Interesting article about the tightness of the Best Actress race. Wouldn't an Adrien Brody-style upset be just what this year needs?
Notes on a Season
Pete Hammond's daily dose of awards season news and views
Lead actress Oscar race will go down to the wire
"It's all over the map. We've gotten equal numbers of responses for Meryl, Sandra, Gabby and Carey. There doesn't seem to be a consensus at all," answered a studio awards consultant when I asked what their internal poll of academy voters indicated about the Oscars lead actress race.
Although this studio has contenders in most of the major categories, it doesn't have a dog in the hunt for actress so I thought it would be a fair question that wouldn't elicit a lot of unnecessary spin. The poll they take (which stopped around two weeks ago, so isn't reflecting any recent developments) is said to have surveyed roughly 250 voters. It confirmed front-runners we already knew: "The Hurt Locker" drew a commanding lead in best picture and Jeff Bridges, Mo'Nique and Christoph Waltz appeared to be locks in their respective acting categories.
But as for the lead actress race? All over the map. That's what I have found too in my own informal polling, which is very interesting since most pundits seem to be favoring Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side" as almost the same kind of lock as the other actors. I don't know where the evidence for this level of confidence is. Yes, she won Critics' Choice and Golden Globe awards but so did Meryl Streep. Bullock's cannot-be-underestimated victory at SAG way back on Jan. 23 seems to be one of two things that cemented her strong standing among pundits. The other was the surprise best picture nomination for "The Blind Side." The thinking goes, if the whole academy at large likes the movie that much, then Bullock's got the edge.
What most of those pundits seem to conveniently overlook is that "Precious" with Gabourey Sidibe and "An Education" with Carey Mulligan also got best picture nominations and other noms in addition to that. It certainly helps your chances if you are in a best picture nominee but it's obviously not a requirement. Jeff Bridges will prove that handily when he sails to victory as lead actor over George Clooney and Jeremy Renner who are both in best pic candidates while Bridges is not.
Although the SAG win was significant, that guild doesn't always line up 100% with the academy and those awards were quite awhile ago. Oscar nominations weren't even announced until 10 days after that win. Since the noms, each actress contender (with the exception of Helen Mirren who will have to settle for the nomination and the Oscar she already has) has been campaigning aggressively.
Sony has done an expensive trade and online ad campaign for its single "Julie & Julia" nod that included a pricey four-page gatefold Variety cover reminding voters that two-time winner and 16- time nominee Meryl Streep hasn't won an Oscar since 1982 -- a fact I'm not sure has the academy weeping in sympathy for her. Nevertheless, this is Streep's best shot to cash in on a nomination since "Sophie's Choice" and I am detecting enormous support there.
Sidibe also has had extensive trade ads and lots of personal appearances, including public Q&As in New York and an appearance on Jay Leno's final prime-time show. She was positively giddy Friday night when the perpetual bridesmaid finally took a prize, earning the NAACP's Best Actress Image award, triumphing over co-nominee Bullock who was seen on camera cheering in the audience when Sidibe's name was announced (quite frankly Bullock playing a white Christian Republican would seem a long shot for an award that always goes to an African American).
"It's great to be nominated, but it's a WHOLE lot more fun winning," Sidibe exclaimed in joy.
Lions Gate's own internal surveys indicate a tight Oscar contest between Bullock and Sidibe, according to a rep I talked to, despite constantly hearing that most observers seem to think of it as a race between Streep and Bullock. The likable Bullock has charmed her way through key appearances on shows like David Letterman and Charlie Rose and a nicely publicized tribute at the Santa Barbara Film Festival (which I moderated). Despite SAG, Globe and Critics' Choice honors she downplays her own chances of winning the big one and even regularly jokes about the fact that she's simultaneously nominated for a Razzie as Worst Actress for "All About Steve." No matter what happens, it is undeniable that she's come a long way this season since Nov. 4 when, in this space, I was the first -- and only -- pundit predicting her unexpected emergence into the race. It's four months later and look where she is.
As for Streep, despite Sony's ad blitz on her behalf, she has not been very visible except for a rare visit to the Oscar nominees luncheon, where unlike the other contenders she did not do media interviews. She didn't even travel to London for the British Academy Awards where she and Sidibe lost to hometown girl Mulligan for Best Actress (Bullock wasn't eligible). As usual she is not letting herself get caught up in the nuts and bolts of Oscar campaigning.
Since nabbing the first Best Actress award of the season at the National Board of Review, Mulligan hasn't won much of anything until BAFTA. But in taking Variety's $50,000 front cover the day after nominations were announced, Sony Pictures Classics signaled a much more aggressive campaign in phase 2 than they appeared to do pre-nominations and it may be paying off. She could be the dark horse in this thing.
"It looked to me like Carey won by a lot at BAFTA just by that overwhelming response she got," says SPC Co-President Michael Barker. "I firmly believe you can't count Carey out and when you saw her win at BAFTA it just reminds people of how good she is. If there's a surprise it is gonna be in that category."
EW's current Oscar Odds issue compiled by the savvy Dave Karger sees the race differently with a tight battle between Bullock at 35% and Streep at 30%. Sidibe and Mulligan trail with 15% each and Mirren brings up the rear with 5%. EW's annual survey of four academy voters (not the biggest sample exactly) had Streep winning with 3 to Bullock's 1. I think it is likely much much closer and Gabby and Carey are significant factors. Warner Bros. strategists working on Bullock's behalf privately tell me they prefer that. A tighter four-way contest is better for Bullock's ultimate chances of prevailing than going one-on-one with the imposing Streep.
This one's going down to the wire.