Awards Season

The Oscar Nomination Expansion Pack: Five More Actors, Five More Actresses

Tilda Swinton i i

hide captionTilda Swinton stars as Emma, the Russian-born wife of the head of a Milanese dynasty, in I Am Love.

Magnolia Pictures
Tilda Swinton

Tilda Swinton stars as Emma, the Russian-born wife of the head of a Milanese dynasty, in I Am Love.

Magnolia Pictures

As Linda pointed out earlier this week, this year's field of Oscar nominees suggests there are several good reasons to tap ten films for Best Picture. Let me add one more reason: Since the Best Picture slate was expanded, four films directed by women have been nominated in the top category (The Hurt Locker, An Education, The Kids Are All Right, and Winter's Bone). In the eighty-one Oscar ceremonies before that, women helmed only five Best Picture nominees, and one of those was Little Miss Sunshine, which was co-directed by a man. Already, the wider field is bringing more women into the conversation.

More frivolously, it's also giving us more to talk about, and that makes the Oscars much more fun.

With that in mind, let's imagine a world where the Best Actor and Best Actress fields also include ten nominees. What would happen? Would mountains collapse? Would stars burn purple? Would African babies start adopting Madonna?

Possibly. Such an expansion is unlikely, of course, since there are some years when it's enough hard to find five worthy nominees, let alone ten. However, since 2010 was ripe with outstanding performances, I'd like to suggest a Best Actress and Best Actor Expansion Pack. If it were possible, I'd add these performances to the ballot.

BEST ACTRESS

Actual nominees:

* Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right

* Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole

* Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone

* Natalie Portman in Black Swan

* Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine

Expansion Pack:

* Julianne Moore in The Kids Are All Right

After being showered with nominations in the late nineties and early aughts, Moore has been snubbed for the last two years. She was overlooked for A Single Man, and even worse, she was ignored for her vivacious, empathetic turn as the flighty half of the lesbian couple in The Kids Are All Right.

* Tilda Swinton in I Am Love

As a wealthy socialite discovering the promise of a more satisfying life, Swinton conveys both ache and excitement, and she does it while speaking Italian.

* Dakota Fanning in The Runaways

As punk goddess Cherie Currie, Fanning could have been all sneers and eyeliner, but instead, she captures the fire inside a young woman with something to say. Plus, Fanning has never been nominated, and we can't let Abigail Breslin lord that over her forever.

* Lesley Manville in Another Year

Instead of swanning around with Brenda Blethyn, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and Imelda Staunton, Manville will have to join Sally Hawkins at the table of actresses who were overlooked for celebrated performances in Mike Leigh films. It's a shame, too, because she does once-in-a-lifetime work as a desperately lonely woman who thinks she's passing herself off as a happy-go-lucky gal.

* Emma Stone in Easy A

Say it with me: "The Academy overlooks comedy!" Here's even more proof that they shouldn't. As a high school student who lies about losing her virginity, Stone sells the film with her flawless timing and hilarious expressions.

BEST ACTOR

Actual nominees:

* Javier Bardem in Biutiful

* Jeff Bridges in True Grit

* Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network

* Colin Firth in The King's Speech

* James Franco in 127 Hours

Expansion Pack:

* Andrew Garfield in Never Let Me Go

Poor Andrew Garfield. He gave two Oscar-worthy performances this year, and he didn't get nominated for either one. I prefer his haunting turn as a forced organ donor in Never Let Me Go to his performance as a Facebook co-founder in The Social Network, but if I were expanding the supporting fields, I'd probably add him there, too.

* Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine

I don't care for this movie's aggressively contrived pain, but I blame that on the writer-director and not on the spectacular acting. As a couple falling out of love, Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling say as much with their posture and their pauses as they do with their words, just like any two people who have known each other forever. Williams was nominated for her work, and I'd love to see Gosling on the ballot with her.

* Jim Carrey in I Love You Philip Morris

Carrey's turn as a gay con man doing crazy things for love demonstrates that at his best, he can channel his manic energy into a disciplined, authentic performance.

* Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter

Three of his co-stars received much-deserved supporting nominations for this film, about a boxer trying to make a name for himself. For contrasting their spirited work with his tender calm, Wahlberg deserves some recognition.

* Aaron Eckhart in Rabbit Hole

Overall, Rabbit Hole may be the most unjustly overlooked film of the year. Sure, Nicole Kidman was nominated for playing a grieving mother, but she's not the only shining light. There's also Aaron Eckhart as her husband, swinging between anger, sadness, and joy with remarkable skill.

Mark Blankenship reviews movies, music, and TV at The Critical Condition.

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