Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oscar Nominated Performances in Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese Movies

Woody Allen has now directed 18 Oscar nominated performances – with 6 of them going on to be winners (and a good chance for another win this weekend). That ranks him in a tie for 6th place overall for directors – and a tie for second among active directors. The only active director to direct more Oscar nominated performances? Martin Scorsese – who has now directed 22 – with five winners (which probably will not go up this weekend).

The other “active” leaders in this are Mike Nichols with 18 nominations, and 2 wins – although he’s over 80, and hasn’t directed since 2007, so perhaps he’s not “active”. Francis Ford Coppola with 14 nominated performances and 2 wins – although he hasn’t had anyone nominated since 1991, and given what he’s interested in doing now (which I respect), I doubt we’ll see him add to that total. Clint Eastwood with 12 nominees and 4 winners. Steven Spielberg with 12 nominees and 1 winner. And strangely enough, David O. Russell, with 11 nominees and 3 winners. Russell is a strange case because all of those nominees have come since 2010 in just three films. He keeps this pace up, and maybe he’ll catch Allen and Scorsese – not to mention the two leaders in this category – Elia Kazan with 24 nominated performances and 7 winners, and William Wyler, with a staggering 36 nominees, and 14 winners. James L. Brooks is the only other active director with 10 or more nominees – with exactly 10 (4 wins) – although they all come from 3 movies (4 for Terms of Endearment, 3 for Broadcast News and 3 for As Good As It Gets).

A few interesting tidbits about the nominees for Allen Scorsese: Of those 18 performances Allen has directed, only 5 have been for men – the other 13 were women. The breakdown for him is 2 Best Actor Nominees, 3 Best Supporting Actor nominees, 3 Best Actress Nominees and 10 Supporting Actress. Of the six winners, it’s one for Actress, one for Supporting Actor and 4 for Supporting Actress. Despite his tendency to work with the same actors again and again, only Dianne Wiest received two different nominations for his films – winning both times. The stretch of nominees for Woody Allen is 36 years – the first two coming in 1977, and the last two for 2013. 11 different films received nominations – Bullets Over Broadway received 3, Hannah and Her Sisters, Interiors, Annie Hall, Blue Jasmine all received 2. In total, Allen’s films have been nominated for 53 Oscars – good for a tie for 18th among directors – and won 11 of them. Personally, Allen has been nominated 24 times – 16 for writing (winning 3), 7 for directing (winning 1) and once for acting.

For Scorsese, it’s 12 male performances to 10 Female performances – a more even ratio than I expected. His breakdown is 7 Best Actor, 2 Best Actress, 6 Supporting Actor, and 7 Supporting Actress. The five wins are 2 for Actor, 1 for Actress, 1 for Supporting Actor and 1 for Supporting Actress. Scorsese has directed 3 nominated performances by Robert DeNiro (1 won), 2 by Joe Pesci (1 won) and 2 by Leonardo DiCaprio. The other 15 nominations went to different people, only nominated once for a Scorsese film. The stretch of nominees for Scorsese is 39 years – the first two coming in 1974, the final two in 2013. For Scorsese, it’s 12 different films – with Raging Bull and The Aviator both receiving 3, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Taxi Driver, The Color of Money, GoodFellas, Cape Fear and The Wolf of Wall Street all receiving 2. In Total, Martin Scorsese’s films have been nominated for 80 Oscars – 3rd most all time behind Wyler and Spielberg – and won 20. Scorsese has personally been nominated for 12 Oscars – 8 for Directing (winning once), twice each for Producing and Writing.

The only actor to be directed to an Oscar nominated performance by both Allen and Scorsese? Cate Blanchatt – who won for The Aviator back in 2004 for Scorsese, and could well win for Allen’s Blue Jasmine this year.

Now for fun, I’ll rank the 18 nominated Performances From Woody Allen Movies, with only a few short words on each. Remarkably, I rather like all 18 performances, even if I wouldn’t have nominated some of them. Winners are marked with a (W).

18. Geraldine Page, Interiors (1978) – Best Actress – Page is fine in Allen’s first “serious” movie – but damn if it’s not a thoroughly depressing performance.

17. Maureen Stapleton, Interiors (1978) – Best Supporting Actress – I like this one a little bit more than Page’s, because she takes what could have been a one note role as a “vulgarian” – and turns it into something a little bit more.

16. Jennifer Tilly, Bullets Over Broadway (1994) – Best Supporting Actress – Probably Tilly’s best film work not – at least not as a lesbian in a Wachowski neo-noir – Tilly is great fun, using her voice to good advantage, but it’s kind of a one note role.

15. Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2006) – Best Supporting Actress (W) – Great in her native Spanish as a sexual firecracker – a little one note perhaps, but it’s a hell of a note.

14. Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine (2013) – Best Supporting Actress – She more than held her own against the hurricane of Cate Blanchatt – doesn’t quite get the opportunity to do more than that though.

13. Mira Sorvino, Mighty Aphrodite (1995) – Best Supporting Actress (W) – Another strangely voiced comedic role, this is the best work Sorvino ever did – hilarious, and in that final scene rather heart felt.

12. Chazz Palmeterri, Bullets Over Broadway (1994) – Best Supporting Actor – Perfectly cast as a gangster, who reveals hidden artistic depths, and the disturbing lengths he’ll go to protect that art.

11. Dianne Wiest, Bullets Over Broadway (1994) – Best Supporting Actress (W) – Wiest has great fun in her second Oscar winning role for Allen as an aging, alcoholic diva wrapping poor John Cusack around her finger.

10. Sean Penn, Sweet and Lowdown (1999) – Best Actor – Sean Penn doing comedy is hilarious at times, but goes deeper than we first expect - he's more than a little bit of an asshole, but everyone in the movie - and the audience - cannot help but kind of love him.

9. Samantha Morton, Sweet and Lowdown (1999) – Best Supporting Actress – A silent role, as a mute, Morton delivers an hilarious performance that I love more and more each time I see it.

8. Muriel Hemingway, Manhattan (1979) – Best Supporting Actress – She plays a teenager dating a middle aged man, and hanging out with his friends – who is the only one with an excuse to be this immature – a great performance she sadly never topped.

7. Michael Caine, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) – Best Supporting Actor (W) – A weak willed, pathetic character – probably not quite what you would expect from Caine, but damn it if he wasn’t great.

6. Cate Blanchatt, Blue Jasmine (2013) – Best Actress – Taking on a role inspired by Blanche Dubois couldn’t have been easy, but Blanchatt is more than up to the task and nails it in a tour de force.

5. Woody Allen, Annie Hall (1977) – Best Actor – Allen’s only nomination as an actor – and while I don’t think it’s his best performance, it’s probably the best at combining his persona, his jokes and a little bit of dramatic skills – he’s always been underrated as an actor, and here’s proof.

4. Judy Davis, Husbands and Wives (1992) – Best Supporting Actress – Gloriously bitchy, this is Davis at her very best – if only the rumors were true and Jack Palance was supposed to call her name and not Marisa Tomei’s.

3. Dianne Wiest, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) – Best Supporting Actress (W) – Perhaps the most “Woody” out of all the female parts he has ever written – and Wiest nails it brilliantly as a mess of a character, who finally finds her soul mate – in Allen of course.

2. Martin Landau, Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) – Best Supporting Actor – A brilliantly cold performance as a man who wants to protect his reputation at all costs – even murder. He should have won for this, and let Samuel L. Jackson win in 1994 for Pulp Fiction (instead of Landau in Ed Wood).

1. Diane Keaton, Annie Hall (1977) – Best Actress (W) – Could it really be anyone else? Is there a more iconic Woody Allen character than the one he based on Keaton herself, and let her play to perfection? I don’t think so.

Now, Allen has made 45 films in his career – so obviously they didn’t nominate all the performances they probably should have. The following performances at least should have been considered.

Woody Allen himself has delivered some excellent performances in his career in particular in Manhattan (1979), Stardust Memories (1980), Husbands and Wives (1992) and Deconstructing Harry (1997) – which when you add them in with his nominated performance in Annie Hall really does away with the myth that he always plays the same character and I would have been fine with nominations for any of those. Mia Farrow (rightly) hates Allen’s guts – but she did great work with him in Broadway Danny Rose (1984), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Radio Days (1987) and Husbands and Wives (1992) – certainly one of which deserved a nomination (sadly, Farrow has never been nominated). On a completely different note, Gena Rowlands was brilliant in Another Woman (1988) – perhaps the best work of her career outside of a John Cassavetes movie. Scarlett Johansson was brilliant in Match Point (2005). They nominated Landau, but surely there was also room for Alan Alda for Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). Barbara Hershey may not be quite as good as Dianne Wiest, but her work in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) was also great. Since I’ve mentioned everyone else in the movie, why not Sydney Pollock for Husbands and Wives (1992). I could go on.

And now, of course, come the 22 Nominated Performances from Martin Scorsese movies – again, a reasonably solid list with only a few real head scratchers.

22. Mary Elizabeth Mastranonio, The Color of Money (1986) – Best Supporting Actress - A nearly forgotten performance by a nearly forgotten actress in Scorsese’s most forgettable movie. She’s fine, but I still cannot help but wonder how this happened.

21. Alan Alda, The Aviator (2004) – Best Supporting Actor – An obvious sympathy vote for aging actor the quite like, but never nominated before – I like to think it’s a makeup nomination for not nominating him for Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors. Alda is very good in the role, but it’s not a great role.

20. Paul Newman, The Color of Money (1986) – Best Actor (W) – Newman is movie star cruise control is still immensely entertaining. Still considering his career, this is the movie that won him an Oscar?

19. Diane Ladd, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) – Best Supporting Actress – Ladd adds some much needed humor into Scorsese’s one “woman’s picture” – but star Ellen Burstyn really is the whole show here

18. Robert DeNiro, Cape Fear (1991) – Best Actor – DeNiro is full psycho mode is a guilty pleasure for me every time I watch the movie. But an Oscar nominee? I’m not convinced – Nolte has another leading role, and while he’s not as flashy, he may be better.

17. Cathy Moriaty, Raging Bull (1980) – Best Supporting Actress – Moriaty does precisely what she is supposed to do in Raging Bull – smolder and exude sexuality that drives DeNiro’s LaMotta crazy. There isn’t much depth to the role however – but she plays what there is to perfection.

16. Winona Ryder, The Age of Innocence (1993) – Best Supporting Actress – I love this movie, and Ryder’s extremely subtle performance – she never lets on about how much she knows – is very good. Still, perhaps the role is a little too subtle.

15. Juliette Lewis, Cape Fear (1991) – Best Supporting Actress – Lewis is great in one of her first major roles – particularly in the film’s best scene, as DeNiro creepily tries to seduce her. I won’t argue with those who are fans – and I know there are many – but when Lewis gets the right role, she nails it. This is one of them.

14. Sharon Stone, Casino (1995) – Best Actress – Stone was a major movie star in 1995, but was rarely given a role that required much from her – but she is great in Casino, as DeNiro’s wife, who appears to be perfect at first – but has a lot of baggage she brings along with her, which sinks them all. The best performance of Stone’s career.

13. Ellen Burstyn, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) – Best Actress (W) – Burstyn handpicked Scorsese to direct this film – and it was a would choice, given that it lead to her one Oscar win (she should have won more). She is great as a newly widowed mother who decides to reinvent her life – and finds it doesn’t quite go according to plan. Not one of my favorite Scorsese movies – but a hell of a performance.

12. Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) – Best Supporting Actor – Hill is hilarious and despicable in this movie as DiCaprio’s perhaps even more depraved partner and best friend. He plays the biggest asshole imaginable to perfection.

11. Mark Wahlberg, The Departed (2006) – Best Supporting Actor – Mark Wahlberg’s role in The Departed was the only major one not in the original Hong Kong film – and he’s profane perfection in it. Some were surprised he was nominated and not Nicholson (for my money, they both should have got in) and while he’s not the best one in film (that would be DiCaprio) he is the only acting nominee – and he is great.

10. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator (2004) – Best Actor – DiCaprio probably would not have been most people’s first choice to play eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes – but that didn’t stop him from delivering an excellent performance as a man driven to succeed, and undone by his personal demons.

9. Cate Blanchatt, The Aviator (2004) – Best Supporting Actress (W) – Blanchatt nailed her Katherine Hepburn impression in this movie, and even if the movie fudges a little on how important she was to Hughes, she also delivers an emotional turn as well. Playing a Hollywood icon is tough – and she pulled it off with ease.

8. Lorraine Bracco, GoodFellas (1990) – Best Supporting Actress – Bracco’s best big screen role comes here, as the wife of Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill – a gangster she knows she shouldn’t be attracted to, but cannot help herself. Bracco doesn’t descend quite as far as Liotta does – but its close, and she’s great here.

7. Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York (2002) – Best Actor – Gangs of New York is a flawed film to be sure, but I’ve never seen one in Daniel Day-Lewis’ brilliant turn as Bill the Butcher. Does he go over the top? Sure. Would I want it any other way? No.

6. Joe Pesci, GoodFellas (1990) – Best Supporting Actor (W) – This is the Joe Pesci that will be remembered forever – a hair trigger tempered, psychotic gangster who kills at the drop of a hat, and doesn’t see his downfall coming. 100 years from now, people will still be saying “What are you saying? I’m a clown?” to each other.

5. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) – Best Actor – DiCaprio delivers an inspired comedic performance that I didn’t know he was capable of. There isn’t an ounce of vanity in his performance as he plays a clearly horrible person, but also shows how that can be charming. A brilliant performance by an actor who keeps getting better.

4. Jodie Foster, Taxi Driver (1976) – Best Supporting Actress – Jodie Foster’s role as a child prostitute in Taxi Driver is disturbing for many reasons – but the young Foster handles her every scene with ease. It remains one of the best roles of Foster’s amazing career.

3. Joe Pesci, Raging Bull (1980) – Best Supporting Actor – DeNiro won every award in sight for Raging Bull (deservingly), but Pesci is almost as good. The then newcomer holds his own against DeNiro is every scene – especially the “You fuck my wife” scene that is the heart of the movie. You rarely see better acting than that scene anywhere – by either actor.

2. Robert DeNiro, Raging Bull (1980) – Best Actor (W) – The weight gain is only part of why this performance works so well. As Roger Ebert said, Raging Bull is like a modern day Othello, with DeNiro’s Jake LaMotta as the title character, who screws everything up because of his jealously and rage. One of the greatest screen performances of all time.

1. Robert DeNiro, Taxi Driver (1976) – Best Actor – And this may just be the greatest screen performance of all time – or at least my favorite. As Travis Bickle, DeNiro delivers a performance that ranges from quiet and introspective to delusional to violent – and yet he also lets us inside the character’s head – which is a disturbing place to be. The best performance DeNiro ever gave or that was ever in a Scorsese movie.

Overlooked Performances: As with Woody Allen movies, there are a number of performances from Scorsese movies that I think warranted consideration in the Oscar race. Including Robert DeNiro in Mean Streets which was his breakthrough role in Scorsese’s breakthrough film. Robert DeNiro, Jerry Lewis &  Sandra Bernhard in The King of Comedy were all brilliant – especially DeNiro as the delusional Rupert Pupkin. Willem Dafoe in The Last Temptation of Christ is probably the most human Jesus in cinema history. Ray Liotta in GoodFellas somehow never got any respect for the performance, despite the fact he’s brilliant and in almost every scene. Daniel Day-Lewis & Michelle Pfeiffer in The Age of Innocence should have joined Winona Ryder as nominees – especially Day-Lewis (although they nominated him for a different, not quite as movie that year). Robert DeNiro & Joe Pesci in Casino were accused of simply repeating their GoodFellas roles, which is somewhat ridiculous. Leonardo DiCaprio &  Jack Nicholson in The Departed were both great – DiCaprio should have won Best Actor this year, and why they nominated him for Blood Diamond instead, I’ll never know. Leonardo DiCaprio & Michelle Williams in Shutter Island were both excellent in a film that many dismissed as a genre exercise because they couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Margot Robbie in The Wolf of Wall Street was hurt by the film’s late release, as she never garnered much buzz for her excellent work. No matter – it should still make her a star.

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