A lot has changed since the 1950s when All About Eve swept the Oscars. The most important thing is that women don’t drive movies as much now as they used to and they certainly don’t drive as many Oscar movies. The only Best Actress nomination in the nine films nominated today for Best Picture is Emma Stone for La La Land. Back in 1950, when All About Eve won, there were:
Anne Baxter, All About Eve
Bette Davis, All About Eve
Gloria Swanson, Sunset Boulevard
Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday
Four Best Actress nominees for three films in the Best Picture lineup.
Back when Titanic earned its 14 nominations, two Best Actress nominees were in two Best Picture nominees — Helen Hunt in As Good as It Gets and Kate Winslet in Titanic.
In neither of these cases did the Best Actress nominee win along with the Best Picture winner. Gwyneth Paltrow came close with Shakespeare in Love the following year, which had 13 nominations.
All About Eve would win 6 Oscars, while Titanic would walk away with a whopping 11 wins.
This year, Emma Stone alone stands out as the singular Best Actress nominee after the only other woman who had a good shot, Amy Adams for Arrival, didn’t make it in. This is nothing new in the modern era. Here is how it breaks down.
Let’s go back 20 years:
So what happened in 2004? It’s not clear why there was such a dramatic shift. I can think of several forces at play at once. First – the Oscars shifted their broadcast and voting dates up by one month, from late March to late February. That meant moviegoers did not see many of the nominated films until weeks after voting was over. That took the Oscar heat out of the hands of the public and put it in the hands of the critics and bloggers. Since most of those writers are male, the choices became more male driven. That’s one explanation. The other is that the rise of fanboy culture began to gravitate towards male-driven stories at the box office, so fewer films with women in the leads were made and women had to produce their own projects in order to get in the game.
La La Land, like Titanic and like All About Eve, is female0driven. Sure, it’s a love story, and it’s half about Ryan Gosling’s character. But Emma Stone really IS the heart of the movie. She’s the movie the way Gwyneth Paltrow was the soul of Shakespeare in Love. One could argue that Titanic is Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie but it really is a joint affair, with Kate Winslet in a prominent lead. She is no fluffy side character but is a fully realized, well-drawn character, just as the women in All About Eve, one of the greatest films ever.
What you see with La La Land today, as with the other two films that earned 14 nods in Oscar history, is really that female energy being an essential part of the thing — with female voters as enthusiastic and emotionally invested as male voters about a particular film.
All About Eve and La La Land are both about acting and show biz. All About Eve is darkly cynical, exposing the nature of vanity and the hunger for fame. It may be among the darkest films ever to win Best Picture. Titanic isn’t dark but it is a tragedy. La La Land, come to that, is a tragedy too, albeit a minor one. In a musical the boy always gets the girl, except here he doesn’t. The stakes may be low, but they’re pretty low in All About Eve too.
La La Land will become the first film since Million Dollar Baby to win Best Actress and Best Picture. It will also be the only film in recent years to win Best Picture that even has a Best Actress nominee in it, never mind a winner.
It’s becoming more and more difficult to keep applauding the same movie for months on end, weeks on end. We who cover the race simply become bored with the same old, same old. But it is important to remember that this film really is unique in many ways as a Best Picture juggernaut.
A couple of things to note:
— No film has ever earned 14 nominations and not won Best Picture. Mary Poppins, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Fellowship of the Ring and the Curious Case of Benjamin Button all had 13 nominations and did not win Best Picture.
— The most nominations any films has ever received under the preferential ballot system is Gone with the Wind, which earned 13 nominations and won 8. The King’s Speech had 12 and won 4. Lincoln had 12 nominations and won 2. Gravity earned 10 and won 7.
With 14 nominations, La La Land now seems like it can’t lose. I would still be wary of the slippery preferential ballot, given that another film is going to win Best Picture at one major guild awards show because La La Land isn’t nominated for the SAG Ensemble honor. However, if Ryan Gosling AND Emma Stone can both pull off wins at the SAG Awards? That would go a long way toward compensating for the lack of an ensemble nod.
I feel like I’ve been slightly underestimating La La Land’s chances based on that. But as Kris Tapley told me last night, every year is the year where a stat will fail. One funny thing about the SAG Ensemble stat?
— The last time a film won Best Picture without getting that ensemble nomination was also the last time Mel Gibson was nominated for (and won) Best Director for Braveheart. 21 years later, here he is again.