I didn’t think I would see Kate Winslet top her performance in Revolutionary Road this year. The Reader comes close to, if not equaling, her work in the Sam Mendes film. There is no doubt that this is Kate Winslet’s year. How the voters will side, or decide, is one of the surprises yet to come. Will Winslet cancel herself out?¬† More importantly, does anyone else deserve it more?
The Reader is, as Ryan has said, one of the great laments of 2008. There wasn’t enough time to rally this film properly; it wasn’t done in time and was rushed out of the gate, but people liked it anyway. The backstory upstaged it until people starting seeing it. The critics were chilly, as expected, but when Weinstein pushes a film, it is almost critic-proof (or has been in the past). After viewing The Reader, I see it as critic-proof because its riches are far more prevelant than any criticism lodged against it. I only wish I had gotten to see it before the ballots were closed. I didn’t get a screener until Ryan arranged it to be sent to me just this past week and that means I couldn’t write about it.
As you can all see from Revolutionary Road, loving a film doesn’t mean it gets play. The Reader, though, I think, had the stuff to go all the way. Revolutionary Road had the bad luck of being released at the wrong time; in the post-Obama era there really isn’t a lot of room for middle class angst, not now anyway. As good as it is, it didn’t resonate with voters (or maybe they never felt compelled to watch it in the first place).
The Reader, though, is about so many things. It isn’t just about the Holocaust, although that part of the story is most certainly Academy-friendly. It is also about the mysteries of sexual awakening, how we get trapped in a groove we sometimes can’t find our way out of. It is about blame, forgiveness, and illiteracy. Or more to the point, evil grows where education has fled.
Winslet’s Hanna Schmitz is an Oscar-worthy performance, there is no question about it. So is Revolutionary Road. Both are, I think, lead performances. An argument could be made that The Reader could be supporting but I think the title refers not to Michael Berg but to Hanna Schmitz; she is the one who is the true reader in the story.
The Globes nominated The Reader and Winslet won for both. The Critics Choice gave Winslet the supporting win. We will find out next weekend what the SAG will do. Can anyone beat Kate, though? I don’t think anyone can beat her in the supporting category for The Reader, if that’s where she ends up.
If the Academy puts her in the leading category for both films, she will run the danger of losing for both. That is why no one seems to mind that she is split into two categories. I believe the rules state you can’t be nominated in the same category twice for acting.
So now the discussion becomes who can beat her for Revolutionary Road? It seems as though there are two possibilities – Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. Of those two, Streep’s is the more accomplished work. But Hathaway is the up-and-comer, with the advantage of being the put-upon woman of the season (like Reese Witherspoon before her). Hathaway’s speech at the Critics Choice was divisive; some thought she was funny but others thought it rambled on way too long and that she left Viola Davis (Meryl’s stand-in) at the podium too long. Hathaway is surprising as Kym in the film, and it is a very, very good performance. To me, though, it is one that gets you an Oscar nomination; not one that gets you the win.
However, the Academy has a history of giving these types of performances the win – like Reese Witherspoon. Hathaway is a comedic actress, a box office draw and now has proven she is a formidable actress (or actor, whatever) in the making. Kate Winslet, by contrast, has done far more than prove herself a formidable actress; she has turned in one flawless performance after another and yet has watched everyone else win.
Winning an Oscar, as it turns out, is sometimes more about the story than it is about the performance, which is why working the publicity line can sometimes result in a win where it ordinarily wouldn’t. Marion Cotillard is a great example of this and it just so happened she deserved it. Julie Christie kept winning because people knew her. Cotillard made sure that, by the time final ballots arrived, the Academy knew her too. She was everywhere, at every awards show looking absolutely gorgeous and giving interviews left and right. She did anything but sit around and wait for them to recognize her work.
To that end, Kate Winslet has been saying, more than once, that she’d actually like to win an Oscar instead of sitting on the sidelines this time. She’s probably been asked the same question many times but instead of saying, “I’m just happy to be recognized at all,” she’s saying, “I’d really like to win.”
She’s gotten blonder, prettier and more naked as the season has revealed itself too and when she shows up at an awards show these days, she kills. This is how it’s done, folks. Kate is in it to win and she deserves to win. It’s a dirty race, and it always has been. As Jack Nicholson said in Terms of Endearment, “everybody uses everything they have.”