Friday, February 23, 2007

The Winner Takes It All: Part II

It’s Oscar time again. The nominations are out already and among the five people in each category, one will take home the statuette on the big night. But how the winner is selected? Here’s a randomly selected list of 10 actresses as we try to find out what made them winners, and their USP (unique selling point) as well…

The winner: Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos (Monster)
Other nominees: Keisha Castle-Hughes as Paikea (Whale Rider); Diane Keaton as Erica Barry (Something’s Gotta Give); Samantha Morton as Sarah (In America); Naomi Watts as Cristina Peck (21 Grams)
What did the trick: Two factors worked for Theron. The academy’s love for real-life and negative characters. Castle-Hughes didn’t deserve a place in the history book (as the youngest winner). Keaton had already got her statuette. Both Morton and Watts were never in a big league.
The USP: Theron’s complete transformation as a fat, ugly, lesbian psycho killer, and her last outcry that she’s innocent.

The winner: Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf (The Hours)
Other nominees: Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo (Frida); Diane Lane as Connie Sumner (Unfaithful); Julianne Moore as Cathy Whitaker (Far From Heaven); Renée Zellweger as Roxie Hart (Chicago)
What did the trick: The Oscar belonged to Hayek as Maxican painter Frida Kahlo. But the academy had to give it to Kidman as she lost her award for Moulin Rouge! to Halle Berry the previous year. The Oscar has a way of making up for the mistakes.
The USP: Another example of complete physical transformation, with the artificial nose included. The highlight is Woolf’s argument with her husband on the railway station: “If I’ve to choose between death and this place, I’ll choose death.

The winner: Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich (Erin Brockovich)
Other nominees: Joan Allen as Laine Hanson (The Contender); Juliette Binoche as Vianne Rocher (Chocolat); Ellen Burstyn as Sara Goldfarb (Requiem for a Dream); Laura Linney as Samantha Prescott (You Can Count on Me)
What did the trick: There are times when the ability to utter dialogues fast is considered to be a sign of good acting. Roberts is an actress of that category. But the pretty woman was American’s sweetheart. The academy had to honour her, and what a better way than for a role of women who stood for her rights. Another example of academy’s love for real-life characters.
The USP: Being Julia Roberts!

The winner: Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola de Lesseps (Shakespeare in Love)
Other nominees: Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I (Elizabeth); Fernanda Montenegro as Dora (Central do Brasil); Meryl Streep as Kate Gulden (One True Thing); Emily Watson as Jacqueline du Pré (Hilary and Jackie)
What did the trick: Blanchett made news, Paltrow took home the trophy. Paltrow satisfied another academy fetish, a woman in a man’s getup (in 1999, it was Hillary Swank in a same kind of role in Boys Don’t Cry)
The USP: Paltrow’s convincing act of a young man.

The winner: Susan Sarandon as Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking)
Other nominees: Elisabeth Shue as Sera (Leaving Las Vegas); Sharon Stone as Ginger McKenna (Casino); Meryl Streep as Francesca Johnson (The Bridges of Madison County); Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility)
What did the trick: The toughest competition ever. Even sex-bomb Stone could have got the award; she was that good. Streep and Thompson were sidelined as they had won the trophy already (Thompson won for best adopted screenplay). And the jury hadn’t forgotten Thelma and Louise.
The USP: A sensitive, fraught with emotional depth, incredibly touching and life-like portray of a nun who really existed.

The winner: Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling (The Silence of the Lambs)
Other nominees: Geena Davis as Thelma Dickinson (Thelma and Louise); Laura Dern as Rose (Rambling Rose); Bette Midler as Dixie Leonard (For the Boys); Susan Sarandon as Louise Sawyer (Thelma and Louise)
What did the trick: It was the year of Thelma and Louise, a women road movie, for which both the actresses were nominated. But you can’t give the award to one, and not to the other. Foster was the next best choice. If she impressed Hannibal Lecter, she impressed the award juries too.
The USP: Being a perfect foil to Anthony Hopkins, a combination of no-nonsense attitude coupled with vulnerability.

The winner: Diane Keaton as Annie Hall (Annie Hall)
Other nominees: Anne Bancroft as Emma Jacklin (The Turning Point); Jane Fonda as Lillian Hellman (Julia); Shirley MacLaine as Deedee Rodgers (The Turning Point); Marsha Mason as Paula McFadden (The Goodbye Girl)
What did the trick: It was Keaton all the way, no second thought. She was everyman’s dream girlfriend.
The USP: Keaton with her futuristic fashion sense, with a trouser and a tie, and the way she carried it off.

The winner: Glenda Jackson as Gudrun Brangwen (Women in Love)
Other nominees: Jane Alexander as Eleanor Backman (The Great White Hope); Ali MacGraw as Jennifer Cavalleri (Love Story); Sarah Miles as Rosy Ryan (Ryan’s Daughter); Carrie Snodgress as Tina Balser (Diary of a Mad Housewife) What did the trick: It was surprising that between controversial Miles and loveable MacGraw, the academy chose Jackson, who played a Lawrence heroine to the hilt. Goes to show that sometimes Oscar does make right choices.
The USP: Gurdun’s wild dance before the buffalos.

The winner: Katharine Hepburn as Christina Drayton (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner)
Other nominees: Anne Bancroft as Mrs Robinson (The Graduate); Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker (Bonnie and Clyde); Edith Evans as Mrs Ross (The Whisperers); Audrey Hepburn as Suzy Hendrix (Wait Until Dark)
What did the trick: It was a difficult choice among Bancroft as an old dame who seduces a young man, Dunaway as a robber and Hepburn as a blind woman. Finally, another Hepburn, Katherine won on sympathy vote. It was her last film with Spencer Tracy and she shed real tears in the film!
The USP: The personality that was Katherine Hepburn.

The winner: Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann (Roman Holiday)
Other nominees: Leslie Caron as Lili Daurier (Lili); Ava Gardner as Eloise Kelly (Mogambo); Deborah Kerr as Karen Holmes (From Here to Eternity); Maggie McNamara as Patty O’Neill (The Moon Is Blue)
What did the trick: Kerr won the critics, and the newcomer Hepburn won million hearts. She was the fairy tale heroine of our time.
The USP: The innocent freshness of Audrey Hepburn.

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