The 19th Annual Who'll Be Back?
Posted: Sat Mar 10, 2018 3:47 pm
The other day, I was looking through the 2012 post-show reactions thread, and saw the below quoted passage from Bog:
“Most likely, of the main question of the thread, "who will be back?"...Oscar winner-wise...we should be 7/7 (DDL, JLaw, Hathaway, Waltz, Lee, QT, and Terrio) or I should say if, at the end of it all, this year isn't 7/7 at simply returning as at least an Oscar nominee, that'd be more surprising than the alternative. Not all the 7 are as obvious as Jennifer Lawrence I suppose, and we'll see what Tee thinks, but I'd bet on each one of them sometime returning. Intriguing too because, in the same categories from just last year, 4 could be eliminated at 11:30pm that Oscar night: Spencer, Plummer, Dujardin, Hazanavicius.”
I cite this not to poke at Bog – who, after all, was utterly right about Daniel Day-Lewis and JLaw (while Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer send him a hearty “Ha!”) – but to show the perils of forecasting, even in the short run. It’s all to caution that, when entering this annual look at who of the year’s also-rans (or never-quite-rans) will be returning, we should keep in mind Chairman Yogi’s wisdom: “Predictions are difficult, especially about the future.”
So, without further ado: the 19th annual Who’ll Be Back?
Does it seem contradictory for me to say I think Timothee Chalamet did near-transcendent work in Call Me by Your Name, but that I have my doubts about him ever returning? Call Me wasn’t technically the first time I’d seen Chalamet work – I’d been to Lady Bird a week or two earlier, and, now that I research, I find I’d seen him in both Homeland and Interstellar a few years back. But it was the first time he registered this fully with me, which might as well have made it a debut…and there’s always peril in projecting from initial exposure (Emily Watson, for instance, has had a durable enough career, but I can’t say she’s ever matched the extraordinary height she achieved in her first film). It makes it even more difficult that the man is so young – 22 looking like 17, he doesn’t seem fully formed yet; there may be an awkward stage ahead. Now, people who’ve seen him on the NY stage tell me he was just as impressive there, so maybe this is the beginning of long and distinguished stardom. But I remain agnostic for the moment, and will be looking for clues in his upcoming work, notably in Beautiful Boy (sadly, I expect A Rainy Day in New York to be blacklisted out of release).
Does anyone else have trouble believing Daniel Day-Lewis is truly retiring forever? I’m not saying he’ll be a Soderbergh, who’s worked more since he retired than prior; I definitely believe Day-Lewis’ll go off and do his eccentric thing for a couple of years. But it strikes me likely that, after enough time has passed to recharge his batteries, he’ll get the itch again – and, without doubt, top directors will be happy to cast him again. Of course, any time he commits himself to celluloid, Oscar nominations will be at least considered. So I rate him “Yes, he’ll be back, but with an if-he-chooses asterisk”.
Denzel Washington was out of the Oscar game for over a decade after his second win in 2001, but he’s now racked up three nods in six years, this last for the kind of throwaway work that only seems to get cited when actors are in the forefront of voters’ minds. Add in the fact that this was Washington’s 8th nomination – the high stratosphere for all actors, a level that once seemed unreachable for a black performer – and you have to feel his chances at a third win at some point are quite solid. He’s somewhat hobbled by the fact so many of his movies are of the trash variety (his three recent nominations were his only conceivable ones in his past decade’s filmography). But, every so often, he does something serious, and voters are clearly disposed to cite him when he does.
Though I considered Daniel Kaluuya’s nomination to be of the lucky-it’s-a-lean-year variety, I think he may have one of the brighter immediate Oscar futures. For openers, he’s got a prime role in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years follow-up, Widows. And his visibility from Get Out’s awards run would appear to put him in position to sign onto other plum projects. I’ll be very interested to see what he makes of this opportunity.
Who could presume to predict Gary Oldman’s career? This is a guy who built up a reputation as one of the world’s great actors while operating almost entirely outside the Academy’s realm (playing outlaws like Sid Vicious and Joe Orton), then built a seeming second career in big budget franchises (Batman and Harry Potter), and finally got awards attention in the kind of “classy” Brit films the young Oldman would probably have sneered at. Now that he’s in the books as Oscar winner, should we expect a return? Academy folk have long been generous about bringing back lead-role winners, and Oldman is still (by male standards) young enough to get more attention. But his career has been so mercurial, it’s just as likely this is his swan song. My bet is right at the 50/50 line, with maybe a lean toward No.
Incidentally, best “cool thing I didn’t realize” uncovered in the research for this: Oldman is not the only Sid and Nancy veteran to receive an Oscar this week. Cinematographer: Roger Deakins.
Don’t know if anyone remembers, but, the day the NY Critics’ awards were given out, Guy Lodge tweeted that Saoirse Ronan was this year’s likely best actress winner…and I don’t think any of us said he was crazy. Of course, it didn’t turn out that way -- Frances-love soon took over -- but the supposition behind the tweet remains in place: Ronan, at her young age, bolstered by (now) three nominations, is an actress we should assume is a solid prospect to take the prize in the years just ahead. Her upcoming slate feels a bit musty – Chekhov and Mary Queen of Scots (opposite one of her co-nominees) – but, hey, Winston Churchill has yielded an Emmy and Oscar in the past year or so. I’m more anxious to see what she can do in further contemporary roles – Lady Bird showed she can be a fierce actress, and I’d love to see her tear up the screen like that again. She joins Amy Adams as hottest prospect for an Oscar this coming decade.
That time when Sally Hawkins was known as the Happy Go Lucky-snubbee seems long in the past. She’s now a two-time nominee who gave the central performance in a popular best picture winner…and the lovable star of Paddington movies, to boot. Life seems to be very good for her. I’m not sure I see her as someone the Academy will go out of its way to honor – her place-or-show position this year came largely from the film’s prominence and the nature of the role – but she’s obviously talented within a pretty wide range, and the visibility Shape of Water gave her would certainly boost her in a future close race. I say she’s a 50/50 bet to return.
When you’re blonde gorgeous and the critics go your way, a lot of doors open. I’m not convinced Margot Robbie has yet proven herself as an actress -- I, Tonya was a semi-stretch, but not the leap to respectability that, say, Jessica Lange got from Frances. A whole lot of people, though, seem willing to bet on her: she has by far the longest list of projects completed or in development of anyone on this list. She’s the one co-starring with Ronan in Mary Queen of Scots (playing Elizabeth), and that might be an acid test: a period role might reveal unanticipated depths, or expose limitations all too starkly. But she’s also got a bunch of intriguing-sounding small films up ahead, and, based on I, Tonya, she appears to be managing her own career in a way few younger actresses could conceive. This could be a flash-in-the-pan Oscar appearance, or the start of a major career – my instinct is, there’s little possible in-between – and it’ll be fascinating to see how it plays out.
Have you heard of this lady, Meryl Streep? I’m told she has a future. She sure as hell has a past. This is now four nominations SINCE she was supposedly pensioned off with that third win. She’s also inherited, literally and figuratively, the Nicholson seat at the Oscars: front row every year, the safest person in the room to joke about because she’s clearly on a plane where few have ever gone. She’s not likely to score nominations for any current projects (Mary Poppins and Mamma Mia sequels), but no doubt some new can’t-miss role will soon come her way. This ride will inevitably end at some point, but I’m no longer sure I’ll live to see it.
Frances McDormand has put herself on a pretty high plane, as well – in addition to these two well-earned best actress trophies, she has the wide Emmy success of Olive Kitteridge (which would have made as much Oscar noise had it been released in theatres) …and, let’s not forget, a Tony just a few years back. She’s a legend at this point. Does that mean she’ll be back? Well, she still dwells mostly in character actor realm – all three of her non-winning nominations, and much of the rest of career, has been in supporting roles – so I’d guess further best actress recognition is a long shot. But more nominations in support? – who’d bet against her?
Okri made a pretty good case for Woody Harrelson leading into the race, and I think much the same can be said for him coming out of it: this is no longer a TV sitcom graduate; this is a well-respected actor who’s accumulated three nominations over two decades of well-chosen projects. He’s someone it wouldn’t be remotely surprising to see win the prize soon down the line. (And it clearly helps to have filmmakers like the Coens and Martin McDonagh in your corner.) I’d guess, were he to become a winner, it’d more likely be in the supporting niche.
I feel kind of bad for Willem Dafoe – he was probably skeptical enough he didn’t buy into the Fall blogger hype, but his ridiculously strong run of critics’ prizes had to have him thinking it might finally be his year. But the even-by-indie-standard smallness of The Florida Project finally caught up with him, and he was practically an afterthought by Oscar night. Does this give him any boost toward a future win? Maybe a tiny one, from sympathy. But I think he remains what he’s always been: an admired actor whose taste in projects is a bit out-there to give him many opportunities at a mainstream prize like the Oscar. (Platoon remains by far his most widely-seen effort.) He’s got one interesting project ahead – Edward Norton’s film of Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn – so we can watch for that. But, in general, I’d say he’s a guy who needs to luck into the right project; he’s not likely to win on career points alone.
Richard Jenkins is 70 years old. He was a largely anonymous character actor well into his 50s, when Six Feet Under gave him a little prominence. He’s now had two Oscar nominations and an Emmy win in the past decade; talk about a second act! I’m not saying he’s the sort to come up with an Oscar win at this point – he seemed genuinely delighted to simply be playing at nomination level this year. But I do think he’s a guy who, if another such prominent role were to come along, the voters would be exceedingly happy to endorse.
What’s there to say about Christopher Plummer this time around? He provided Jimmy Kimmel a few good age jokes; I’ll always feel the nomination was largely for public service to SONY; and he comes out of it unlikely to ever win again. Of course, I didn’t see the nomination coming, so don’t take my word. But I’d guess, as Bog once thought, this is the end for him.
Sam Rockwell’s cover is now officially blown -- in the blink of an eye, he’s jumped from appreciated-by-aficionados-but-mostly-anonymous to seemingly popular Oscar winner. He’s always been a steady worker, with multiple credits most years, and I see no reason that shouldn’t continue…only now, perhaps, the offers will be more enticing. (Hey, even before this, he was playing Bush in Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney movie.) Now that Rockwell’s been uncovered, I’d guess he’s likely to make more Academy appearances. Another win? Probably not likely – but in a world where Christoph Waltz happens, you can’t rule it out.
It’s hard to truly feel sorry for Laurie Metcalf. She just won a Tony; she’s following it up appearing opposite Glenda Jackson in Three Tall Women; she’s got the Roseanne series revving up again; and in the midst of all of this, she got a late-in-life Oscar nomination for a movie that was on few people’s radar before Toronto. That’s a pretty fabulous year. But it winds up seeming a bit disappointing, because a performance for which many of us would have voted went unchosen in the end, and the sad fact is, Metcalf has never had enough of a film presence for it to seem likely she can come back to challenge again. (The woman who defeated her, Allison Janney, is, like Metcalf, more a TV regular, but has had far more movie prominence over the years – even just lately, appearing in The Help, Spy and The Girl on the Train.) We enjoy Oscar slates being populated by more than one deserving candidate, but that leaves a sad aftermath for the one who falls short. I’d be happy to be wrong, but I doubt we’ll see Metcalf pass this way again.
For a long time, it appeared Lesley Manville’s only connection to the Oscars would be as footnote to the 2010 race, where she was touted for months (for Another Year) but ended up not making it. Now, though, she has a solid Oscar credit, in a prominent best picture nominee, so people should start remembering her name. Manville has never lacked for work over a 40-year career, but most of it has been British-centered (a good bit of that on BBC, not on-screen). So, she’s the ultimate who-knows? from this year’s pack – she could capitalize on this newfound prominence and get other roles as juicy as Cyril, or retreat to previously held positions and never make another Dolby appearance. I’d be happy to see the former, but I suspect the latter is the way to bet.
I checked Mary J. Blige’s IMDB page, and I see she does have other acting credits – some playing herself, and many of them TV, but she is apparently serious about making a second career for herself. Never say never, but, since most people I know feel this nomination here was over-reward relative to what she displayed, I’m dubious she’ll be making a return visit.
I wrote just last year that I thought Octavia Spencer was carving out a really interesting career for herself, and this quick reappearance only bolsters my impression. I doubt we’ll often see her headlining a project – she’s a character actress through and through, meaning leading parts will be a rarity. But she’s already managed to get that character persona placed in a wide variety of films, a number of them high profile, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see her back on the slate in years just to come. A lot of us have started thinking of her as a Thelma Ritter of her era; Ritter, let’s remember, has six supporting nods, and it’s not impossible Spencer gets up in that range.
From the start, it wasn’t difficult to think of Allison Janney as an Academy Award winner. Though her most visible work was on TV (West Wing in particular), she’s been noticeable in films going back to The Ice Storm (she even appeared opposite fellow supporting winner in The Way Way Back), and she’s the sort of character actress for whom the supporting category was created. Parts like the one she had in I, Tonya don’t come along every day, but I’d say it’s possible she finds another one or two to get her invited back some year or other. Another win would seem dubious, but Janney’s proven at the Emmys that repeating is in her blood.
Paul Thomas Anderson has never made it easy on Oscar voters. His movies are challenging for their subject matter (the porn industry, Scientology) and an often-harsh view of humanity. But it’s been clear, since he burst on the scene 20 years ago, that his directorial gifts are in extraordinary range, and he’s maintained a loyal base of fans in the Academy as well as the general public, netting him stray nominations for many of his films. Phantom Thread turned out, improbably, to be one of his most user-friendly efforts, and the result was six nods, most of them in glamour categories. What are the chances he does this again soon, or at all? As far as “at all” – I’ll hold to what a friend and I decided after Magnolia: of all directors currently working, he’s most likely to make a great American movie, and that’s not likely to go unnoted by critics and the Academy. I choose to be an optimist: I believe Phantom Thread will kick off a period of greater accessibility, and his films will start appearing on Academy lists more frequently. As far as his ever winning…thirty years ago, he’d probably have been in the niche with Altman, Kubrick and Lynch -- too many steps ahead of the culture to win such a mainstream prize. But, this millennium, I’ve watched Soderbergh, Polanski, Scorsese, The Coens, Danny Boyle – directors I thought equally Academy-unfriendly – find ways to take the prize. I choose to believe Anderson will one day join their company.
It’s hard to know what to make of Christopher Nolan’s career position just now. Yes, he finally nabbed the directing slot his fans had so longed for…but the trajectory of his season has to be seen as huge disappointment. Back in July, when Dunkirk was getting critical and audience hosannahs, I thought he was, at minimum, the clear leader for the directing award. And I’d guess Nolan, unlike Dafoe, probably started to buy into a “this is my year” narrative. The subsequent non-support at the critics’ awards (Nolan could almost sue for breach of promise) was a shock, and, though he scored all the necessary nominations for consideration (at Globes/Broadcasters/BAFTA as well as AMPAS), it all seemed perfunctory. In the end, Dunkirk won the prizes for which Nolan films have always contended. I wonder if this’ll make him think, Screw it, I went serious and it got me nothing, it’s back to sci-fi and super-heroes – or if, Spielberg-in-the-80s-like, he’ll lick his wounds and try another history chapter, still straining for that elusive Academy honor?
It’s odd how everyone’s shrugged off Greta Gerwig’s film going home with nothing. Lady Bird was, if anything, more a critics’ favorite than Get Out – 10 points ahead of it on Metacritic, winner of both the NY and National Society prizes – yet, when you read many critics’ post-mortems, their complaints are that Get Out didn’t win more, not that Lady Bird won nothing. I was of course very fond of Gerwig’s film, and I think her ability to create characters and write pithy dialogue marks her someone to keep watching. But I do have wariness over the autobiographical aspect of her film. It’s said many writers have one good book in them, drawn from their lives, and only the exceptional ones have multiple good books on disparate topics. Gerwig has proven the first; the jury’s still out on the second. And, of course, whatever she does next will not fly under the radar like this one did. The world will be watching.
Jordan Peele probably surpassed his wildest dreams: seeing his first film – a genre piece – become a best picture contender and win a screenwriting Oscar. This for a guy who, 15 months ago, was the not quite as funny half of Key and Peele. Like Greta Gerwig, he now needs to prove himself a second time, though his challenge is different: having already created a work of pure fiction outside his comedy wheelhouse, he’ll need to show what other genres he can work in.
He’s also, by virtue of winning that prize, now up against a statistical wall. In the first 60+ years of the Oscars, most screenwriting awards were won by writers, not directors. The few exceptions were mostly directors who wrote or co-wrote their own scripts and won screenplay as part of a best picture/director sweep – Wilder and Huston in the 40s, Coppola and Woody Allen in the 70s. But, beginning with Neil Jordan’s Crying Game win in 1992, it became commonplace for a losing director to get what amounted to a consolation prize under screenplay – in quick succession, Jane Campion, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen brothers, and Curtis Hanson won. This trend continues to this day, with Adam McKay, Tom McCarthy, Barry Jenkins and Kenny Lonergan. The salient fact here: only one of this large group has ever come back to win best director at a later date – that being the Coens. (Two, Alexander Payne and Tarantino, did come back for a second screenplay win.) So, by winning for screenwriting, Peele has rendered himself less likely to win the more prominent directing prize. But I suppose a TV sketch writer who wins an Oscar for his first film can afford to scoff at statistics like that.
As for our winner: because of his obsession with monster characters, Guillermo del Toro was always the least likely of the three amigos to get the Oscar spotlight…but, sometimes, life finds a way. Del Toro is a very popular figure in Hollywood (a true mensch, from personal testimony I’ve heard), and a clearly talented stylist. But I’m inclined to think he lucked into a movie that happened to nudge into Academy territory, and I wouldn’t count on that ever happening again.
He of course didn’t make the directing list, but a word about Martin McDonagh. In many a year, he would have been a popular screenplay winner, but he suffered from both the genuine enthusiasm for Get Out and the controversy around his own film. Three Billboards certainly raised his Academy profile (coupled with his cult-appeal In Bruges nod), and I’d guess his films will now start getting more attention from the prize community. That he didn’t win this year – that he alone seemed to bear the brunt of the controversy – might even help him win in the future.
On to the bonus round, which has expanded shamelessly over the years – it started with actors, in the last few years it’s encompassed directors, and, just now, I’m adding a third arena.
To wit: The Oscars seem to have quietly inaugurated an annual “Find some long-denied below the line veteran and make him a winner” slot – Lubezki in ’13 (yes, also ’14 and ‘15), Desplat in ’14 (and the other night), Morricone in ’15, O’Connell in ’16, and Deakins this year. Candidates to follow in their footsteps? Bruno Delbonnel is probably one to consider. There are costume designers who ought to qualify. But I’ve got to think Thomas Newman is going to luck into a prize at some point. He’s now waited longer than his cousin Randy did. That can’t last forever; right?
In terms of directors who crept up to the line but didn’t cross it: I imagine many people will advocate for Sean Baker, but I still doubt his ability to truly cross into the mainstream -- The Florida Project was a big step past Tangerine, but still proved easy for the Academy to resist. My choice would be Luca Guadagnino. If you’d told me a year ago that he’d miss one of best picture and best director, I’d have bet heavily on the former – it would have seemed inconceivable that a director with such a distinctive, abundant style could have a best picture nominee left out by the directing branch. But there he sits, nominated as producer only. Since I’m one of the few here who saw him as a prime candidate prior to this year, I’ll still tout him as a future directing nominee. And, having created the beloved-in-many-circles Call Me by Your Name, he’s quite likely to get significantly more attention for future projects.
Finally, the original bonus round, for actors -- which itself has evolved into two rounds. The original premise was “actor who contended for but didn’t get a nomination this year, who you suspect will get one before much longer.” (My first choice was Patricia Clarkson in 2002, who made me look good by showing up the very next year.) Over the years, certain folk ignored these criteria and started pushing actors who were nowhere near Academy territory simply because they liked them. Ultimately, I played along, and added a parallel round going by those rules.
Taking that second category first: there’s a temptation to go for Vicki Krieps, who made an impressive debut in Phantom Thread, or maybe Robert Pattinson, who shows in film after film that he’s more than a vampire; he’s got to be working toward a nomination someday. But I’m going to cite Tracey Letts, who keeps giving solid supporting performances in interesting films, and I imagine will sooner or later get a nomination from this.
And, for my bonus-round-classic, I’m going to bump someone up from that second round. Two years ago, no one was touting Michael Stuhlbarg for nomination, but his cumulative work -- and especially his appearance in Steve Jobs – led me to propose him in the secondary slot. This year, of course, he was much in the conversation from Sundance on for that indelible Call Me by Your Name performance, and I say it makes him likely for a make-up nomination down the road. The opposing argument might be, if he couldn’t get nominated with that much focus, why would he ever make it? My rejoinder: 1) Armie Hammer also in support was a huge handicap he won’t likely face again; and 2) Paul Giammatti says hello.
And that, at even greater length than I anticipated, is this year’s edition. Have at it.