This edition of “Oscar Moment” concerns one of the favorites since last year’s Oscars finished. People have huge expectations for “Nine,” and if it fails to live up to them, the repercussions could be disastrous. It has every reason to succeed, though, based on a pedigree so impressive that it could be never be matched again. It has been a favorite in the Oscar race ever since it was announced; however, at the time of this posting, it remains a wild card in the race because no one has seen the full film yet.
Christmas Day always brings some of the year’s most spectacular movies. Possibly the best of this year’s offerings is the musical “Nine.” If it is anything less than spectacular, it will be a disappointment. It is directed by Rob Marshall, the Oscar-nominated director of Best Picture winner “Chicago.” The star of the movie is two-time Academy Award-winner Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido, a film director tormented by the women in his life. And these are not just ordinary women. They are played by Oscar winners Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, nominee Kate Hudson, and the illustrious Fergie. The musical which provides the basis of the film won 5 Tony Awards including Best Musical. The musical is based on the life of beloved and renowned director Frederico Fellini. Are you impressed yet? ”Nine” had me at Rob Marshall. (NOTE: Recognize this? It was in my November preview post, but Harvey Weinstein decided to push the movie’s release back to December. It’s not plagiarism if you quote yourself, right?)
Let’s talk the ladies of “Nine.” Because barring an absolute flop of the movie, Daniel Day-Lewis is assured a nomination just by virtue of being Daniel Day-Lewis. The Academy loves him, and because he makes so few movies, they make it a point to reward him when he does. Five of the women seem to have a legitimate shot at Oscar gold (Fergie and Kate Hudson have only minor parts), but as I discussed with “Up in the Air” earlier, this is great for moviegoers and bad for actresses. The three scenarios I outlined there (one gets nominated, both get nominated, neither gets nominated) work when dealing with two actresses; “Nine” could have up to five campaigning for supporting actress. Thus, we must deal with “Nine” in a completely different way.
Word on the street (and by street, I mean blogs) is that Marion Cotillard, who plays Guido’s wife, has enough screen time that she can be put in the leading actress category. The filmmakers showed enough confidence in Cotillard that they turned a new number written for three women into a solo for her. My guess is that this is where the ad money will push her. Harvey Weinstein knows how to work the system, and he wants the most nominations he can get. Voters might be hesitant to put three “Nine” ladies in one category, but he knows they would probably be willing to vote one for lead and two for supporting.
So if Cotillard goes lead, who will be the nominee(s) for Best Supporting Actress? Despite all the talent, history tells us that “Nine” will probably be limited to two nominees in the category. Only “Tom Jones” in 1963 managed to sneak in three women; that movie won 4 Oscars including Best Picture. More notable though is that it did not collect the statue for Best Supporting Actress. The loss is due to a familiar phenomenon: vote splitting. It is how “Dreamgirls” and “Enchanted” managed to lose Best Original Song. Voters want to reward the movie, but they can’t rally behind a single nominee and someone else wins. But luckily for “Nine,” Harvey Weinstein has played this game many times. My guess is that he will start campaigning all the actresses evenly, but as more reviews come in and people see the movie, he will push the clear favorite.
At this time, the favorite is unknown. But based on the Broadway productions of the musical, an educated guess can be formed. In the original Broadway production, the Tony Award winner for Best Featured Actress was Liliane Montevecchi for her portrayal of Lilliane, Guido’s producer. In the movie, Liliane will be played by Judi Dench, who won this category back in 1998 for playing Queen Elizabeth for all of six minutes in “Shakespeare in Love.” Dench also has 5 other nominations, only one of which came from the supporting category. However, the research I have done seems to suggest that Lilliane is not a very flashy role. She does not have a solo song, and even if she is an integral part of other numbers, that seems to suggests that she is more of a subtle presence than a central part of the plot. (This is my interpretation from three years of musical theater experience.)
On the other hand, Penelope Cruz has the fiery role of Carla, Guido’s mistress. This role won Jane Krakowski (“30 Rock”) a Tony Award for the revival of “Nine” in 2003. Contrastingly to Lilliane, Carla has an absolute show-stopping number: “A Call to the Vatican.” All the pictures of Cruz doing acrobatics in skimpy clothing are from this number. I have been listening to it for months, and I am really excited to see what she can do with it. Carla is more directly involved with the main storyline, really closer to a lead than a true supporting actress like Lilliane. I think Cruz is the most likely nominee from the bunch for this reason, although voters might be hesitant to give her the prize because she won it last year.
The remaining prospects left to touch on are Sophia Loren, who plays Guido’s mother, and Nicole Kidman, who plays Claudia, the star of Guido’s new movie. Guido’s mother barely appears in the plot summary anywhere, so I can only see a nomination plausible for Loren if the Academy falls head over heels for “Nine” and nominates Loren for nostalgic purposes. Although I will say, Guido’s mother sings the titular track “Nine,” and it is the sweet thing that melts voters. Claudia, on the other hand, has several beautiful numbers with Guido. Nicole Kidman has shown her capability with handling musicals – in fact, it’s how she got her first Academy Award nomination. But as for being an audience or critical favorite, Claudia has seem to have fallen short on Broadway. The role was only nominated for one major award, the slightly less prestigious Drama Desk, during its two runs on the Great White Way. I am most excited to see how this story plays out; that is, if audiences treasure Kidman especially or if she plays second fiddle to the other actresses like on stage.
As I now look back and see how much I have written, it just gets me more and more excited for Oscar season to really kick off! Can we get the countdown started until Christmas please?
BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director (Rob Marshall), Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Penelope Cruz/Judi Dench), Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Song
OTHER POTENTIAL NOMINATIONS: Best Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman/Sophia Loren), Best Adapted Screenplay
P.S. – Check out this amazing new trailer, showing the transformation of “Nine” from rehearsal to production.