Monday, January 25, 2010


I love this bit at Film Experience Blog and Stinkylulu about "coaster" Oscar nominees. We see it every few years. A film racks up tons of nominations, including an acting nod (usually in the supporting category) that nobody saw coming.

It's an interesting theory indeed, but it sheds absolutely no light on how BAFTA winner Thandie Newton didn't even make the Oscar shortlist for Crash in 2006. Remember how great she was in Beloved, a flawed but interesting take on a fantastic book that probably should never have been made into a film? (It is, after all, more about prose than plot.) The Academy must hate her.

But I have to disagree with the inclusion of The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button's Taraji P. Henson and Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin in the coaster club. Breslin's performance was central to Little Miss Sunshine, and she ended up in the supporting category only because of her age (kids under 18 generally need not apply to the lead categories). As for Henson, she was working Oscar buzz long before Benjamin Button's release, so no one was surprised on Oscar day when her name was called.

Queen Latifah, though, is so in there -- as is her Chicago costar John C. Reilly. (Richard Gere so should have gone supporting instead of lead!) Who are some of the other actors and actresses whose "Oscar nominee" status in any given year could have been chalked up to the "coaster" phenomenon? I have some ideas. A list.

  • Minnie Driver Good Will Hunting (1997) Minnie (above, with Matt Damon) did just fine in this more or less extraneous role, but when you think of the film, do you even remember that she was in it?
  • Julianne Moore The Hours (2002) For the most part, double acting nominees get there by coasting. Although I think Meryl Streep was the standout in The Hours, it was pretty much the Nicole Kidman Show all Oscar season. Would Julianne even have been noticed had she not been so acclaimed that same year in Far From Heaven?
  • Emma Thompson In The Name Of The Father (1993) See above and above. Both apply here. But don't you miss the good old days when Emma Thompson was pure Oscar bait?
  • Hermione Baddeley Room At The Top (1959) What an amazing scene she had (emphasis on the singular)! But I'm sure she wasn't the only one thinking WTF on the day the nominations were announced. At two minutes and 20 seconds, it's the shortest performance ever to be nominated for an Oscar.
  • Angela Lansbury Gaslight (1944) Not to take anything away from the thrice-nominated actress, but what exactly did she do in this thriller that so impressed the Academy?
  • James Cromwell Babe (1995) A consolation prize for having to play second fiddle to a pig?
  • Kathleen Quinlan and Ed Harris Apollo 13 (1995) Curiously, the two acting nominees from this Best Picture contender about the aborted moon trip from hell weren't even lost in space. What's up with that?
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