Rob Edelman: Oscar Time

Oct 29, 2018

After nine months of film releases that mostly are unremarkable if not downright forgettable, we now are neck-deep into seeing and savoring a slew of the year’s best new films. And we are inaugurating the 2018 Academy Awards. From now until Oscar night, there will be plenty of Oscar hype. Who will be nominated? Who will win? Who will end up an afterthought? At a time in which our world is drowning in mediocrity, not to mention outright greediness, playing the Oscar game is a great escape, a pleasurable distraction.

Coming to mind are the latest potential Best Actress nominees and winners. Take for example THE WIFE, with Glenn Close starring in the title role: a woman who has quietly supported her famous writer husband, but for reasons that are gender-related and are not at all surprising. THE WIFE is a savvy film to be sure and Glenn Close gives a subtly forceful performance, one that clearly is Oscar-worthy. Unquestionably, she should be on the short list of Best Actress nominees and, surely, she will be destined to win. For after all, Glenn Close already has six nominations without a victory. She now is in her early seventies. So her time has come.

But not so fast... Lady Gaga is earning kudos for her performance in the third remake of A STAR IS BORN. Not only is this one of the year’s most justifiably heralded films; it certainly will earn lots of Oscar nominations, and Oscar gold. Included here just may be Lady Gaga as Best Actress. So one should not assume that Glenn Close is a sureshot, given her veteran status and the fact that she never has picked up a statuette. Plus, she would not be the first longtime star who failed on Oscar night.

Back in 2006, Peter O’Toole was nominated as Best Actor for VENUS. He already had earned eight nominations, without a win. This began in 1962, with his star-making presence in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. So in 2006, it was assumed that Peter O’Toole would be a shoo-in as Best Actor-- and there he was on Oscar night, waiting to pick up his prize. But the Oscar went to Forest Whitaker, for his mesmerizing presence as Idi Amin in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. To date, this has been Whitaker’s lone nomination.

In 2002, Peter O’Toole had been honored with a special Oscar celebrating his entire body of work. He initially hesitated, writing the Academy that he was “still in the game” and perhaps might soon cop a competitive Oscar. But he never did, and he passed away in 2013. So the question of the moment is: Will Glenn Close win a competitive Oscar for THE WIFE? Or will she be joining the likes of Myrna Loy, John Barrymore, Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, Greta Garbo, John Garfield, Cary Grant, and so many others: multi-talented movie stars who never did win a competitive Oscar?

Rob Edelman teaches film history courses at the University at Albany. He has contributed to many arts and baseball-related publications; his latest book, which he co-edited, is From Spring Training To Screen Test: Baseball Players Turned Actors. His frequent collaborator is his wife, fellow WAMC film commentator Audrey Kupferberg.

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