While Kate Winslet made Oscar history by racking up five nominations before she was 32, this English beauty has yet to win. If, as expected, she gets a nod for one of her upcoming performances in "Revolutionary Road" and "The Reader" and loses again, she will have tied the dubious achievements of lead Deborah Kerr and supporting player Thelma Ritter with six losses. And if, as some in the forums are speculating, she pulls off that Oscar rarity and reaps nominations for both roles and remains winless she would stand alone as Oscar's biggest loser among actresses. (Peter O'Toole is the biggest loser among actors with eight defeats).
To perform that Oscar double act means Winslet will have to decide which role is leading and which supporting as performers cannot compete twice in the same category. And the debate in the forums about which role is which is fierce. To date, Winslet has had no luck in either race with two losing supporting nods – "Sense and Sensibility" (1996) and "Iris" (2002) and three losing lead bids – "Titanic" (1998), "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2005) and "Little Children" (2007).
"Revolutionary Road" reunites Winslet with her "Titanic" leading man Leonardo DiCaprio under the direction of her Oscar-winning husband Sam Mendes ("American Beauty"). This domestic drama set in the '50s has a glossy look about it but one wonders whether it is all style and no substance. With the recent news that Mendes will not even begin the final polish of the film till September, this puts it out of the running for launching at one of the film fests –- Venice, Toronto and New York –- that are gaining in importance as starting off points for Oscar campaigns. Rather, the movie will open in the last week of December but this may well be too late to build momentum given the accelerated nominating schedule as of late.
On paper, Winslet's other December release, "The Reader" certainly seems like the kind of prestige production that gets showered with Oscar nominations. Adapted by David Hare from the bestselling novel (and Oprah book club pick) by Bernard Schlink, the film is directed by Stephen Daldry ("The Hours") and co-stars Ralph Fiennes.
The role of Hannah Schmitz allows Winslet to age from a sexy thirtysomething who seduces a teenager to an elderly woman on trial for her part in the Holocaust. (See more photos at JustJared.com.) Oscar voters love to see that aging span on screen — it may have helped recent champ Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose"). Basically, they like to see a physical transformation, be it as simple as a bigger nose like Nicole Kidman in "The Hours" or more dramatic, like the makeup that disguised Charlize Theron's beauty in "Monster" or the weight gain of Robert DeNiro for "Raging Bull" or weight loss of Tom Hanks for "Philadelphia" certainly impress Oscar voters.
And Winslet gets to use an accent, thereby demonstrating an acting skill that has proved irresistible to Oscar voters in the past (think Meryl Streep in just about any movie.)
(Photo: JustJared.com/ Paramount Vantage)