March 22, 2012 at 11:52 am #57947
I thought the other day about some women who just couldn’t get Oscar nomination despite critically acclaimed performance and picking up nods at GGs, SAGs and/or BAFTAs. It occured to me that many actresses admired more for their looks than their talent aren’t considered worthy enough of a nomination especially when their character is sexually provocative and open. Don’t get me wrong – Nicole Kidman as Satine, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly or Penelope Cruz in any of her Oscar-nominated roles are sexy but that’s not what is the most important aspect of these characters. AND those actresses proved to be acclaimed for their talent in the first place and looks in the second, not the other way around.
1. Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk on Some Like It Hot
In retrospect it seems like the strongest work of MM, given the only Golden Globe she won and the critical acclaim of the film, which would score 6 Oscar nominations, including for Jack Lemmon and director Billy Wilder. Monroe was, however, snubbed over Doris Day in far safer performance in “Pillow Talk”. Marilyn was sex icon, original sex kitten and, although she was famous and her films made money, she was never considered by the acting brunch as one of them. “My Week With Marilyn” seems to indicate it well. It didn’t help her that Sugar was so charmingly sweet and yet also sexy. In a moment like her famous rendition of “I Wanna Be Loved By You” it was great to dream about her but not really possible to focus on her performance and the influence it had on viewers. I strongly believe “Some Like It Hot” was a hit that it was mostly because of her and she clearly deserved some merit, because she showed well inner dreams and hopes that her character felt.
2. Jamie Lee Curtis as Helen Tasker on True Lies
What certainly didn’t help Curtis was category confusion (lead at the Globes, where she won and supporting at the SAGs, where she lost) and the action genre of the film which barely gets some major awards attention (other than Razzies). But what probably was the biggest challenge that JLC had to overcome (and she didn’t) was sexuality of her character. Jamie Lee Curtis was rarely taken seriously earlier on and was also somewhat of a sex symbol. Just look at the film “Perfect” with John Travolta to find out why. In “True Lies” she starts great as the crippled wife, bored by her husband and dreaming of some adventure. But then there’s the scene when she strips and dances hotly as Doris which, in public mind, mostly overshadows everything she achieved in this role. In a weak field of Best Actress nominees that year, she should definietly be nominated.
3. Cameron Diaz as Julie Gianni on Vanilla Sky
Poor Cameron Diaz was considered as strong possibility to get nominated for “Vanilla Sky” after she cleared the house with nods for “Being John Malkovich” and still wasn’t nominated at the Oscars. The year was crowded as so she was left out again. Her achievement in “Vanilla Sky” is, nevertheless, unforgettable, even given the fact that she barely was taken seriously as an actress. She overshadows both Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz and is the biggest advantage of the picture. Her Julie Gianni represents the whole generation of women, who are confused with what they really want. She starts as Cruise’s sex buddy who claims she never wants to get married and they should stay free. As she puts her down, she feels betrayed and it’s clear that she wanted to be with him all along. A rather tragic figure but still totally hot and linked more to sex than anything else. It was all downhill, at least artistically, for Diaz from that point (as it really was with Monroe and Curtis too).
4. Mila Kunis as Lily on Black Swan
The most recent case, Kunis looked like a lock with Steinfeld and Weaver fighting for 5th spot (with strong possibility that Steinfeld will end up in lead where she belonged). In the end both S. and W. got in and it was Kunis who was destined to end up snubbed. She didn’t play a brave girl seeking revenge for her father’s death nor enigmatic grandmother who isn’t really what she seems to be. Her character needed to be desirable, sexy and fun as the perfect choice to play Black Swan and object of Nina’s fantasies. Every move and gesture of Lily was provocative – whether intentionally or not – and she succeeded in a great way, fitting into the picture fantastically and elevating it as the perfect opposition to virginal Natalie Portman. Lesbian sex and partying at the club isn’t your typical Best Supporting Actress material but she still would be great nominee, especially as she could not have many more shots in the future.
Is that something of a trend?March 22, 2012 at 11:58 am #57949
There are likely many more examples for this. You definitely raise an interesting point.
If it is true, for me the likely reason is that most acting Oscars are awarded not for actors playing someone who play someone similar to themselves (which is arguably as hard or harder than any other kind of film acting) but rather given way too much credit for playing someone different from themselves. Since most younger actresses who are successful are likely to have some quotient of “sex appeal” to become successful along with their talent, if they are going to win awards, it will be for playing characters less sexy.
My guess is that it isn’t discounting them for being “sexy” but underrating how difficult it is to pull off a variation of what they are to start off with.March 22, 2012 at 12:16 pm #57950
Certainly true. Even given Best Actress category, mostly won by women under 40 (in last 10-15 years only Bullock, Streep and Mirren were older), characters for which they won were barely sexy or considered very sexy (with possible exception of Erin Brockovich).
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”, as I wrote earlier, was virginal and had to fight with her desires.
Kate Winslet in “The Reader” has some naughty stuff with underaged boy but it was mostly a set-up for courtroom drama plus she was a 6th time Academy Award nominee waiting for her initial win.
Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose” – played Edith Piaf at different moments of her life, mostly older (if I recall right).
Reese Witherspoon in “Walk the Line” as The Loving Wife.
Hilary Swank in “Million Dollar Baby” as aspiring, gritty boxer with no sex life.
Charlize Theron in “Monster”… comment not needed.
Nicole Kidman in “The Hours” as depressed and suicidal Virginia Woolf with a fake nose.
Halle Berry in “Monster’s Ball” – pretty serious stuff here. Sex scene worked against her too.
Julia Roberts in “Erin Brockovich” – single mother of multiple children, wanted to be taken seriously and smart underneath it, she was a fighter and a mother first.
Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry”… comment not needed yet again.
Gwyneth Paltrow in “Shakespeare in Love” – wanted to act, had to hide her feminity.
Helen Hunt in “As Good As It Gets” – once again a single mother, a child is sick, a relationship with much older client won’t be that passionate (as it is rather unlikely and odd, to begin with).
March 22, 2012 at 12:33 pm #57951
Well, it’s called Drama QUEEN for a reason.
Best actress is usually the ultimate drama queen.
Most winner played females who suffered a lot (sexism?). The only exception the last years is Bullock.
And although Comedy/Musical Globe winners won Oscarts, their movies are mostly more Drama than Comedy these days.
At least in my personal opinion there are a lot of drama movies placed in Comedy. But sometimes the line is also very thin.March 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm #57952
A case of a “sexy” actress playing a “sexy” role who lost is Michelle Pfeiffer for Fabulous Baker Boys.
But that was a case of someone who likely would have won easily many years. She lost because of being against a strong performance in a best picture winner by an acclaimed veteran actress who had never won. Too strong a combination to defeat in anytime.March 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm #57953
A case of a “sexy” actress playing a “sexy” role who lost is Michelle Pfeiffer for Fabulous Baker Boys.
But that was a case of someone who likely would have won easily many years. She lost because of being against a strong performance in a best picture winner by an acclaimed veteran actress who had never won. Too strong a combination to defeat in anytime.
At least she was nominated. Epic sexiness of her at the piano certainly didn’t sit well with the voters and I guess Tandy didn’t have a competition.March 22, 2012 at 6:39 pm #57954
sexy actress playing sexy role and WINNING best actress
1960 Elizabeth Taylor- Butterfield 8
1965 Julie Christie- Darling
1970 Jane Fonda- Klute
Doesnt really happen much anymore.March 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm #57955
At least she was nominated. Epic sexiness of her at the piano certainly didn’t sit well with the voters and I guess Tandy didn’t have a competition.
My recollection is she was expected to win easily, with scenes like that aiding her, until DMD opened in December.
If she had, it would have because she seemed classy in the role as well as sexy, which might be part of the distinction involved which would have helped her.March 22, 2012 at 7:40 pm #57956
Yes, her win was a decade ago, but Halle Berry certainly disproves this theory that claims AMPAS snubs actresses like Marilyn Monroe and Jamie Lee Curtis and Cameron Diaz–all in films 10 or more years old–for being “too sexy.”March 22, 2012 at 8:14 pm #57957
But I wouldn’t call any part of Halle Berry’s role in ‘Monster’s Ball’ “sexy”. “Make me FEEL GOOD!!” was NOT a sexy moment.March 23, 2012 at 12:18 am #57958
Yes, but Berry didn’t have to do some serious deglam to win the way that say, Charlize Theron or Hilary Swank did.March 23, 2012 at 1:40 am #57959
Halle Berry is definitely a sexy actress, but that was not a sexy character she played in “Monster`s Ball.” Berry didn`t go to the extremes that Theron and Swank did to hide her sexiness, but that still doesn`t mean her character was sexy.March 23, 2012 at 1:45 am #57960
^Exactly! I’d definitely argue that Roberts playing Erin Brokovich was much sexier than Berry as Leticia.March 23, 2012 at 11:47 pm #57961
Sharon Stone- Basic InstinctMarch 24, 2012 at 12:04 am #57962
Sharon Stone- Basic Instinct
That is a really good one BTN.
I`ll throw in Michelle Pfeiffer for “The Fabulous Baker Boys.”