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Tom O'Neil has the inside track on Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and all the award shows.

Category: Russell Crowe

Poll: Is Mel Gibson doomed at the Oscars?

July 13, 2010 |  3:28 pm
Braveheart_Mel_Gibson

Mel Gibson has been a golden boy at Oscars past, of course. He won an Academy Award for directing "Braveheart," best picture champ of 1995, and he's been an awards contender for other films like "Ransom" (1996) and "What Women Want" (2000) — they earned him Golden Globe nominations. "Passion of the Christ" and "Apocalypto" (2006) were nominated for three Oscars in the tech categories but lost.

Later this year, Mel Gibson stars in "The Beaver," directed by double Oscar champ Jody Foster. Next year he stars in "How I Spent My Summer Vacation," which he also co-wrote. Can he ever jump back into the Oscar derby?

Hooligan behavior can backfire at the Oscars. Remember what happened to Russell Crowe. Soon after he won best actor for "Gladiator" (2000), he got into trouble for bullying a BAFTA TV producer and he lost best actor for "A Beautiful Mind," which won best picture of 2001. At least he got nominated. Not so two years later, which was especially embarrassing. Everybody associated with "Master and Commander" got an Oscar nomination (10 in all, including best picture) except for the film's master and commander: Russell Crowe.

Two years later, after Crowe got caught hurling a phone at a Manhattan hotel clerk, he wasn't nominated for "Cinderella Man." And he hasn't been nommed since.

Photo: "Braveheart" (Paramount).

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10 closest Oscar races in the past 20 years

November 22, 2009 |  4:36 pm

One of the shrewdest Oscarologists on the planet is Tariq Khan of Fox News, who often generously shares his views of current and past derbies with Gold Derby readers. Here he takes a nostalgic look  at the past two decades, offering his take on the most competitive derbies. Words below are Tariq's. Thanks, m'friend!

We’ve often discussed those Oscar races that seem just too close to call . . . where it’s clear (or at least seems clear) that the eventual winner will nab the Oscar with only a few more votes than his or her nearest competitor.

While we can never really know for sure (unless we get one of those top jobs at the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers,) we do have some idea of what may have been the closest races in Oscar history. Allow me to present what I believe were the 10 closest acting races over the course of the past 20 years.

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1) Jim Broadbent in “Iris” over Ian McKellen in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” for best supporting actor of 2001: It seemed like McKellen had it in the bag. He was the only acting nominee of the 13 nods for “Rings,” he had payback votes from those academy members who felt that he should have won best actor of 1998 for “Gods and Monsters,” and he had claimed the SAG Award just a few weeks before the Oscar ceremony. Yet somehow he was edged out by Broadbent in the indie film “Iris.” There’s no doubt that Broadbent’s showy turn in “Moulin Rouge!” and sympathetic role in “Bridget Jones’s Diary” – both released in 2001 – helped to secure his upset victory. McKellen is probably still smarting from the loss, though he should take comfort knowing that the race was a squeaker.

2) Juliette Binoche in “The English Patient” over Lauren Bacall in “The Mirror Has Two Faces” for best supporting actress of 1996: I knew that Golden Globe and SAG winner (not to mention sentimental favorite) Bacall was vulnerable. She had a small part in a comedy that  was overlooked by the academy in every other major category. Plus she didn’t have a reputation for being the nicest person in show business. I nonetheless predicted her to win, believing that the opposition votes would go into too many directions (namely Barbara Hershey in “The Portrait of a Lady” and Marianne Jean-Baptiste in “Secrets and Lies”) for an upset to occur. Silly me. The academy love for “Patient” spilled over into the supporting actress race, carrying Binoche to a shocking victory. I still that think that Bacall registered lots of votes, and that Binoche just barely sneaked past her.

3) Russell Crowe in “Gladiator” over Ed Harris in “Pollock” for best actor of 2000: After buzz for Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” died down, the contest quickly turned toward Crowe and Harris. Crowe had just lost for “The Insider” and had the advantage of being in a best picture nominee (and eventual winner) – while Harris was a beloved veteran playing a real-life person who suffered endlessly on screen. I eventually settled on Harris, thinking that Hollywood would prefer to see him win – and thought I had nailed it when his co-star Marcia Gay Harden took the supporting actress prize. Sure, I was left eating crow on Oscar night – but I’m certain that Harris lost only by a hair.

4) Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinny” over Judy Davis in “Husbands and Wives” for best supporting actress of 1992: The only question bigger than “how many votes did Tomei win by?” may actually be “who came in second?” – my guess being the sensational Davis as a neurotic New Yorker in Woody Allen’s fascinating comedy-drama. Davis had a strong performance in a semi-leading role, the Los Angeles Film Critics Award, and credentials that included a best actress nomination for the prestigious “A Passage to India” eight years earlier. Critics Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel both named Davis as their choice for the award, pointing to the rare and refreshing intelligence of her character in the film. With the British vote being split amongst fellow nominees Joan Plowright in “Enchanted April,” Vanessa Redgrave in “Howard’s End” and Miranda Richardson in “Damage,” it seemed that the Australian Davis would surely prevail. In the end, the whole Woody Allen-Mia Farrow-Soon-Yi Previn scandal probably tainted the film – and Davis’ Oscar chances. But Tomei couldn’t have won by too much.

5) Nicole Kidman in “The Hours” over Renee Zellweger in “Chicago” for best actress of 2002: While everyone seemed to think that Kidman was ahead in the derby because she was physically unrecognizable and had just come off a stinging loss for “Moulin Rouge,” I sensed that there were real drawbacks to her candidacy for best actress. She had minimal screen time for a lead Oscar (less than co-stars Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore). She had only one strong dramatic scene (and a relatively short one at that). And she had Zellweger and the “Chicago” steamroller heading straight toward her. Zellweger even edged out Kidman at the SAG Awards, suggesting a similar fate at the Oscars. When Denzel Washington finally opened the envelope he pronounced Kidman the winner “by a nose” – and he couldn’t have been more correct. 

6) Kim Basinger in “L.A. Confidential” over Gloria Stuart in “Titanic” for best supporting actress of 1997: Most Oscar pundits projected a win for Stuart for her spellbinding performance in “Titanic,” even though the film wasn’t really about acting. The chance to see the charming octogenarian take to the stage was seemingly irresistible. Here’s where the “Titanic” juggernaut actually worked AGAINST the film. Since academy members seemed to be voting for it almost everywhere on the ballot, the supporting actress race was one of the few places where they could throw a bone to the highly touted “Confidential.” Basinger and Stuart actually tied at the SAG Awards – I dare say that the same thing almost happened at the Oscars. (How nice that would have been.) 

7) Kevin Spacey in “American Beauty” over Denzel Washington in “The Hurricane” for best actor of 1999: Washington was the early favorite for his meaty role in “Hurricane,” and the previous supporting actor winner for “Glory” seemed due for a lead statuette. Then controversy hurt his film, leaving him with its sole nomination. As momentum for “Beauty” continued to grow, so did support for Spacey – who emerged victorious on SAG night. The two thesps appeared to be deadlocked, with pundits equally divided over the race’s outcome. The controversial Wall Street Journal poll – which correctly forecast every other race – showed Washington ahead with just the slightest lead. While the Journal was ultimately wrong on the outcome here, it was surely right on just how tight this race was. 

8) Kathy Bates in “Misery” over Anjelica Huston in “The Grifters” for best actress of 1990: In an exciting four-way race that included Joanne Woodward in “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge” and breakout star of the year Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman,” it was surely misery for voters to select one name. While no one seemed certain, Huston was considered the safest bet. She was Hollywood royalty playing a tough-as-nails con woman, and “The Grifters” was nominated in other key categoriesto like director and screenplay. On Oscar night Bates was the unexpected winner, probably because of a split vote between Huston and Woodward. Forget about Jimmy Caan’s ankles. The scariest part of “Misery” is how close Bates came to not winning the Oscar. 

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Which winners would you force to give back their Oscars?

March 19, 2009 | 11:22 am

Come to think of it, maybe Matt Damon was right when he recently said that the Oscars "get it wrong more often than they get it right."

If I were the king of the Oscars (someday — just you wait, Derbyites!) and had the power to take away past wins, the first awards I'd yank from the clutches of undeserved winners are these: Reese Witherspoon ("Walk the Line"), Nicole Kidman ("The Hours"), Sean Penn ("Mystic River" — I'd let him keep the Oscar if he'd won for "21 Grams" that year), Russell Crowe ("Gladiator"), Geoffrey Rush ("Shine"), Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt ("As Good as It Gets"), Al Pacino ("Scent of a Woman" — he could keep the Oscar if he'd won it for any other nomination any other year), Sally Field ("Places in the Heart"), Glenda Jackson ("A Touch of Class"), Cliff Robertson ("Charly") and Elizabeth Taylor ("Butterfield 8").

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Those are examples just among the living. If I had the monarchical powers to reach beyond the grave, all of the following would be in big trouble: Paul Newman ("The Color of Money"), Jack Lemmon ("Save the Tiger"), John Wayne ("True Grit"), Katharine Hepburn ("Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"), Ingrid Bergman ("Anastasia"), Lee Marvin ("Cat Ballou") and Charlton Heston ("Ben-Hur")

Oh, yeah, and I'd not only force another member of the royal class, Princess Grace of Monaco, to abdicate as Oscar queen for "Country Girl," but I'd make her give the 1954 best-actress crown to Judy Garland ("A Star Is Born") — along with an apology. Ditto Judy Holliday ("Born Yesterday") to poor Gloria Swanson ("Sunset Blvd.").

"Best pictures" that must be rescinded: "The Departed," "Braveheart," "Unforgiven," "Dances With Wolves," "Out of Africa," "Gandhi," "Rocky," "Ben-Hur," "Around the World in 80 Days," "The Greatest Show on Earth," and "An American in Paris."

All of the above are examples only since 1950. I'm too lazy right now — and too whipped up with outrage since starting to write this post— to go back further or to address the supporting races (Goldie Hawn in "Cactus Flower"!).

But the posters in The Envelope's Gold Derby forums don't shrink from any Oscar year and have been playing this same fantasy game themselves since just before the recent Academy Awards in February. Check out their fumings here. Click through the page numbers at the bottom and top of the forum thread to keep reading. And then add your own picks for an Oscar pull-back.

Caresa: "I would take away 'Crash''s BP Oscar and give it to 'Brokeback Mountain' in 2005."

Pacinofan: "'Since I think no one ever squandered their Oscar win more than Cuba Gooding Jr., I would take his Oscar and give it to ... anyone I happened to come across on the streets."

AJ: "Jack Lemmon should give his 'Save the Tiger' Oscar to Al Pacino for 'Serpico,' but Jack Lemmon deserved the lead Oscar for 'Some Like it Hot' over Charlton Heston in 'Ben-Hur.' "

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Russell Crowe's Robin Hood to woo Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian: Will he finally be reunited with Oscars as well?

February 26, 2009 |  1:21 pm

Because Cate Blanchett and her playwright husband Andrew Upton are co-artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company she has scaled back her film commitments to barely one a year. That makes the news that  Blanchett is about to sign up to play Maid Marian opposite Russell Crowe's Robin Hood even more intriguing.

This legend of rogues and romance has been the inspiration for many films, including 1938 best picture nominee "The Adventures of Robin Hood," which starred Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland — it lost to "You Can't Take It With You." In 1976's "Robin and Marian," Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn played the pair in their later years. And in 1991's "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," a miscast Kevin Costner and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio starred.

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Sienna Miller was attached to this project but exited last fall. Cate Blanchett is much better matched to hold her own against Russell Crowe. And her presence increases the profile of the picture with Oscar voters. It was a surprise this year when Cate Blanchett — the darling of the Oscars — failed to make the lead actress race for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." After all, the film earned 13 nominations in all and Blanchett is a five-time nominee. She has one win in supporting actress ("The Aviator," 2004), two more nods in that category ("Notes on a Scandal," 2006; "I'm Not There," 2007), and another two in lead actress ("Elizabeth," 1998; and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," 2007).

This new film for her — now titled "Nottingham," but subject to a name change — is to be helmed by three-time Oscar nominee Ridley Scott, who directed Russell Crowe to the lead actor Oscar in best picture champ "Gladiator" back in 2000. Director and actor have made three films together in the past three years — "A Good Year," American Gangster," and "Body of Lies" — with varying degrees of success. An iconic role like the heroic Robin Hood could finally restore Crowe's credibility with the academy after his bad boy behavior cost him at least one Oscar.

In 2001,  Crowe was the front-runner for lead actor at the Oscars as star of the eventual best picture winner, "A Beautiful Mind." He coasted through the early part of the derby, winning with the Golden Globes, Critics' Choice, SAG and finally BAFTA. That Brit fest is where the gladiator threw himself to the lions. He did so by "roughing up," according to the London Sun, a British TV producer for daring to edit down Crowe's rambling recitation of a poem during his acceptance speech. While Crowe eventually apologized, that rang hollow with Oscar voters who went with Denzel Washington ("Training Day").

Two years later,  Crowe proved he was still a commanding screen star, although no longer the ruler of his domain. He steered "Master and Commander" — an epic, high seas adventure —to 10 Oscar nods including best picture. But the actors branch did not nominate Crowe. The film ended up winning only two Oscars, both in tech categories.

An even greater shipwreck lay ahead with his next project, "Cinderella Man." This 2005 biopic helmed by Ron Howard was perfect Oscars fare: a well-crafted, feel-good tearjerker starring  Crowe as a down-on-his-luck boxing hero and Renee Zellweger as his dutiful wife. Reviews and buzz were excellent when it opened but then Crowe pulled his biggest blunder yet. He got furious while dialing his hotel phone in Manhattan, yanked it out of the wall, marched down to the lobby and hurled it at an innocent hotel clerk. The clerk struck back by filing criminal charges.

Unfortunately for Crowe, this time Crowe wasn't taking a punch at a pesky paparazzo or fellow Hollywood bad boy. He took a potshot at an honest, hard-working, innocent Everyman, a regular Joe, just the kind of guy who spends a chunk of his paycheck to see Russell Crowe movies. Produced for $88 million, "Cinderella Man" ended up earning only $61 million domestically.

While voters for the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes thought his performance in "Cinderella Man" was good enough to merit a best actor bid, Crowe was snubbed once again by the Oscars. And since then, Crowe has had to make do with a pair of 2007 SAG ensemble nominations for his acclaimed performances in "3:10 to Yuma" and "American Gangster."

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The New York film critics' (sometimes) vicious circle

January 8, 2009 |  3:09 pm

Don't be surprised by the flapdoodle surrounding Josh Brolin's smear of Russell Crowe and his profanity-laced denunciation of a New York Times theater critic at the New York Film Critics' Circle gala on Monday night. That group has long been a vicious circle wherein wags have done many dicey things in the past.

However, usually it's the critics acting up, not the guests.

At this year's gala — where wine and bubbly flowed freely — supporting actor champ Josh Brolin introduced his "Milk" costar, best actor champ Sean Penn, thus: "Sean Penn, quite an actor. Amazing. Not an . . . like Russell Crowe. Quite an actor. You're an amazing actor. I loved you in 'Milk', I thought what you did with that role was incredible. We've known you as an actor who doesn't smile very much, and the fact that you smiled as much as you did in this film is amazing. Truly incredible. You are an amazing actor. You are going to get the Oscar. Because you smiled so much."

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Within hours, the blogosphere was buzzing with shock over Brolin's attack on Crowe. The next day Brolin apologized, blaming "the ambiance of the room." Said Brolin, "I love him. I think he's amazing. He's a friend. I was bummed out when I saw that today."

That wasn't the first time someone got publicly insulted at a New York Film Critics Circle gala with use of the "a" word. At the 1989 fete, when John Simon of New York magazine barked "Shut up, you fool!" to a rambling presenter, Richard Freeman of Newhouse newspapers shouted back at Simon something Jimmy Stewart never said to Bob Hope at the Oscars: " . . . off, you . . . !"

Another stormy incident occurred in 1982 when novelist William Styron attended to present an award. He was so upset about a recent review of the film version of his book "Sophie’s Choice," Variety reported, "Styron leveled a broadside at New Yorker critic Pauline Kael (not by name) as someone 'plainly better suited to another line of work' for her ‘ludicrous ill will' in slamming the pic."

When Sophie’s Choice star Meryl Streep claimed her plaque as Best Actress, Variety said, "Streep reeled off a memorized list of the Gotham critics, intentionally mispronouncing Sophie debunker Andrew Sarris (Village Voice) as Tsouris (yiddish idiom for ‘aggravation’), then vouching that 'it's great to get your own back sometimes.'"

Brolin did a similar thing at Monday's New York Film Critics Circle event, but he went after esteemed New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley over an old review. "I hate that . . . !" he growled. "And I don't think he's a good writer!"

Oh, why can't these events reclaim the gentility of their early days in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s when the gala was held in the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center? Playwright/critic Robert Sherwood attended those soirees and once told the assembled crowd that this was the first time that "any group of critics has ever invited its victims to a cocktail party."

But they gladly came anyway and the earliest parties set the precedent for how much fun — and how glamorous — the event could be. During the late 1930s, the "fog-choked" Rainbow Room, as one press account called it, sparkled with such glitterati as Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Bette Davis, Kitty Carlisle, William Wyler, Ernst Lubitsch and Fritz Lang. Mary Pickford looked "slim and pretty in black and mink," said the Post, and Ethel Merman “stunning in silver fox." Gloria Swanson was spotted wearing "the cutest hat, making her appear like a Tibetan sorceress."

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Should Oscar voters forgive Mickey Rourke's gay slur?

November 13, 2008 |  4:25 pm

"The Wrestler" star Mickey Rourke sure picked a lousy time to rough up gay people. Just days after California voters shot down gay marriage, he piled on top with an insensitive slam that could have serious impact on his bout for the best-actor Oscar.

Earlier this week, as he squired a leggy blond around town, Mickey Rourke was asked by reporters if he's romantically involved with Evan Rachel Wood, who portrays his daughter in "The Wrestler."

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As Elizabeth Snead reports at The Dish Rag, Rourke roared in response: "Do I look like I'm dating Evan Rachel Wood this evening, guys? C'mon, get a grip. She's a good friend, that's about it." Then he shouted a gay slur and a curse word: "Tell that . . . who said all that . . . in the paper, I'd like to break his . . . legs."

Immediately after the outburst, Rourke got slammed right back by rights activists demanding an apology. Rourke issued this statement: "I want to sincerely apologize for the derogatory word I used. It was insensitive and inappropriate of me and I am deeply sorry that I may have offended anyone."

This Oscar year was supposed to be especially gay-friendly, considering "Milk" is in the mix. The biopic starring Sean Penn as gay political martyr Harvey Milk gives academy voters a chance to disprove suspicions that they may be secret homophobes, as many Oscarwatchers claimed after front-runner "Brokeback Mountain" lost best picture to "Crash" three years ago. Instead, Rourke — a longtime Hollywood fixture — may have accidentally expressed the town's secret, if it really exists.

There may be an interesting Emmy parallel to this current Oscar situation. Last year Isaiah Washington lost his job on TV's "Grey's Anatomy" for using this same gay slur to characterize one of his co-stars. He apologized afterward, but many observers didn't believe he was sincere. Washington realized he had little hope of winning an Emmy so he took his name out of the running.

Should Rourke do the same in this Oscar race? Or will voters throw this wrestler out of the ring? Even if he wants to stay in, Oscar voters may choose not to buy his apology. Academy members, remember, are notoriously intolerant of bad boys. Russell Crowe — once an academy darling (best actor winner, "Gladiator," 2000) — hasn't been nominated since his dark side came to light. Crowe was snubbed for "Cinderella Man" and "Master and Commander." The latter oversight was particularly odd, since everybody associated with the film, it seemed, reaped bids except its own master and commander. In 2003, it was nominated for 10 Oscars, including best picture, but not best actor.

Photo: WireImage


Gold Derby nuggets: Rosie O'Donnell returns to TV ... 'Nottingham' loses Christian Bale? ... George Lucas on 'Indy V'

July 29, 2008 | 12:56 pm

Roger Friedman of Fox News offers an exclusive report on the details of the TV show that will bring daytime diva Rosie O'Donnell to prime time. He says, "The new show could turn out to be a 2009 version of Carol Burnett or even 'The Ed Sullivan Show.' The latter would even be better with Rosie presenting it all live — as in not on tape — from a Broadway theater, possibly on Sunday night. The show would have skits but more important Rosie O’Donnell could feature all kinds of acts from comedy to drama to music -- exactly what’s missing from prime time." The mercurial talent won six consecutive daytime Emmys for hosting her talker, another five for producing it, and a prime-time Emmy for producing the 1998 Tony Awards.

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Lou Lumenick of the New York Post is following up on the just announced postponement of "Nottingham," Ridley Scott's revisionist take on the tale of Robin Hood, with bad boy Russell Crowe as the now good sheriff. While initial reports had shooting delayed due to scripting problems, Lou wonders, "If it's because of uncertainty over who will play the still unofficially cast role of Robin Hood, who is apparently a villain in this version (Sienna Miller was recently announced Maid Marion). As late as last week, the IMDB listed Christian Bale (Crowe's co-star in '3:10 to Yuma') as 'rumored' to swap his Batman tights for a more greenish hue. Today, IMDB lists Sam Riley ('Control') as 'rumored' to be playing Robin. Did Christian Bale bail because of his recent arrest? You'd think Universal would be much happier with the red-hot Christian Bale — even if they have to wait for him to straighten out his legal problems and maybe finish the two films he is reportedly currently shooting."

Anne Thompson of Variety faults the Times of London for "burying its lead in a long, unrevealing puff piece on George Lucas in conjunction with the upcoming release of the new 'Star Wars: Clone Wars' animated movie." Says Lucas to the Times on the possibility of another "Indiana Jones" picture: "If I can come up with another idea that they like, we’ll do another. Really, with the last one, Steven (Spielberg) wasn’t that enthusiastic. I was trying to persuade him. But now Steve is more amenable to doing another one. Yet we still have the issues about the direction we’d like to take. I’m in the future; Steven’s in the past. He’s trying to drag it back to the way they were, I’m trying to push it to a whole different place. So, still we have a sort of tension. This recent one came out of that. It’s kind of a hybrid of our own two ideas, so we’ll see where we are able to take the next one."

(Photos: ABC, Warner Bros.)


Goodbye, Oscar? Does Shia LaBeouf's hooliganism kill his future award hopes?

July 28, 2008 |  2:09 pm

Earlier this year, BAFTA singled out Shia LaBeouf for a special laurel that revealed that the lofty U.K. film organization — the equivalent to Hollywood's motion-picture academy — believes he'll be back someday as a serious player for further kudos. Shia LaBeouf received its rising star award.

Shia LaBeouf was taken seriously last year by the Screen Actors Guild when he was nominated for the ensemble award along with the rest of the cast of "Bobby." LaBeouf won a Daytime Emmy as best child performer of 2003 for his role as average American boy in Disney Channel's "Even Stevens."

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So all of that means he's poised to be a kudos player ahead. But Shia LaBeouf needs to be taken seriously as a person too. That means avoiding a different kind of public recognition — like his recent wacky arrests for suspicion of drunk driving in Hollywood and criminal trespassing in Chicago.

Lucky for Shia LaBeouf, the most serious damage he suffered physically was a busted hand and bruised knee when he flipped over his truck at La Brea and Fountain at 3 a.m. Sunday morning, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies said. The charge against him is significant — drunk driving — but it's a misdemeanor and he was fortunate that the charges against him in Chicago were dropped when Walgreens decided not to pursue their complaint that Shia LaBeouf hassled their security guards after he partied all night at the Underground.

Memo to Shia LaBeouf: Straighten up, kiddo. If you ever want to win an Oscar, Golden Globe or prime-time Emmy — then you can't become one of those Hollywood hooligans. Remember: Two of the town's most notorious rascals — Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton — are Oscar's biggest losers (eight defeats for O'Toole, seven for Burton). Russell Crowe hasn't been nominated since he assaulted that BAFTA producer and hurled a phone at that Manhattan hotel clerk. CLICK HERE to continue reading more about how bad boys don't win Oscars.

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If Batman's truly gone bad, has Christian Bale doomed his Oscar hopes?

July 22, 2008 |  2:38 pm

Finally, after an admirable, but low-key career spanning two decades, Christian Bale is the biggest star in the world — at least as measured by having the title role in the most important movie right now: "The Dark Knight." Christian Bale has given Oscar-worthy performances in the past in prestige flicks like "Rescue Dawn" and enjoyed a notable cult following, but he's never been recognized by Oscar voters. No, he won't get nominated for a popcorn pic like "The Dark Knight," but Christian Bale is now such a superstar that he's perfectly positioned, soaring high in his bat cape over filmland, to be noticed by academy voters in the future.

That is, unless Christian Bale may have shot down his award hopes after he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his mum and sister, questioned by London police and released without being charged.

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Has Christian Bale just thrown away his Oscar hopes?

Being a bad boy off screen can seriously hurt your shot at winning an Oscar for your on-screen work, however brilliant. Academy Awards are all about bestowing hugs, of course, and nobody wants to embrace a thug.

It's no coincidence that Oscar's two biggest losers — Peter O'Toole (eight defeats) and Richard Burton (seven) — have been Hollywood's biggest hell-raisers.

Or consider Marlon Brando. Early in his career, when he exulted in being a 'tude-heavy dude fond of throwing his fists around Hollywood, he left the Oscar ceremony in 1951 hugely embarrassed — the only cast member of "A Streetcar Named Desire" not to win despite widespread predictions otherwise. Things just got worse after that. Over the next two years Marlon Brando lost best-actor nominations for "Viva Zapata!" and "Julius Caesar."

Then in 1954, desperate to win, he finally wised up, knocked that chip off his shoulder, put on a fancy tuxedo and started acting all sweet and thoughtful at the Golden Globes where he won best actor first, then repeated the feat at the Oscars for "On the Waterfront."

Playing the good guy can be awards bait, but not if you are a bad boy in real life. Consider the backlash against Christian Bale's "3:10 to Yuma" co-star Russell Crowe. Just a few short years ago Crowe was the biggest superstar in the galaxy. When "Gladiator" swept the Academy Awards in 2000, it was all about him, not his movie as academy members welcomed the star of "L.A. Confidential" and "The Insider" into the inner circle of filmmaking like he was a real gladiator triumphantly entering the Hollywood coliseum.

The next year he again joined the Oscar race as the lead star of the eventual best picture winner, "A Beautiful Mind." He was still such a white-hot actor that he coasted through the early derby, easily snagging a best actor trophy from the Golden Globes, Critics' Choice, SAG and — egads — BAFTA. That Brit fest is where the gladiator really threw himself to the lions. He did so by "roughing up," according to the London Sun, a British TV producer for daring to edit down Crowe's rambling recitation of a poem during his acceptance speech. He also threw away his chance to nab an Oscar for "A Beautiful Mind." Instead, Denzel Washington claimed the prize for "Training Day."

Two years later, Crowe proved he was still a commanding screen star, although no longer the ruler of his domain. He landed the lead role in "Master and Commander," an epic, high seas blockbuster that cost $150 million to make. While it earned only $93 million at the U.S. box office, it was a hit with Oscar voters, reaping a whopping 10 nominations, including best picture, but — ominously — no acting bid for the movie's master and commander: Crowe. It ended up winning only two Academy Awards, both in tech categories.

More disaster followed for Crowe with his next project, "Cinderella Man." This 2005 biopic helmed by Ron Howard looked like perfect Oscar fare: a well-crafted, feel-good tearjerker starring Crowe as a down-on-his-luck boxing hero. Reviews and buzz were excellent when it opened but soon thereafter Crowe pulled his biggest blunder yet. Allegedly drunk and unhinged in the middle of the night, he got mad when he had trouble dialing his hotel phone in Manhattan, yanked it out of the wall, marched down to the lobby and hurled it at an innocent hotel clerk. The clerk struck back by filing criminal charges.

Unfortunately for Crowe, the whole incident had been caught on videotape by a security camera. This time he wasn't bullying another media pro he had a quarrel with. Or it wasn't like this hotel clerk was a pesky paparazzo (like the kind that Sean Penn went after). He was an honest, hard-working, innocent Everyman, a regular Joe, just the kind of guy who probably spends a chunk of his paycheck to see Russell Crowe movies. Produced for $88 million, "Cinderella Man" ended up earning only $61 million domestically.

While voters for the Screen Actors' Guild and Golden Globes thought his performance in "Cinderella Man" was good enough to merit a best actor bid, Crowe was snubbed by the Academy Awards. And for his acclaimed 2007 roles in "3:10 to Yuma" and "American Gangster" he had to make do with a pair of SAG ensemble nominations.

Christian Bale has never had a hooligan reputation like Russell Crowe. That may help him to be easily forgiven now, if this current mess plays out OK.

Christian Bale certainly deserves another chance to be reconsidered for his excellent screen work. While the actor has denied that such an assault took place in London Sunday just hours before the premiere of the highly anticipated sequel to "Batman Begins," the damage to Bale's reputation may be irreparable. Though Christian Bale earned critical acclaim for transforming himself physically for roles in edgy films like "American Psycho" and "The Machinist," he never broke into the mainstream until taking on the iconic role of Batman in 2005. Since then, Bale has appeared in a range of big budget movies with varying degrees of success.

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Oscar has always welcomed the world

February 28, 2008 | 10:58 am

This year marked only the second time in Oscar history in which all four acting winners have hailed from outside the United States. The first was back in 1964 when the winners were three Brits -- Rex Harrison ("My Fair Lady"), Julie Andrews ("Mary Poppins") and Peter Ustinov ("Topkapi"), as well as Russian born Lila Kedrova ("Zorba the Greek").

Foreign_oscars

But Oscar has had the welcome mat out from its very first ceremony in 1929 when Swiss-born Emil Jannings won best actor for his performances in "The Last Command" and "The Way of All Flesh. And three of the first four best actresses hailed from Canada: Mary Pickford ("Coquette"); Norma Shearer ("The Divorcee"); and Marie Dressler ("Min and Bill").

While Daniel Day-Lewis ("There Will Be Blood") and Tilda Swinton ("Michael Clayton") are just two of the 36 English actors to win Academy Awards, Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") made Oscar history by giving the first French language performance to be so honored while Javier Bardem is the first Spanish actor to win an Oscar.

One of our most prolific forum posters, the aptly named Academy Awards Guru, has compiled a list of the nationalities of all 265 Oscar winners for acting. During the course of 80 ceremonies, they have won 306 Oscars (there has been one tie in each of best actor and best actress). Of these, 76 winners came from outside the USA to take home 85 Oscars. While 21 other countries have produced Oscar winners, it is not surprising that England leads with 36 of her citizens winning 42 Oscars.

Over the past 80 years, best actor has gone to a non-American 24 times and best actress 25 times while in the 72-year history of the supporting awards, non-Americans won supporting actor 19 times and supporting actress 17 times.

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Will $55-million lawsuit rough up 'Gangster' at Oscars?

January 17, 2008 |  2:51 pm

Lucky for "American Gangster" that Oscar nomination ballots are already in. Right now, five days before bids will be unveiled, "Gangster" stands a Denzelwhitestripchance to make the best-pic lineup and a very good shot at its star Denzel Washingon being nominated for best actor.

Yesterday three Drug Enforcement Administration agents filed a $55 million defamation suit against Universal Studios claiming that the film "tarnished hundreds of reputations," according to Reuters. READ MORE

Poor Denzel. Here he goes again. A hubbub over the accuracy of one of his previous real-life movies hurt him back in the 1999 derby. After winning the Golden Globe for "The Hurricane," he got knocked out of the Oscar best-actor match after it was revealed that his film sugar-coated the life of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who was imprisoned for triple murder. The best-actor belt ended up going to Kevin Spacey for a fictitious role in "American Beauty."

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Golden Globe noms will differ from the Critics Choice

December 11, 2007 | 12:30 pm

As Pete Hammond notes in his report on today's noms for the Critics Choice Awards, we saw noticeably less support for "American Gangster" and some other films that we kudos gurus expected. (Click here.)

I suspect that we're going to see more of the same when Golden Globe nominations are announced on Thursday morning. From what I hear, HFPA members prefer Denzel Washington's performance in "The Great Debaters," for example, but prefer Russell Crowe's good-guy turn in "Gangster" to his deliciously sinister portrayal in "3:10 to Yuma." Although Crowe is currently competing in the supporting slot at the Oscars for "Gangster," HPFA's eligibility committee placed him in lead for "Gangster." Expect director Ridley Scott to be snubbed again at the Globes, as he was by BFCA.

The chief difference between the two lists of nominees will be over "Into the Wild," which reaped the most Critics Choice bids, but doesn't seem to get much Globe love. Also, we'll see "The Great Debaters" do well. It's off the BFCA list because DVD screeners weren't available in time to ship to the broadcast critics before they voted.


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