Best Actress: Bening's Swank Voodoo Doll, Kidman's Upset Odds
Tom O'Neil thinks Nicole Kidman may heist Natalie Portman's trophy, and accuses Annette Bening of torturing her Hilary Swank voodoo doll. I doubt both theories.
In a video debate, Tom O'Neil and Pete Hammond explain how Kidman's Oscar upset might happen. First, she beats Portman for the Golden Globe -- possible, since she's won thrice, and at her Rabbit Hole press conference, an amazing 56 out of 88 Hollywood Foreign Press members showed up. Hammond says Kidman's emotionally charged Rabbit Hole TV ads "just pop in short spurts," while Black Swan's just look weird out of context, and Bening's performance is too subtly excellent to play well in clips, which we're not seeing many of anyway. And Kidman is "playing the game, she's out there," while Bening is AWOL from the campaign.
But as the L.A. Times notes, Rabbit Hole is a brooding gloomfest whose grosses, while not awful, are dwarfed by Black Swan's. And while Kidman is out there, Portman is blowing up -- literally, getting big PR from a pregnancy that contrasts nicely with her skeletal ballerina persona. On IMDb's STARmeter, 100 million fans voted with their fingers for Portman (the second-most searched-for star of today). Kidman is at #127, and Bening at #614, way down from her summer spike when The Kids Are All Right opened. Obviously, Globe and Oscar voters skew older than IMDb users, but still.
I agree that Kidman may well cop the Globe. But O'Neil says this would generate Oscar momentum: "That just throws this whole thing open, doesn't it?" No, it doesn't, Steve Pond correctly notes: "That presumes that Academy members give a damn what the Hollywood Foreign Press Association thinks, which I don’t buy at all: the two groups sometimes agree, but to try to draw some kind of casual relationship between the Globes and the Oscars is to give the former way too much credit, and the latter not nearly enough." O'Neil and Hammond also think the Tony and Pulitzer The Rabbit Hole play won will help it win film contests. Not in this century they won't. Drama and film are parallel universes, skew planes.
O'Neil is more on the money when he argues that Swank won her first Oscar by first winning Hollywood's heart with her Globe speech about living out of her car with her mother. That's a plausible causal connection.
My favorite bit in the video is O'Neil's vision of what will happen if Hilary Swank gets Oscar traction (after losing BFCA, HFPA, and critics' awards, then getting a SAG nom that she told me left her "just competely floored"). "If Hilary Swank gets back into this race, poor Annette!" Swank swiped Bening's Oscars for American Beauty and Being Julia (and I'm still almost as pissed as Bening must be). "She's got her Hilary Swank voodoo doll at home," O'Neil claims, "and she's plunging knitting needles into it." I doubt it. But I wouldn't blame her.
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Scott Feinberg, the lead awards analyst for The Hollywood Reporter, is one of the entertainment industry's most experienced and trusted experts about the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys. He started on the awards beat in 2001, writing for independent websites including his own ScottFeinberg.com before joining the Los Angeles Times and then THR, for which he writes “The Race” blog, which won the LA Press Club’s National Entertainment Journalism Award for best entertainment blog of 2012-2013. A voting member of both the Broadcast Film Critics' Association and Broadcast Television Journalists Association, he is also writing a book about film history for young people for which he has interviewed more than 500 high-profile Hollywood figures whose careers span the silent era through the present.
Follow Scott on Twitter at twitter.com/scottfeinberg.