Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Two Oscars for Kate Winslet?

In a previous entry ("What Will It Take to Win Kate Winslet an Oscar?"), I had stated that re-teaming with Titanic co-star Leonardo DiCaprio in an intense drama could finally land Kate Winslet her first Oscar. A reader commented that, as Winslet herself had said in a hilarous episode of "Extras" (perhaps my favorite ep), she would have to appear in a Holocaust film for that to happen.

Can Kate Winslet win an unprecedented two Oscars on the same night two months from now, one for Best Actress for Revolutionary Road (the intense drama with DiCaprio) and the other for Best Supporting Actress for The Reader (the Holocaust film)?

For the sake of this argument, let's assume the scenario wherein Winslet is actually nominated in both categories, a prospect that is increasingly becoming likely. This would imply that 1) the voters REALLY love her and 2) they're willing to look past the category fraud (her role in The Reader is arguably a lead). Both would already steer things in her favor, especially if one takes note of the glaring fact that has set up discussions like this in the first place: despite five nominations, she has yet to win.

Of the two races, the nomination for Revolutionary Road is likelier. Once she gets past the category confusion and potential vote-splitting (let's cross our fingers here that the Satellite Award nom in the lead category for The Reader, and not for Road, is not a foretelling), she easily has what it takes to win. While reviews of the film have not been as solid as hoped for, very few are unimpressed by Winslet's performance. In incendiary scenes with DiCaprio that a number have found reminiscent of several in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Winslet shows great depth and skill. It's the type of fireworks that Oscar voters (who are mostly actors) love to eat up.

Winslet's greatest competition is still Meryl Streep, despite the mixed reactions of critics to her performance. Streep is a 14-time nominee who has not won an Oscar (one of only two) since 1983, so the voters who obviously love her might want to see her up the stage again. The criticism has been either that she relies on the sheer showiness of her role or that she's simply not as impressive as Cherry Jones because of her different take on the character. But these critics are not voters. Jones herself praised the performance. Actors most likely would rally around Streep for her brave, unique interpretation of the character. And since when have they shunned showy performances, much less from Streep herself? Still, the controversy may be enough to dampen the general enthusiasm over the perf. If the film had been more universally praised than Revolutionary Road, then perhaps that would be another point for Streep. But the lack of precursor citations so far for Doubt is telling.

Not to be discounted in this category is Kristin Scott-Thomas, probably the "actor's actor" in this year's race. She has turned in solid work in the past and earned the respect of her peers, winning several accolades including an Oscar nomination for her work in The English Patient. Since then, she has been working in both the UK and in France. Actors likely have even higher respect for the British actress for her ability to shift languages and work with multiple cultures. The performance here is strong, particularly in some key sequences between her and Elsa Zylberstein, and the buzz has only strengthened since the first stirrings were made earlier in the year. But would the voters reward another French-language perf just a year after Marion Cotillard won for La Vie en Rose? Will they give her the statuette over a five-time, winless nominee or a 14-time nominee with only two Oscars, the last in the 80s? Perhaps not, but she is certainly the biggest threat to the Winslet-Streep smackdown. Potential nominees Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Sally Hawkins, or Melissa Leo should be content with simply getting nominated and watching these three slug it out.

A nomination for The Reader in the supporting category would be more difficult to achieve and yet would be more telling of voter favor for Winslet. And once that is in place, it would be difficult to think of a scenario in which she does not win the Oscar. There is general praise for the performance from critics, and it's even more of the type of perf that wins Oscars: she has a German accent, she ages, and the film is set in post-war Germany. Penelope Cruz would be the most obvious competition, what with buzz over her acclaimed turn in Vicky Cristina Barcelona never having waned and her nom being the closest thing to a lock in this category. It's a scene-stealing performance that can certainly win an Oscar if voters like her enough to overlook Winslet's Oscar-friendly turn. But another serious contender (if she gets nominated, which is increasingly becoming likely) is Rosemarie DeWitt, the Rachel of Rachel Getting Married. With several precursor nominations and surging buzz over co-star Debra Winger, it is not unlikely that both women get Oscar's nod for Best Supporting Actress. If that happens, DeWitt, a relative neophyte in film who can be argued to be the emotional core of Rachel, can very easily threaten Winslet and Cruz for the statuette. We all know how much this Academy loves rewarding youngish, first-time nominees in this category.

So is a record-setting two wins likely for Kate Winslet in the 81st Oscar ceremonies? The likelier nomination is for Revolutionary Road, but the likelier win, should she get two noms, is for The Reader in supporting. She'll most likely walk away with the Oscar for that. Assuming that she gets both noms, Meryl Streep will be the biggest threat to what could possibly be the sweetest Oscar redemption story ever.

No comments: