Oscar Moment: “Frankie & Alice”

23 11 2010

How important is it for the diversity of Hollywood actors to be represented at the Oscars?  That’s a question many voters will be facing this year when they fill out their ballots.  Many pundits have put all the hopes of breaking up what appears to be 20 white acting nominees on the backs of 2001’s winner for Best Actress, Halle Berry.

Her latest movie, “Frankie & Alice,” made a last-second entry into the Oscar race not too much unlike “Crazy Heart” did last year.  But unlike Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning vehicle, Berry’s contention in Best Actress has hardly shaken anything up.  Of the 15 awards season analysts labeled the “Gurus o’ Gold,” not a single one of them included Berry in their five picks for Best Actress.  Ouch.

Perhaps it’s just the circumstances that make Berry feel like such a great contender.  As The Los Angeles Times put it, “for the first time since the 73rd Oscars 10 years ago, there will be no black nominees in any of the acting categories in the February ceremony.”  Who better than to prove that statement made in September wrong than Halle Berry, the first African-American actress to win Best Actress.  But ever since that tearful speech, things haven’t been going to well for Berry as she fell into the “Best Actress Curse” rut that has consumed so many worthy actresses.

Since 2001, Berry has been a Bond girl in “Die Another Day,” the movie so dreadful it caused the series to reboot, the notorious feline in “Catwoman,” which won her a not-so-coveted Razzie, and the star of two other movies scoring in the 10% fresh range on Rotten Tomatoes.  Her only movie to be certified fresh since “Monster’s Ball” won her the trophy was “X-Men 2.”  Clearly Berry has strayed far away from Oscar territory (and her 2007 attempt, “Things We Lost in the Fire,” got her nowhere).

This could work in two ways.  First, like the prodigal son, they could be willing to welcome her back with open arms.  Or, the alternative is that they could shun her for disgracing her title as “Academy Award Winner Halle Berry.”  The movies she has been taking don’t exactly merit the descriptor.

A woman in the 1970s with multiple personality syndrome is more traditional bait for the Oscars, and people losing their minds traditionally go over well with the Academy (see: Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married,” Julie Christie in “Away from Her,” and Judi Dench in “Iris”).  But until she gets some big critical support, I don’t see this campaign going anywhere.

She does have one admirer, though.  Here’s pundit Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly last week on Berry in “Frankie & Alice:”

“The former Best Actress winner for ‘Monster’s Ball’ gives another strong, gutsy performance as a stripper with multiple-personality disorder (her other two personas are a racist white woman and, most arrestingly, a small child). Whether or not the film will be well-received enough for Berry to be able to challenge … Annette Bening and … Natalie Portman remains to be seen. But I’d certainly put her on the list of eight women … that have the best shot at filling out the five Best Actress slots this year.”

Perhaps there is hope.




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