second then only to the holy triumvirate of ’80s queens: Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek) had been nominated since 1993, when Pfeiffer was up for Best Actress for Love Field. If I had to pick just one to win, it would be Close. As much as I love her in Damages, I don’t want her two Emmys for it to be her last hurrahs. If Rock of Ages could get made just a few years after its Broadway run, what’s taking so long with Sunset Boulevard? Close already won a 1995 Tony, her third, for singing the role of Norma Desmond on Broadway (incidentally, one of those Tonys was for 1992’s Death and the Maiden, for whose 1994 film version Weaver was not nominated), and the Oscar-less Gloria Swanson received her third and final nomination for playing her in the 1950 film version, so as long as they don’t cast Tom Cruise as Joe Gillis, the Oscar probably would be a Close call.
Debra Winger The three-time Oscar nominee was one of my favorite things about the early ’80s and the second best thing (after Anne Hathaway) about 2008’s Rachel Getting Married, for which she inexplicably received no Oscar nomination and no big-screen roles until this year in something called Lola Versus.
Annette Bening and Julianne Moore There’s no doubt in my mind that Bening will eventually get what’s coming to her (probably in the Best Supporting Actress category, where some might argue she’s belonged all along), but what about Moore? At one point, she was a virtual Oscar-nomination magnet (she scored four of them in the five-year span between 1998 and 2003), but she recently had to watch her costars in A Single Man (Colin Firth) and The Kids Are All Right (Bening) get nominations while all she got was a lousy BAFTA nod for the latter. Unfortunately for Moore (and Bening, too, though, I repeat, she will beat the odds — maybe as early as next year for playing Kirsten Wiig’s mother in Imogene), not only is she now over 50 (wind down time for Oscar bait not named Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren or Judi Dench), and only a handful of actresses (Susan Hayward, Vanessa Redgrave, Maureen Stapleton, Shirley MacLaine, Geraldine Page, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet) have won their first Oscar on their fourth nomination or higher. Marsha Mason was up for Best Actress four times between 1974 and 1982, and where is she now? Mostly on TV — and even there, rarely. Michelle Williams, Laura Linney and Amy Adams, all three-time nominees, should be quivering in their high heels.
Joan Allen Speaking of three-time nominees, Allen was Pat Nixon in Nixon, which brought the first of her three nominations, but she really had me at “It were a cold house I kept” in The Crucible, in which she upstaged, of all people, Daniel Day-Lewis to score her second nomination. (A third random citation, her first for Best Actress, would come four years later for The Contender.) One of the biggest mysteries of the ’00s is that a performance as flawless as Allen’s in 2005’s The Upside of Anger wasn’t deemed more worthy of a nomination than any of that year’s Best Actress nominees, including the winner, Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line. Her consolation prize: nothing. She’s worked only sporadically since then.
Gena Rowlands Unfortunately for the twice-nominated star of A Woman Under the Influence, 1996’s Unhook the Stars, for which she did not receive her third Oscar nod at age 66, came before people like Meryl Streep and Dames Helen Mirren and Judi Dench helped make the Oscars safer for actresses over 60. But if she’s never going to get an Oscar, Rowlands, now 82, deserves better than a guest role on NCIS and being below the title in a Kate Hudson film (2005’s The Skeleton Key).
Angela Lansbury She’ll forever be best otherwise known as Jessica Fletcher on TV’s Murder, She Wrote (for which she never won an Emmy — another grand prize that continues to elude her after 19 tries), or a five-time Tony winner on Broadway, but before she was either, Lansbury was a three-time Oscar nominee (always in the Best Supporting Actress category). Her mother from hell in The Manchurian Candidate (for which she received nomination No. 3 in 1963) makes Melissa Leo’s mama bear in The Fighter (for which she received her Oscar, on her second try) look like the Virgin Mary. We’ll never know what might have been had Lansbury been cast in the title role in the 1974 film version of the Broadway musical Mame, for which she won her first Tony in 1966. (It’s not like the role of Auntie Mame in the 1958 film version brought Rosalind Russell her first Oscar on her fourth nomination.) Though it might be more wishful thinking, I’m convinced she’s going to live forever, but if not, I wish someone like Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell or Alexander Payne would give her one final juicy supporting screen role for an 11th-hour Oscar win. Alas, if anyone dared to write a part for a woman of Lansbury’s advanced age (86), they’d probably trip over themselves rushing to offer it to 90-year-old Betty White first.