For that matter, is Geoffrey Rush’s Oscar chances in The King’s Speech hurt by a dud movie earlier in 2010? Or Justin Timberlake’s in The Social Network by a kid’s movie that came out at Christmas? Or Nicole Kidman’s in Rabbit Hole by a comedy releasing in February? Or James Franco’s in 127 Hours by a soap opera turn during Academy Awards week? The careers of Oscar contenders have taken some strange twists and turns of late. But none more so than that of Natalie Portman, who has new movies opening in theatres in January, February, April, and May, and the marketing for them as already begun to kick in. The question is whether this constant Portman media blitz will help or hurt her Black Swan campaign?
The undisputed specialty hit of the year that has won her Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and SAG nominations also has made Portman one of the frontrunners for the Best Actress Oscar. But just as the first round of voting is going on, she seems to be everywhere, most prominently on billboards and trailers for the January 21st release of No Strings Attached, a comedy directed by Ivan Reitman that asks the question: “Can Sex Friends be Best Friends?” It is indeed a sexy kind of performance demonstrating a different side of her talents and certainly miles away from a demented ballerina.
But that’s not all. There are movie trailers running on the internet and in theatres for her April release Your Highness, another upcoming Portman comedy “from the director of Pineapple Express” in which she plays a female warrior. And yet another trailer for her May release, Thor, the Marvel comic book flick in which she stars as the famed “defender of Earth’s” supportive friend Jane Foster. Not exactly Oscar fodder.
And if that’s not enough, another movie that played the Toronto Film Festival in 2009 under the title Love and Other Impossible Pursuits now has been retitled as The Other Woman for it’s current Video on Demand run preceding a limited theatrical release in February.
It’s doubtful anyone would withhold an Oscar vote just because the girl likes to work. Unless all these films succeed in “Norbit-izing” her run for the gold. Norbit was the DreamWorks film that Eddie Murphy starred in back in early 2007, a fact that was splashed all over Los Angeles billboards just as Oscar voting was going on. Murphy was the odds-on favorite to win Best Supporting Actor for Dreamgirls, also from DreamWorks, having won the Golden Globe and SAG awards. But many thought the widely seen low-brow comedy’s images of Eddie in gross-out drag contributed to his surprise Oscar loss to Alan Arkin. The movie’s ironic tagline said, “Have you ever made a really big mistake?” — and many think he and Dreamworks did. (Others thought the real reason he lost was because of his unpopularity in Hollywood.)
It’s definitely not a Norbit but Portman’s other movies do provide a distraction at a time when some Oscar watchers I spoke with think it might be better just to have a laser-like focus on her acclaimed Black Swan turn. On the other hand, it proves she’s versatile.
As if all this weren’t enough, it was revealed last week she is pregnant with her first child. That started all kinds of internet buzz on whether this news would increase her Oscar chances further because voters could think of her more warmly since she is in the “family way”? After all, pregnancy didn’t hurt Rachel Weisz’s chances? But last time I checked, Oscar voters are more concerned about the acting performance than the personal life of star contenders — although Elizabeth Taylor often says she only won her first Best Actress statuette for Butterfield 8 because of headlines saying she was dying at the time.
Last year there was similar talk that Sandra Bullock’s Oscar chances could be torpedoed by her simultaneous Razzie nomination for the dreadful All About Steve. She smartly dealt with that problem by promising to show up in person at the Razzies if she won, and she did — exhibiting a great sense of humor and diffusing a potential land mine on the way to winning her Oscar for The Blind Side. The so-called negative Razzie attention might have even helped.
Lots of contenders this year also have less “Oscar worthy” work swirling around them. It goes with the territory of being a working actor nowadays. But just because he overacts as a drunk gunman in Relativity’s dud The Warriors Way doesn’t mean voters will penalize Geoffrey Rush who remains a frontrunner for The King’s Speech. Although it’s probably fortunate this Asian spaghetti western disappeared in an instant after its early December release.
Nor does it matter that Justin Timberlake’s name as Boo Boo is so prominently displayed in the ads for Yogi Bear just as he is campaigning feverishly for his breakthrough as a film actor in The Social Network.
Best Actress contender Nicole Kidman is enjoying the best reviews of her career for Rabbit Hole and has made every pundit’s list of likely nominees. So maybe it’s lucky her next film role is so underexposed. She in a supporting role in the Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston comedy Just Go With It. But you would never know it since her name isn’t on the posters and she’s not in the trailer. It’s probably contractual. But still smart to keep the focus strictly on her Rabbit Hole grieving mom role when this laugher opens in February right in the heart of final Oscar voting.
One potential nominee unworried about what others think of his career choices at this crucial time is 127 Hours’ James Franco who is heading for his first Best Actor nod just as he releases You Tube videos with his grandmother lobbying people to see the film. And announces his Oscar week return to the ABC soap opera General Hospital. And is even hosting the Academy Awards. If he wins, his very unorthodox way of conducting an Oscar campaign actually may have helped. Then again, who knows? We haven’t seen anyone approach it this way before.
Of course, last year there was lots of talk about Mo’Nique saying she too busy hosting her BET talk show to campaign for her Best Supporting Actress bid in Precious. Obviously it didn’t hurt her and she stayed the frontrunner throughout the awards season.
Natalie Portman doesn’t have a talk show too, does she?
Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.