Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Academy Member Sleuthing

Every year, the Entertainment Weekly Oscar preview issue talks to four anonymous members of the Academy and asks for who they voted four in the top races. The anonymity leads to some very candid thoughts on the Oscar race and, I think, provides the teensiest bit of insight into the narratives that are swirling around within the industry.

Also every year, I try my damnedest to figure out who these people are. The actors and/or directors, of course. I could give a shit which studio executives they talk to. This year's anonymous actress was especially intriguing to me. She called the 10-wide Best Picture race "idiotic" and said Maggie Gyllenhaal's Best Supporting Actress-nominated performance "almost ruined Crazy Heart for me." YEOW! So I decided to try and sleuth out who this outspoken lady is. Won't you help me?

Here's what EW says about "The Actress": This one-time Best Supporting Actress nominee has managed to toggle successfully between indie films and big studio projects. She's as funny on screen as she is frank off it -- especially when it comes to this year's new Oscar rules.

So, what we have to go on: "one-time Supporting Actress nominee" (do we assume this means she didn't win? or that she was never nominated for Best Actress?); splits time between indies and studio films; "funny on screen." Let's take a look at the contenders:

Catherine Keener
Why? She does a fairly perfect split between indie and studio; she's a gifted comedic actress; I could see her being ballsy enough to make these comments.

Why not? She's a two-time Supporting Actress nominee (Being John Malkovich; Capote)

Virginia Madsen
Why? Only one BSA nomination, for Sideways; she's made indies and studio movies; she's pretty much got nothing to lose by being bitchy to Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Why not? "Funny on-screen"?

Patricia Clarkson
Why? One nomination, for Pieces of April, an indie movie that Patty alternates with her studio work (like Shutter Island), some incredibly funny performances, and I can see her being candid like this.

Why not? I don't like to think Patricia Clarkson would vote for Avatar. (Honestly, I really think she might be the one.)

Kate Hudson
Why? One nomimation (Almost Famous), and I could see where an EW reporter would do her the kindness of calling her film output "funny." And having seen Nine royally snubbed, I could see her being catty about the Best Picture category.

Why not? She hasn't "toggled between indie and studio movies" since Desert Blue.

Toni Collette
Why? One-time nominee (The Sixth Sense), does studio and indie stuff, and her United States of Tara performance has given her a reputation for, if not comedy, at least dramady.

Why not? It sounds dumb, but I can't detect any Australian syntax in the comments. And she seems too nice, right?

Chloe Sevigny
Why? A one-time nominee (Boys Don't Cry), Chloe certainly doesn't seem too nice. She also has done plenty of indie, while Big Love could be seen as mainstream.

Why not? As shrilly comedic as Nicki Grant can be, I'm not sure we can call her screen persona "funny."

Whoopi Goldberg
Why? Because Roommate Mark really thinks it sounds like her, and he cites Sarafina! as evidence that Whoop doesn't just favor big studio fare.

Why not? She won the Oscar on her lone Supporting Actress nomination, plus she has a Best Actress nomination besides. After watching her on The View every day, I can't see her going out of her way to slam another actress.

Okay, y'all, am I missing any prime suspects? Who do you think our mystery Actress is?


Stephanie said...

Catherine Keener immediately came to my mind but she is a two-time nominee.

What about Lily Tomlin? She's funny and very frank.

Lester Freamon said...

Joan Cusack? Nominated for In and Out in 97. Funny, but I don't know if I'd say she splits her time between indies. She's mostly mainstream.

Joe Reid said...

Also nominated for Working Girl in 1988, though. But, yes, she leaped to mind too.

Rinaldo said...

I'm still thinking Catherine Keener. I can see "one-time" as a misdirect, intentionally playing on the idiomatic meaning of that phrase as meaning simply "in the past" and not literally once.

jessica said...

I love you for doing this. This piece drives me crazy every year.

I thought of Amy Adams (a one-time supporting actress nominee who also has a lead actress nom), but I tend to think "one-time supporting actress nominee" means that was her only nomination and that she didn't win. I'm going with Christine Lahti. Outspoken, funny, and not above voting Avatar Best Picture (followed by Inglourious Basterds).

Joe Reid said...

Amy's two nominations were both supporting (Junebug and Doubt). And I agree on that meaning of "one-time supporting actress nominee." Otherwise it could be anybody and then it's no fun to guess.

jessica said...

I could've sworn Junebug was lead, but you're right. So no Amy Adams.

Saoirse Ronan could have the same beef as Kate Hudson regarding the 10-picture race, but the comments strike me as coming from an adult early 30s+. And she's not funny. Patricia Clarkson is definitely a possibility (I always wonder if the cartoon representations are indicative of anything and this year's has red hair), but maybe Michelle Williams. Is she funny? Dick was kinda funny. Is she mainstream?

DuchessKitty said...

Oooh, great discussion. When I read the EW article (I too look forward to it every year Joe), I immediately went to Catherine Keener.
Mostly because I didn't interpret "one-time" supporting actress nom as literally one nomination, but instead that she was just a past nominee.

Clarkson is also a great guess. The tone of the comments definitely struck me as an actress in her 40s.

OleNelson said...

I've got nothing to add. But I love that you did this. The identity question crosses my mind every year, but I've never put any effort into thinking about it.

Of course, that's also probably because I'm not sure we can entirely trust EW's facts on the descriptions. Like maybe it's actually a Best Supporting ACTOR and they're throwing us off the scent.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I immediately thought Juliette Lewis (nominated for Cape Fear). She's funny, outspoken, and relevant to this year due to Whip It! (if that matters).

StinkyLulu said...

I've been, naturally, obsessing about this too.

It amuses me to imagine that it's Carol Channing...

And I doubt that it's Rosie Perez, or Mercedes Ruehl.

Sara said...

Marisa Tomei came to mind first...she did win in '93, and has had three separate nominations, but they were all in the Supporting category, and she does a mix of indie and mainstream.

JA said...

Great topic, Joe! My mind turned to Patty too when reading it.

Vance said...

Did it specifically say someone recent? I'm thinking someone older would slam Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Toni Collette has only been nominated once? What the?

Drew said...

From people I know that have met Toni Collette: being nice is not one of her main features. So it could be her.

My mind kind of jumped to Juliette Lewis, though.

The Jaded Armchair Reviewer said...

Maybe it's Little Miss Sunshine herself, Abigail Breslin!

Or Natalie Portman.

Iggy said...

Lauren Bacall?

Glenn Dunks said...

Juliette Lewis sounds good, but is she an Academy member? Sure, she was nominated once but that doesn't necessarily mean she's a member since it's only been recently that the Academy have been desperate for "new blood".

jessica said...

In the past everyone who was nominated was almost automatically -- as in it was kind of a given, though not official policy -- given membership if they didn't have it already. It's only been recently that they've been offering membership to "new blood" types who have never been nominated and likely never will be. For reasons of significant achievement or some such. Still, anyone who is nominated gets a membership.

Neel Mehta said...

I don't know if she's funny on screen, but I'm thinking Talia Shire. She has one Supporting Actress nom (and one Lead), has done indie and studio projects (though I wouldn't say she toggled between them), and strikes me as someone who could afford to be outspoken.

I guess I just imagine some private theater on the Coppola winery estate where she and her son, Jason Schwartzman, make fun of Maggie Gyllenhaal and throw popcorn at the screen when she's on.

NicksFlickPicks said...

Tomlin, Lahti, and Lewis seem like genius guesses to me. What about, like, Mira Sorvino? I realize that she won, but I cannot believe that Oscar voters would skate out on this thin ice of candor and not ask the writer to conceal their tracks a little.

Lorraine Bracco? I'd love it if it were Gloria Stuart, throwing shade (and stumping for Cameron along the way).

Clover said...

I know I'm kinda late to the party, but what about Taraji P Henson? BSA nominee for Benjamin Button, does indie and mainstream films and seems funny. She also seems like someone who would like Avatar

adam k. said...

I think Patricia Clarkson, Lily Tomlin, and Juliette Lewis are prime suspects.

Taraji P. Henson is an interesting possibility, and I bet she voted for Avatar - she was just in a big vis-FX film herself, and I bet she's friends with Zoe Saldana - but she seems too young (and not snobby enough about something like a country music film) to be dissing Gyllenhaal like that.

I'd really love to believe it was Lauren Bacall, though...

Ian said...

Pretty sure it's Virginia Madsen, even though "funny gal" isn't what comes to mind when I think of her.

She was interviewed on the red carpet at the Oscars, where she said that she initially disagreed with having 10 nominees for Best Pic, and cited Avatar as her fave