An update for no reason whatsoever to my Oscars note from 2010, the one where I talk about Actress Movies. What’s an Actress Movie?
This is the movie that gets made largely because there is one great role, [and] that either never gets wide distribution or fades very quickly from it. There is an Oscar push, not only because the performance is terrific but because that is the only chance to make any money from a deserving flick. If there were no awards, no-one would ever hear about these movies.
I called them Actress Movies even when the role is played by a male actor because it was my belief that there are more Actress Movies with female leads than male leads, and also that the Oscars tend to nominate women from Actress Movies more than they do men—as an example, I would call The Impossible an Actress Movie but not Zero Dark Thirty; I would call Flight an Actress Movie but not Lincoln. Is it subjective? Yeah, in a big way. But I think it’s a real thing anyway.
So anyway, in the last three years there were, of course, fifteen nominations for Best Actress and also fifteen for Best Actor. I count seven of the fifteen nominations for Best Actress as being in Actress Movies: Albert Nobbs, Blue Valentine, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (?), The Impossible, The Iron Lady (?), My Week with Marilyn and Rabbit Hole. I put question marks next to the two I am most on-the-fence about, but five are definitely Actress Movies by my thinking. For the men, I count six: A Better Life, Biutiful, Flight, The Master (?), 127 Hours and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (?). Four definite, two arguable. Anyway, seven to six for the women’s side. Among the other kind of movies I put: Amour (?), The Artist, Beasts of the Southern Wild (?), Black Swan (?), The Descendants, The Help, The Kids are All Right, The King’s Speech, Les Miz, Lincoln, Moneyball, Silver Linings Playbook, Social Network, True Grit, Winter’s Bone (?) and Zero Dark Thirty. That’s sixteen (actually seventeen nominations, as Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were both nominated for Silver Linings Playbook) with five that are questionable—tho’ all five of those questionable ones have female leads.
Hm. So of the twenty-nine movies, we have thirteen Actress Movies. Or maybe eighteen. Or nine. A bunch, anyway.
I should add that I have nothing against these movies at all, and that I am often more interested in those movies than in the other kind. I read somewhere—I wish I could remember where, but I cannot—that if a playwright wants to write immortal plays—plays that will still be performed after fifty or a hundred years—the secret is to write one great bravura role against which a great middle-aged actor will want to measure himself (or herself, of course). Ensembles are fine for getting a show produced now, but when a production company is kicking around a season or a Broadway run, the edge goes to the show that will lure a Name. That’s what an Actress Movie usually is—something that Meryl Streep or Annette Bening or Jeff Bridges or Gary Oldman can’t resist. Ideally, of course, there’s also other good things about the movie, but not necessarily.
I don’t really have a point here, actually, but I happened to notice the note and thought I would bring it up to date.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,