2008 Oscar Shouldabeens

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Postby rudeboy » Thu Feb 05, 2009 1:54 am

Among recent films I'd argue that Mystic River and The Darjeeling Limited had three same sex leads. 21 Grams has two male and one female lead.



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Postby Sabin » Wed Feb 04, 2009 8:37 pm

Mark Polish is totally supporting.
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Postby Sonic Youth » Wed Feb 04, 2009 6:27 pm

--rain Bard wrote:Thanks for putting this debate in historical perspective, Magilla.

One question: I noticed you ruled out No Country For Old Men as a three-lead film. Do you feel that there are legitimate cases in which there may be three lead performances in the same film?

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Postby Big Magilla » Wed Feb 04, 2009 5:13 pm

--rain Bard wrote:Thanks for putting this debate in historical perspective, Magilla.

One question: I noticed you ruled out No Country For Old Men as a three-lead film. Do you feel that there are legitimate cases in which there may be three lead performances in the same film?

Sure, Gable, Loy and Powell in Manhattan Melodrama, Powell Harlow, Tracy and Loy in Libeled Lady were four leads, but I can't think of any in which there were three or more leads of the same sex in the same film. Mutiny on the Bounty comes close, but had there been a supporting category in 1935, Franchot Tone would almost certainly have been considered supporting.

In The Best Years of Our Lives, which BJ cites, there were three protagonists but the Fredric March story line gets the most screen time and Harold Russell's the least so these two are clearly lead and supporting respectively in my estimation. The question is where do we put Dana Andrews whose role is smaller than March's but bigger than Russell's.




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Postby OscarGuy » Wed Feb 04, 2009 4:24 pm

Truly, my opinion on lead vs support is the growth and development of the character. If the character has a sizable transformation by the film's end and acts as a central character (and not a peripheral one), I would consider it a lead. Bardem, Ledger, et al don't grow. They are static characters. They may change slightly by the film's end, but they are no more a dynamic character than a horror film villain.

Thus, I would qualify both supporting characters therefore supporting actors.
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Postby The Original BJ » Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:44 pm

I bet we'll never stop having this debate.

A rule of thumb I've come to adopt is that in films where there are at least three leads, it's okay to consider some of them in supporting. So for me, these actors -- Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives, Bardem in No Country, Hudson in Dreamgirls, the Closer duo -- could fit in either category. Yes, they have their own plot lines, but so do a couple of other actors, who sometimes have even more central storylines. This is a bit how I view the Ledger situation -- he's not out of place in lead, as you could argue he and Bale and even Eckhart are all central characters, but I'd place him in supporting, as he's absent from a significant chunk of the movie.

The only time this three-lead rule doesn't work is when the actor with the MOST screen time is shoehorned into supporting (i.e. Timothy Hutton in Ordinary People).

To veer the topic elsewhere, I'm hemming and hawing about even posting a Shouldabeens this year, mainly because I'm hemming and hawing so much about which not-that-stunning work to include in some of these categories. I can't really come up with five candidates I'm really enthusiastic about in, among others, Original Score and especially Adapted Screenplay (where I wouldn't have even remotely considered any of these possibilities had they been released amidst last year's competition). I may complete it just for tradition's sake, but I wonder what the point would be when all I could come up with would be no less boring than the Academy. (Well, okay, it would probably be slightly less boring, but still.)

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Postby Mister Tee » Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:06 pm

--Eric wrote:
--flipp525 wrote:It's highly debatable (of course, what isn't when this topic comes around), but how about Travolta, Jackson and Willis in Pulp Fiction?

This is one that, all racial implications aside, I think the Academy basically got right. Travolta has a prominent role in two of the three "stories," whereas Jackson and Willis are arguably only major players in one each. (Jackson.)

I agree with this, Eric -- there are long periods of the film where Travolta is onscreen and Jackson is absent, but only a limited section (in the diner) where the opposite is true. I found it pretty incendiary that so many people claimed the only possible reason for the differing classification was Academy racism.

I also agree with Magilla that this is not so cut-and-dried as many seem to want to make it. For my money, alot of people here are so obsessed with the up-to-down category fraud that they come close to encouraging the opposite: assuming damn near everybody counts as a lead. Plenty of performances that have contended for or won supporting Oscars (just for instance, Van Heflin in Johnny Eager; Linda Hunt in The Year of Living Dangerously) have had vast amounts of screen time but were uncontroversially classified as supporting because there were persons of their own genders with larger roles in the same films (Robert Taylor and Sigourney Weaver). Would the mere absence of those central characters have elevated the others to lead?

A rule of thumb I take: if someone's a borderline case, ask yourself, would I vote for them to win in the lead category? If the answer is, No, they didn't have enough to do in the film or weren't central enough, then perhaps supporting is the right place for them.




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Postby Eric » Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:22 pm

--flipp525 wrote:It's highly debatable (of course, what isn't when this topic comes around), but how about Travolta, Jackson and Willis in Pulp Fiction?

This is one that, all racial implications aside, I think the Academy basically got right. Travolta has a prominent role in two of the three "stories," whereas Jackson and Willis are arguably only major players in one each. (Jackson.)

Of course, I usually err on the opposite side of the Academy when it comes to lead/supporting ... meaning I usually bump questionable performances into lead and reserve supporting for really, really supporting (sometimes unto cameo-length) performances.




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Postby flipp525 » Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:03 pm

rain Bard wrote:Do you feel that there are legitimate cases in which there may be three lead performances in the same film?

It's highly debatable (of course, what isn't when this topic comes around), but how about Travolta, Jackson and Willis in Pulp Fiction?
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Postby rain Bard » Wed Feb 04, 2009 12:33 pm

Thanks for putting this debate in historical perspective, Magilla.

One question: I noticed you ruled out No Country For Old Men as a three-lead film. Do you feel that there are legitimate cases in which there may be three lead performances in the same film?

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Postby Big Magilla » Wed Feb 04, 2009 12:13 pm

Things are seldom black and white.

There are many factors that determine category placement. In the old days there was a class distinction in Hollywood between leads and supporting players.

One of the factors involved in AMPAS finally created supporting categories in 1936 was that in the previous two years, supporting players Frank Morgan in The Affairs of Cellini and Franchot Tone in Mutiny on the Bounty had won best actor nominations shutting out bigger names.

In that first year, well liked character actor Stuart Erwin was nominated as best supporting actor for Pigskin Parade even though he is in almost every scene. At the same time, Spencer Tracy, who was a star, was nominated in lead for his secondary role in San Francisco.

By the time of Going My Way things had gotten so confusing that Barry Fitzgerald who had the co-lead with Bing Crosby in the film was nominated as both lead and supporting actor for the same role triggering a new rule in which the studios determined who was lead and who was supporting. This rule caused numerous problems, most famously in 1963 when Roddy McDowall, considered a shoe-in for supporting actor in Cleopatra was not nominated becasue Fox had inadvertanly listed the entire cast as leads.

Nowadays voters get to make up their own mind with the caveat that a performance can only be nominated in the category in which it receives the most votes.

In the mid to late 20th Century there was no question but that co-leads such as Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones, Spencer Tracy and Fredric March in Inherit the Wind and Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole in Becket would be considered leads.

In recent years the trend has been to designate one co-lead as support for purposes of awards recognition. The most controversial of these have probably been the placements of Jamie Foxx in support for Collateral and Cate Blanchett in support for Notes on a Scandal.

To me, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon were co-leads in The Departed while Jack Nicholson was supporting. I know he's Jack Nicholson, but if his role were played by a no-name character actor ould we even be having this discussion?

No Country for Old Men is more difficult to assess. In terms of conventional story-telling, in the old days Brolin's character would have been played by a John Wayne or Henry Fonda and been the clear lead while Walter Brennan or Gabby Hayes would have had the Tommy Lee Jones part and Pedro Armandariz or someone lower in the pecking order would have had the Javier Bardem part.

When all three roles are played by well-known stars, it's a bit more clouded. I can see an argument for considering Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem as co-leads, Brolin as lead, Jones as lead or even Bardem as lead or all three as members of an ensemble and therefore eligible for consideration in support, not of another actor but of the whole.

The same goes for The Dark Knight. Fifty-two years ago no one would have considered nominating James Dean, whose role in Giant could well have been considered supporting, in that category. If we were living under the same assumptions now in which a name star whose untimely death caused interest in a film to peak well beyond what it would have had he not died, Heath Ledger would be a front-runner for lead actor, not supporting.

In any event, it's an argument that is not easily resolved. To each his own, but the majority rules.
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Postby OscarGuy » Wed Feb 04, 2009 7:46 am

screen time should NOT be used as a determining factor on lead vs. supporting. In my opinion, the leads are the characters whose story it is. For instance, in No Country for Old Men, there is one lead: Josh Brolin. It is his story, IMO. I'm just confused how anyone could make an argument that a secondary character, an antagonist, could be considered a lead. In Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, although Count Olaf is a central character and appears as the chief antagonist, he is not a lead character. He is supporting the story of the the three Beaudelaire orphans who would be considered the leads. In an ensemble piece, it's more difficult to pin down, but in a traditional story, it's fairly easy, IMO.

And I think we're confusing lead and supporting along the lines of presence in the film, not character and that, perhaps, is the difference to each of us. For some, it's the characters within the story that determine lead or supporting. Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca are the lead characters, Captain Renault is a supporting character. But the way some of you are talking, Renault would be a lead actor because of his screen time and importance to the story. But then again, I guess we should promote Rick's Diner as Lead Actor because it's a central character in the story and plays such an integral role.
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Postby Sabin » Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:57 am

I vote for all three men being leads. I also consider Damon, DiCaprio, and Nicholson leading in The Departed.
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Postby Bog » Wed Feb 04, 2009 12:46 am

I think one thing we may actually all agree on in this argument is to be glad there is not an objective standard somewhere in writing...per se "an actor is considered lead if a main story arc revolves around said character and actor appears on screen at least 70% of the film"

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Postby dws1982 » Tue Feb 03, 2009 9:40 pm

Okri wrote:For those who think Ledger is lead, how did you feel about Bardem in No Country for Old Men - leading or support?

Lead. All three men from No Country... should been considered in Lead.


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