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Oscar Nonsense (Actors and Directors)

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Oscar Nonsense (Actors and Directors)

Postby Neel Mehta » Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:51 pm

Some Oscar trivia that borders on the meaningless, but whatever. A few observations and a few questions follow.

I was thinking about actors and directors and the Academy, specifically those situations where an actor gets multiple acting Oscar nominations by working with the same director. For example, 3 of Robert De Niro's 7 nominations have come from films directed by Martin Scorsese: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Cape Fear.

Merely saying "the De Niro/Scorsese pairing resulted in 3 acting nominations" fails to take into account the other people involved, like Paul Schrader, who wrote the screenplay for 2 of those films. Not to mention the casts and crews, and the studios that lobbied for the nominations. Still, it's an interesting way to look at Oscar history, because it doesn't happen a lot, even among the more heavily nominated actors.

So far, I haven't found an actor/director pairing that yielded more than 3 acting nominations.

Bette Davis/William Wyler: 3 (Jezebel*, The Letter, The Little Foxes)
Laurence Olivier/Laurence Olivier: 3 (Henry V, Hamlet*, Richard III)
Robert De Niro/Martin Scorsese: 3 (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull*, Cape Fear)
Jennifer Lawrence/David O. Russell: 3 (Silver Linings Playbook*, American Hustle, Joy)

And I don't think an actor/director pairing has ever resulted in more than 2 acting wins.

Walter Brennan/William Wyler: 2 (Come and Get It*, The Westerner*)
Dianne Wiest/Woody Allen: 2 (Hannah and her Sisters*, Bullets Over Broadway*)
Jack Nicholson/James L. Brooks: 2 (Terms of Endearment*, As Good as It Gets*)
Christoph Waltz/Quentin Tarantino: 2 (Inglourious Basterds*, Django Unchained*)

Then there's the curious case of Cate Blanchett, who has received 2 nominations with director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth, Elizabeth: The Golden Age) AND 2 nominations with Todd Haynes (I'm Not There, Carol). Which is impressive, until you notice that Judi Dench has a pair of acting nominations for 3 different directors: John Madden (Mrs. Brown, Shakespeare in Love*), Richard Eyre (Iris, Notes on a Scandal), and Stephen Frears (Mrs. Henderson Presents, Philomena). Can anyone else make either claim?

At this point, you must be wondering about Meryl Streep. Interestingly, her 20 acting nominations are in films by 19 different directors. So, reader participation:

a) Who is the only person credited for directing 2 of Streep's nominated performances?
b) What director, known primarily in the horror genre, also directed Streep to an acting nomination?
c) Who is the only African-American director in this group of 19?

And can you add to or improve upon any of the lists above?
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Re: Oscar Nonsense (Actors and Directors)

Postby gwynn1984 » Fri Feb 24, 2017 1:35 pm

I got the Meryl ones, but won't spoil them for anyone else.

Meryl obviously has a very interesting history with the Oscars. One of the things that's so strange about it is that she consistently gets nominated for movies that aren't Best Picture nominees. This wasn't the case early on, with her first two nominations coming in supporting roles from BP winners (The Deer Hunter and Kramer vs. Kramer). She then went on to get nominated for non-BP contenders The French Lieutenant's Woman, Sophie's Choice, and Silkwood, before getting a nomination for another BP winner (Out of Africa). Since then, though, she has gotten 14 straight acting nominations for movies that were not even BP nominees (let alone winners). That's incredible, especially in this age of 8-10 BP nominees. For context, Daniel Day-Lewis has been nominated for 5 acting Oscars, and all 5 movies he was nominated for were also nominated for BP. The closest thing to Meryl's streak I've seen in recent years used to be Denzel, who, until this year, had been nominated for 6 acting Oscars without a single one of them being a BP nominee. That changed this year on his 7th nomination, when Fences got a BP nomination (to be fair, it's very likely Fences would not have been a BP nominee in the age of 5 nominations).

I've always wondered whether both Meryl and Denzel consistently elevated less than BP-worthy material, if they tended to choose films that were more focused on their acting/characters than a complete movie, or if they just get nominated for things that nobody else would because of their reputation/talent (in other words, is the bar for nomination a little lower for them than it is for others who not only have to put in a strong performance, but do it in an "award-worthy" film?). It's probably all of those to some extent, with the reputation leading to nomination thing becoming increasingly true for Meryl.

As I re-read what I wrote (making this the second of probably 2 times this whole thing will be read :)), I thought of something else. Do Meryl and Denzel's tendency to not appear in BP nominees also speak to the Academy's (and Hollywood's) bias against female- or black-centered films? There's certainly a much higher correlation between Best Actor nominees appearing in BP nominees vs. Best Actress nominees appearing in BP nominees. This year alone, 4 of the 5 Best Actor nominees are in BP nominees, while only 1 of the 5 Best Actress nominees is. That's not atypical.

Interesting (to me at least :)).
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Re: Oscar Nonsense (Actors and Directors)

Postby Neel Mehta » Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:11 pm

gwynn1984 wrote:Interesting (to me at least :)).


This again? Okay. At least you didn't mention Geraldine Page.

Neel Mehta wrote:At this point, you must be wondering about Meryl Streep. Interestingly, her 20 acting nominations are in films by 19 different directors. So, reader participation:

a) Who is the only person credited for directing 2 of Streep's nominated performances?
b) What director, known primarily in the horror genre, also directed Streep to an acting nomination?
c) Who is the only African-American director in this group of 19?


It's been over a week so let's answer them.

a) Mike Nichols (1931-2014) directed Meryl Streep to her 5th (Silkwood) and 9th (Postcards from the Edge) nominations. By the way, he directed 17 performers to 18 nominations, with Meryl Streep the only one appearing twice. Further down the trivia hole you'll learn that he also directed Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor to their 5th nominations.

b) Wes Craven (1939-2015) directed Meryl's 12th nominated performance, in Music of the Heart. IMDb says that this was his only film outside of the horror and thriller genres, and that he agreed to direct Scream 3 only if he could direct this too.

c) Carl Franklin (born 1949) is still alive and could always team up with Meryl again if they chose. Meryl got her 11th nomination for his film One True Thing. Most of his films are in the crime and noir genres, so this is an atypical choice as well.
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