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Multiple Oscar Noms = 1 Win Theory: Is it really true?

January 24, 2008 |  9:10 pm

Some Oscar fans assume that Cate Blanchett has the supporting Oscar in the bag for her Golden Globe-winning role in "I'm Not There" since she's also nominated in the lead race for the widely ridiculed film "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." Having two bids in one year helps a star win one, so goes a popular theory, if there's a consensus that the one nom is strongly favored over another.

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Jamie Foxx won best actor for "Ray" three years ago when he also had a hopeless nomination in supporting for "Collateral." Nobody bet on Jessica Lange winning in the lead race for "Frances" in 1982 (Meryl Streep was invincible for "Sophie's Choice") when she prevailed in supporting for "Tootsie." In 1993, Holly Hunter swept the early critics' awards for "The Piano," so it was clear that the best-actress Oscar was next even though she also had a little-noted side nom in supporting for "The Firm." In 1992, when Al Pacino was nominated in lead for "Scent of a Woman" and in supporting for "Glengarry Glen Ross," it was obvious that his best shot was in lead — he had a physical handicap (blindness).

Sometimes, this same Oscar logic seems to work even if a star's two nominations are split between acting and something else — like George Clooney being nommed for directing "Good Night, and Good Luck" in 2005 (he didn't have a prayer to beat Ang Lee's inevitable Oscar for "Brokeback Mountain") when he won best supporting actor for "Syriana."

But is this Oscar theory really true?

There sure is lots of additional evidence to support it. Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton, and Matt Damon lost acting races the same years they won Oscars for screenplay writing.

Most stars who have been nommed for the triple crown — writing, director and acting — have reaped at least one win. Orson Welles proved victorious for his "Citizen Kane" screenplay. Woody Allen won laurels for writing and directing "Annie Hall." Warren Beatty was honored for directing "Reds."

But, beware . . .

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. . . Beatty lost triple bids the year of "Heaven Can Wait." However, that had big comic turns and academy members, as we all know, have no sense of humor. That's one of the reasons Charlie Chaplin lost those same triple noms for "The Great Dictator." The other reason was that the academy was fiercely jealous of Chaplin's artistic freedom and popular and critical success, so much so that, back at the very first Oscars race, they disqualified his trio of bids for "The Circus." Just out of meanness. Then they relented and tried to pay him off with an honorary award, but the Little Tramp got the last laugh. He refused to show up to accept it.

There are many other exceptions to this You Win One Oscar for Multiple Bids Theory. Sigourney Weaver lost same-year bids for "Gorillas in the Mist" and "Working Girl" and Julianne Moore went home empty-handed despite dual noms for "Far from Heaven" and "The Hours."

In the case of Cate Blanchett this year, she faces some serious obstacles. Her bid for "I'm Not There" is that film's only one, which is often a serious drawback. Over the past decade, only three movies have won an acting award without having a second nomination: "Last King of Scotland" (best actor Forest Whitaker), "Monster" (best actress Charlize Theron) and "Girl, Interrupted" (best supporting actress Angelina Jolie). Futhermore, "I'm Not There" is not a widely loved film and many voters probably won't watch it. Among those that will, lots will probably lose patience during the first hour while waiting for Blanchett finally show up. Besides, she faces tough competition from Amy Ryan, Tilda Swinton, Ruby Dee and, yep, even Saoirse Ronan (voters are suckers for kids, especially girls).

But this theory could play out this year in the song race where three tunes from "Enchanted" are nominated (but not, strangely, it's most popular one, "Ever, Ever After"). Previously, when other Disney musicals "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast" reaped three noms in this race, one of the tunes triumphed. Clearly, "That's How You Know" is the "Enchanted" standout this year and will probably win, though it faces a tough challenge from "Once" entry "Falling Slowly." Last year three tunes from "Dreamgirls" were nommed ("Listen" was the favorite), but all lost to Melissa Etheridge's "I Need to Wake Up" from "An Inconvenient Truth."


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