FEATURE: From Rom-Com to Oscar Gold, Part 1

23 11 2010

Before I begin, let me give credit to Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly for inspiring this post after her blog entry on Jennifer Aniston got my creative juices flowing.  It’s a great post, and it’s worth a read.

After Sandra Bullock becomes the latest comedic actress to put on a serious face and win an Oscar (in the tradition of Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon), Schwarzbaum wonders if Jennifer Aniston could ever join the list.

Since she’s taken Aniston, I figured I would take eight other actresses who have a similar track record as Bullock on the comedy side of things.  In part one of the “From Rom-Com to Oscar Gold” series, I will analyze four actresses who many people could actually envision with an Oscar in their hand.

These actresses are …
Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Garner, and Kate Hudson.

Drew Barrymore

The good: “The Wedding Singer,” “Whip It”
The bad: “50 First Dates,” “Going the Distance”
Off the beaten path: “Donnie Darko,” “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”

Barrymore first entered public consciousness nearly three decades ago when she stole hearts as the adorable 7-year-old in Steven Spielberg’s “ET: The Extra-Terrestrial.”  Since then, she’s gone through many different phases as an actress.  She had her rebellious child actor phase which led to some time in rehab – at 13.  Eager to distance herself from movies like “ET” and “Firestarter,” she took on some roles in darker thrillers like “Poison Ivy” and “Bad Girls.”

But Barrymore has reestablished herself as a household name from her work in comedies.  As a bankable marquee name, her movies (excluding “ET”) have grossed $1 billion.  Her peak was around the turn of the century, when she was kicking butt in “Charlie’s Angels” and getting a few laughs out of movies like “Never Been Kissed.”  Recently, her movies have been getting panned by critics and dismissed by viewers.  Outside of the “Charlie’s Angels” series, her highest grossing movies have been “50 First Dates,” which was marketed more around Adam Sandler, and “He’s Just Not That Into You,” which was marketed as an ensemble movie.

However, 2009 was a very good year for Barrymore.  She sat in the director’s chair for “Whip It,” a roller derby movie that was a big hit with critics.  I certainly thought it was enjoyable, and Barrymore showed a lot of promise.  She also starred in the HBO movie “Grey Gardens,” an adaptation of the 1975 documentary, as Edith Bouvier Beale.  In addition to her Emmy nomination, she won a Golden Globe and a SAG Award for this role.  Barrymore showed her more serious side, and the voters clearly liked it.  I’d say she could easily win an Oscar – or at least get nominated – given that she finds the right role that can showcase her dramatic talents while allowing her to be a little humorous.

Cameron Diaz

The good: “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “There’s Something About Mary”
The bad: “The Sweetest Thing,” “What Happens in Vegas”
Off the beaten path: “Being John Malkovich,” “Gangs of New York”

Diaz burst onto the Hollywood scene with her role in 1994’s “The Mask;” prior to this, she had no acting experience.  She explored in some indies for three years, even working with Danny Boyle, before hitting her groove in 1997’s “My Best Friend’s Wedding” as the ditzy rival to star Julia Roberts.  She earned her first of four Golden Globe nominations for the 1998 surprise hit comedy “There’s Something About Mary,” the last of the big R-rated comedies for seven years.

Diaz then took her newfound fame in two distinctly different directions.  She began taking some supporting roles in dramatic movies like “Being John Malkovich,” “Vanilla Sky,” and “Gangs of New York.” These projects earned her much acclaim and many accolades, including three Golden Globe nominations, two SAG Award nominations, yet none produced the much desired Oscar nomination.

At the same time, she began tackling mainstream garbage like “What Happens in Vegas” and “The Box.”  These thankless roles haven’t done the talented actress any favors, and aside from chick-lit adaptations like “In Her Shoes” and “My Sister’s Keeper,” it appears that Diaz is done with serious fare.  Many people have derided Diaz’s career choices and criticized her acting abilities.  While I haven’t seen “Vanilla Sky,” I don’t remember being too terribly impressed with her as a dramatic actress based on her other Golden Globe-nominated performances.  I’m not entirely convinced that Diaz has what it takes to win an Oscar, although I wouldn’t rule out a nomination given she has been within striking distance several times.

Jennifer Garner

The good: “13 Going to 30”
The bad: “Catch and Release,” “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”
Off the beaten path: “Juno”

Jennifer Garner is just coming into her own as a cinematic star; after lighting up primetime TV with “Alias,” she now has the time in her schedule to bring her talents to the silver screen.  Garner (a native Houstonian!) didn’t start taking on roles of any significance until 2003’s poorly received “Daredevil” as Elektra, a role which she reprised in the 2005 film bearing her characters name.

Then came her foray into comedy, beginning with 2004’s “13 Going on 30,” a made-over version of “Big” with undeniable charm and spunk.  While some were not too keen on the movie, I really like it and especially Garner, and I make it a point to stop and watch when I see it on TV.  She followed that up with 2006’s “Catch and Release,” which garnered (pun fully intended) a lousy 21% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Subsequent roles have included poorly received “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” “The Invention of Lying,” and “Valentine’s Day.”

There is one big, gleaming white spot on Garner’s film resumé, though.  Her supporting role in “Juno,” the 2007 Oscar-winning comedy, was simply transcendent.  It showed off Garner’s great acting prowess in a very emotional role.  She got very little formal recognition, but I think she was definitely close to an Oscar nomination.

I think Jennifer Garner also has enormous potential when it comes to the prospect of winning an Oscar.  She has won a Golden Globe and SAG Award for her work on “Alias” and received countless other nominations for the show.  Perhaps hubby Ben Affleck can provide her a showy role in his next movie that can really catapult her into the Academy’s good graces.

Kate Hudson

The good: “Almost Famous,” “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”
The bad: “Fool’s Gold,” “Bride Wars”
Off the beaten path: “Nine,” “The Killer Inside Me”

Hudson is different than the three actresses above in one crucial way: she has an Oscar nomination!  In 2000, she got robbed for her outstanding performance in “Almost Famous.”  The Golden Globes got it right though, lavishing her with their trophy when she was only 21 years old.  She’s the best part of one of my all-time favorite movies; I wrote back in August that Hudson “gives an absolutely masterful performance, and her virtuoso turn is only made more astonishing by her age.”

But since “Almost Famous,” Hudson has settled into a groove of making romantic comedies with the occasional horror (“The Skeleton Key”), musical (“Nine”), and indie (“The Killer Inside Me”).  The only legitimate nominations she has received since 2000 have been ensemble awards when she rode on the coattails of her superior co-stars in “Nine” and a coveted Razzie nomination for Worst Actress for her work in 2008’s miserable “Fool’s Gold.”

So the question has to be asked: is “Almost Famous” the once-in-a-lifetime role for Kate Hudson that never comes again?  Will she ever try to recapture the glory of that performance?  We all know she is capable of it, but until she starts seeking out big roles in a similar vein, she’ll be closer to Razzie victory to Oscar victory.

Check back this time next week for the conclusion of the “From Rom-Com to Oscar Gold” series, focusing on some lower brow actresses and their chances at an Academy Award.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: