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33 Days: Flavors of Best Actress (spoilers)

February 1, 2011

Does a character have to die in order to earn an Oscar statuette? Let’s put it this way, if you’re better known for your hotness than your acting craft – Halle, Sandy, Julia – most likely your character gets to live. But the rest of you hammy thespians are gonna have to act yourselves into a pine box and go out swinging with lots of emotional outbursts and intense dead and dying scenes, which further illustrate the refinement of your craft. Now there is something of a “call girl” clause. Sometimes characters don’t have to die, but do need to have the kind of slut shaming sex that is more object lesson than business transaction. It also helps if you can combine your street walking with substance abuse, mental illness or perhaps killing. I swear I remember a time in the 70s where the Best Actress Oscar award wasn’t always given to the role with the best death or tawdry sex scene. Or maybe I’ve been watching really edited versions of Network and Annie Hall all these years.

    Best Actress Winners whose characters were sex workers/”party girls”:

    Susan Hayward, I Want to Live! (1958)
    Elizabeth Taylor, Butterfield 8 (1960) bonus: she also dies!!!
    Julie Christie, Darling (1965)
    Jane Fonda, Klute (1971)
    Charlize Theron, Monster (2003) bonus: she’s sentenced to die and is an against type role for the glamorous Theron.

    Best Actress Winners whose characters died:

    Nicole Kidman, The Hours (2003)
    Kate Winslet, The Reader (2009)
    Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry (1999) and Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Anyone wanna take a stab at what happens to Natalie’s character at the end of Black Swan?

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 1, 2011 11:37 am

    Yeah the guys don’t seem to die quite as much, though some do — Sean Penn in Milk or Nic Cage in Leaving Las Vegas (bonus for hooking up with the sex worker) or Kevin Spacey in American Beauty.

    But another thing I notice is that if you’re female, being evil doesn’t seem to help nearly as much as it does for the guys. Unless you’re Cathy Bates or Louise Fletcher.

  2. February 1, 2011 7:42 pm

    And of course the call girl (rent boy?) clause does not seem to be in effect for male actors…

  3. Emmitt permalink
    February 1, 2011 7:58 pm

    I think there’s this idea that guys getting naked on film isn’t very interesting (in a, I dunno, non-sexual sort of way or something. I don’t know what I’m saying, bear with me here) and is usually treated as a joke a la Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Now if an actress gets naked in a serious role (like a, say, Nazi tram conductor who has a relationship with a 15-year old), it’s considered a brave act.

    Being Meryl Streep or white also helps your chances in snagging an Oscar.

  4. February 1, 2011 9:14 pm

    And of course the call girl (rent boy?) clause does not seem to be in effect for male actors…

    Don’t forget the brave disabled person! I couldn’t stomach listing actors who have nabbed awards trafficking in that trope.

  5. hsofia permalink
    February 1, 2011 10:36 pm

    Weary matriarchs trying to hold it all together roles seem to do well.

  6. February 2, 2011 10:57 am

    @hsofia Good point! Sandra Bullock won last year for sort of playing a “matriarch trying to hold it all together” in The Blind Side.

  7. February 2, 2011 11:17 am

    Omg, I totally need to watch I Want to Live! again. I could use the lulz. Maybe a double feature with Imitation of Life.

  8. February 3, 2011 1:05 pm

    Oddly playing a hooker who dies didn’t help Elizabeth Shue!

  9. Jason permalink
    February 19, 2011 10:17 pm

    You missed a bunch of people who would prove the opposite. Way to cherry pick.

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