Now it’s time for the Oscar for best achievement in (kiss and) makeup. The world’s most stupendous and celebritastic event – you know, the one that draws about the same ratings as the losers-and-freaks episode of “American Idol” – is shaping up as a great big pity party for longtime snubbees Martin Scorsese, Helen Mirren and Peter O’Toole. Collectively, they are zero for 14 at previous ceremonies. But after yesterday’s nominations emerged, all were hoping to turn guilt into gilt at the Feb. 25 Academy Awards.
Oscar is always playing catch-up by backing not the swiftest ponies, but the ones at the door to the glue factory. Al Pacino got his makeup Oscar for “Scent of a Woman” because they owed him one for “The Godfather Part II” – which he didn’t win because Oscar was bestowing belated (and undeserved) honors on Art Carney for “Harry and Tonto.”
Henry Fonda got his Oscar on his deathbed for “On Golden Pond,” and John Wayne got his for “True Grit” because for the first time he looked mortal.
Meanwhile, the immortal performances of Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in “Midnight Cowboy” were overlooked.
Mirren – described by one bookmaker as a 1-to-12 crap bet, the single biggest favorite in the history of the Academy Awards has spent more time waiting to be crowned than Prince Charles. She’s a cinch to win for her QE II turn in “The Queen,” a surprise hit that picked up six nominations, including nods for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay.
The film is a serious contender for Best Picture, along with “Babel,” which received seven nominations and is a favorite of the huge actors’ branch of voters, and “The Departed,” which earned a disappointing five nominations, including only one acting nomination, for Mark Wahlberg as Best Supporting Actor.
Mirren has been nominated twice before – for “The Madness of King George” and “Gosford Park” – but the industry is slavering to reward her this time.
Scorsese, who has five previous nominations but no wins, “should have won twice – for ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘GoodFellas,'” says a longtime voter. This year, he’s the favorite for Best Director for “The Departed,” though again he’s up against Clint Eastwood for the little-seen Japanese-language WWII movie “Letters from Iwo Jima,” which has no chance for Best Picture.
Scorsese isn’t well liked in Hollywood; working in New York alienates him from the mass of voters.
“He’s not a local,” says a West Coast voter. “There’s this admiration for him as a terrific director, but we don’t ever run into him. Aloof would be the polite term. He’s like Woody Allen. Let’s face it, he’s a strange man. We all respect him, but Hitchcock was nominated five times and didn’t win. Do Marty’s films stack up against Hitchcock’s? I think people would be happy if he won because then he could quit campaigning. And who else would you give it to? Marty’s the default winner.”
(Also up for Best Director are Stephen Frears for “The Queen,” Alejandro Gonz lez IÒ rritu for “Babel”and Paul Greengrass for “United 93.”)
Like Mirren, O’Toole is gifted, British and winless. He’s up for an eighth, and likely final, nomination for “Venus,” which will set a record for Oscar futility if he loses to the favorite, Forest Whitaker for “The Last King of Scotland.”
His first big role, in “Lawrence of Arabia,” got steamrolled by Gregory Peck’s equally legendary performance in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” O’Toole easily could have won in 1968 for “The Lion in Winter,” but the Oscar went to journeyman Cliff Robertson for playing a mentally retarded man in “Charly.”
Now O’Toole is tied with his old drinking buddy Richard Burton (both were nominated for “Becket” but lost to Rex Harrison for “My Fair Lady”) for the futility record – seven nominations, no wins. Three years ago, O’Toole won the honorary Oscar – which he initially declined, saying he hoped to “win the lovely bugger outright” – but both Fonda and Paul Newman won the career award the year before they won Best Actor.
But like Scorsese, O’Toole doesn’t work the scene, while Whitaker has been shaking every hand in the 310 area code. “If you have somebody like O’Toole up against you, it’s gotta make you nervous,” says a voter. “But I’d have to say Whitaker is going to win because he seems like such a nice guy. O’Toole hasn’t let anyone know he wants to win. You gotta look like you want it. O’Toole, I worked with him on two films. He was a thorny, thorny man.”
“Babel,” “The Queen” and “The Departed” were seen as almost evenly matched in the race to win Best Picture. The underdog nominee is “Little Miss Sunshine,” a hilarious kitchen-sink indie.
“Babel” nearly ran the table, getting Best Supporting Actress nominations for both Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barazza, two blazingly obscure performers. But the film’s only star, Brad Pitt, didn’t get a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Nevertheless, he could still win an Oscar – he’s a producer of “The Departed.”
Also snubbed was “The Departed”‘s cackling anti-conscience, Jack Nicholson. “Nicholson sucked,” says an East Coast voter. “Wahlberg was brilliant. Plus, they like to discover new people.”
Meanwhile, “Babel” is both depressing and a financial flop; “The Queen,” while enjoyable, is basically BBC TV.
Does that lay the ground for the biggest underdog in Oscar history – a movie that didn’t get a Best Director nod or a single nomination in any crafts category?
“The only film I’ve heard people say they love,” says a voter who has been talking to many peers, “is ‘Little Miss Sunshine.'”
nominated 6 times
Best Director
1981 “Raging Bull”
1989 “The Last Temptation of Christ”
1991 “GoodFellas”
2003 “Gangs of New York”
2005 “The Aviator”
2007 “The Departed”
nominated 3 times
Best Supporting Actress, 1995 “The Madness of King George”
Best Supporting Actress, 2002 “Gosford Park”
Best Actress, 2007 “The Queen”
nominated 7 times
Best Actor, 1963 “Lawrence of Arabia”
Best Actor, 1965 “Becket”
Best Actor, 1969 “The Lion in Winter”
Best Actor, 1970 “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”
Best Actor, 1973 “The Ruling Class”
Best Actor, 1981 “The Stunt Man”
Best Actor, 1983 “My Favorite Year”
Best Actor, 2007 “Venus”
Best Actor, 1966 “The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming”
Best Actor, 1968 “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter”
Best Supporting Actor, 2007 “Little Miss Sunshine”