Friday, June 8, 2018

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actress 2002

The Contenders:

Renee Zellweger: Chicago
Julianne Moore: Far from Heaven
Salma Hayek: Frida
Nicole Kidman: The Hours (winner)
Diane Lane: Unfaithful

What’s Missing

It turns out that 2002 is an odd year for Best Actress nominations. Three nominations I would consider, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Samantha Morton, and Audrey Tautou nominated for Whale Rider, In America, and Dirty Pretty Things respectively, were films nominated the next year. In fact, both Castle-Hughes and Morton were nominated for Best Actress in these films in 2003 despite their original 2002 release date. Despite Oscar’s claim to being very much accepting of people the world over, there aren’t a lot of nominations for non-English performances, which sadly leaves out Do Thi Hai Yen in The Quiet American. The horror genre having the relationship it does with Oscar leaves out Naomie Harris in 28 Days Later and possibly Jodie Foster in Panic Room. I’ve never been a huge fan of Hilary Swank, but in Insomnia she holds her own against both Robin Williams and Al Pacino. Finally, I think Gangs of New York could have used an additional nomination—one for Cameron Diaz.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I’ve never been the biggest Renee Zellweger fan, so putting her in fifth isn’t a huge surprise. In this case, she’s dealing with the additional problem of being in a movie that I absolutely dislike in all aspects except for the staging. I don’t like her, I don’t like the character, I don’t like the story, and while I will happily hear arguments for why she should be ranked higher than the “default position for people I wouldn’t nominate” spot, it’s going to take a great deal of good, irrefutable arguments to get me to think she belongs in this company.

4. I could say much the same thing about Diane Lane, who I’ve never really liked that much in anything I’ve seen her in. I’m not sure why that is, but she has never struck me as being that interesting. I’m supposed to like her, I think. I think I’m supposed to find her highly desirable, but the truth is that I find her generally bland in all areas. Unfaithful is a movie I didn’t love that much, either. And, damning for this particular award, I remember Richard Gere a hell of a lot more than I do Diane Lane. That’s not going to get you ranked higher than this.

3. I’m tempted to put the top three here all as possible winners because I’m having real difficulty deciding between them. When I put Salma Hayek in third place for Frida this is very much not a knock on her and much more praise for the other two performances. I’ve always liked Hayek and Frida is probably as good as she has ever been. I think my issues may well be more with the movie than they are with her. She does what she can for a film that has some pacing issues, and perhaps I’m punishing her a bit here. That said, if you want to argue to put her as your winner, I’d listen.

My Choice

2. I get Nicole Kidman’s win for The Hours, a film that I liked a lot more than I thought I was going to. In fact, I put it in second place when I covered Best Picture for this year, and my appreciation for the film has been mildly controversial. I like Kidman’s performance a lot, and I also like the fact that, much like Olivia de Havilland in years past, she played a specifically non-glamorous role and one that deals realistically with mental health issues. I’m fine with her win even if I’d put the statue in other hands.

1. Those hands are those of Julianne Moore for Far from Heaven, a film that I am continually surprised by in terms of its beauty. A love letter to Douglas Sirk in many ways, this is a film that hearkens back to the 1950s in real ways with updated stories. Moore is at the center of this, the linchpin between the two romances that happen during the film, and as seems to always be the case for her, she is absolutely magnetic on the screen. Sure, she got her Oscar eventually, but I think she should have gotten it a good dozen years sooner. She wins.

Final Analysis


  1. I'm with you on Zellweger, it seems like a tagalong nomination because she's outshone by both CZJ and Queen Latifah. But she's one of my least favorite actresses ever so with me she's at a huge disadvantage from the start.

    I likewise don't think much of Kidman and I have a problem with her nomination. She's supporting. Despite my indifference to her if she had been nominated there I'd say the performance is good enough to rate a nod but not a win. I'll also say that she was worthy the previous year in lead for The Others.

    Hayek was the best part of Frida (outside the art) but I liked two other performances better.

    I'm really torn this year between Julianne Moore and Diane Lane who I think is great in Unfaithful-the train ride home is an beautiful piece of silent acting-but then I've always liked her. I think I'd probably go with Moore though since she had to do a high-wire act between a very stylized performance and finding the emotional truth in Cathy and she manages it handily. It's a shame Dennis Haysbert was shut out for his excellent work opposite her.

    As to who else could have been in the running I'd say both Frances McDormand in Laurel Canyon and Emily Watson in Punch Drunk Love are worthy of consideration.

    1. I agree that Kidman was deserving of some love the previous year for The Others, which might have honestly been the reason she won this year. I don't generally love Kidman as an actress although I don't specifically dislike her. I do like her performance in The Hours a lot, though--I think it's one of her best.

      We'll disagree on Diane Lane. I've never understood her career at all--I don't understand the appeal. For what it's worth, I agree on Haysbert. I can pretty much guarantee that he'll get a mention one way or another when I handle Best Actor for this year.

  2. I haven't seen Unfaithful. I liked Zellweger In Chicago a lot more than I usually do. I remember liking The Hours a lot, and Kidman was one of the best thongs about it.

    But I'd go with either Hayek or Moore. I hesitate to just pick Moore (I loved Far From Heaven a lot!) because it's been a while since I saw Frida, and I remember liking Frida a lot, even loving it, but any of the specifics escape me.

    1. My problems with Frida were less with Hayek than with the way the film works--it's choppy and feels episodic. Ultimately, I think she's had the bad luck to be nominated in a year with some great performances.

  3. I've only seen 2 of the noms, Hayek and Zellwegger. For me, Hayek's performance was head and shoulders above Zellwegger's so she's my winner. To be honest, I haven't seen too many good female performances from this year. I guess the best of the rest I've seen is Naomi Watts in The Ring, but I'm not in love with that one.

    1. Far from Heaven might not be in your wheelhouse on the surface, but it's pretty great. Moore is radiant and is matched entirely by both Dennis Quaid and Dennis Haysbert. It's a love letter to the films of Douglas Sirk with a more modern set of romantic problems--I recommend it completely.

      I like The Hours a lot, too, but I tend to catch a lot of shit for recommending it, so caveat emptor.

  4. I think I'm already on record, on this blog, regarding my hatred for "Unfaithful." I do like Diane Lane, though.

    1. I checked; you are.

      I don't know what it is about Diane Lane that rubs me the wrong way aside from the fact that I find her bland.