Post-Oscar Thoughts

I was saying to a friend just before last night's Oscar telecast that I could not see both Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis winning for their performances in The Help. I won't say it was naive of folks to think that both of these fine actresses would walk away with the gold (especially in light of Streep's singular leading lady performance in The Iron Lady, the kind of picture the Academy loves ... biopics) but it was overly optimistic of fans of The Help to think it possible. It just wasn't going to happen. I would not diminish neither Spencer's nor Davis's performances by saying that while different they were still quite similar and maybe too similar for Academy voters looking to make a statement. Those folks would have prefered the spiky Minny to the more resigned Aibileen, I think. (Hollywood loves to reward roles that stand up to the man ... remember Denzel Washington Oscar win in a supporting role for his performance as the beaten but never bowed former slave in Glory?) Also, in terms of pure heft of performances, Davis's Aibileen was essentially a crucial but supporting role. The star of the film was actually Emma Stone, the narrative was told through her and it was she who defined the action. The film producers wanted to recognize Davis (as resourceful and reliable an actress as Hollywood will allow) with a nod and helped build the buzz about a possible win. They could not put both Davis and Spencer up for supporting actress -- they would have cancelled each other out. But I think putting Davis up for leading actress probably was in the end unfair to her ... in light of the weight of not just Madame Streep's performance but the other three women who OWNED and were the FACES of the pictures they were in. Davis, though important to The Help, didn't really own that film. In the end, as a nominee, Davis will be considered for membership in the Academy. They would be fools not to issue that invitation today for the mileage the motion picture industry got and will continue to get out her and The Help.


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