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January 16, 2009

Supporting actors break free


Of these three actors, who's really in a supporting role -- Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt," Kate Winslet in "The Reader" or Josh Brolin in "Milk?"

The answer, of course, is Michael Sheen in "Frost/Nixon."

Just seeing if you're all awake on this Friday morning before a holiday weekend. Weren't ready for that pop quiz? Don't despair. We'll help you, with the kickoff of a new Gold Rush mini-series that will attempt to unravel some of the complicated rules and minutiae surrounding the Oscars. 

Let's call it Academy Arcana and hope we don't get sued for unauthorized use of a really famous trademark for our own selfish, wiseass purposes.

Today, we'll do a quickie study on the origin of supporting actor Oscars, which film historian, THR columnist and uber fan Robert Osborne says was created in 1936 specifically to pay homage to those who had less screen time than the title-billed actors.

84252305 In the eight Oscar races before that, everybody got tossed into the same two lead acting pots, which made it rough going for players like Franchot Tone who had to compete against Clark Gable in 1935 (they were both in "Mutiny on the Bounty" but they both went on to lose to Victor McLaglen in "The Informer").

Studio bosses, who used to control everything including what hair-dos and lifestyles their stars could adopt, used to decide which actors would race in which categories. Even though it seems like they still do -- there's about a billion dollars worth of "For Your Consideration" ads to back up that assumption -- they don't. 

Ultimately, the voters decide, as they have for decades now.

In other words, if Academy members think new double-Golden Globe winner Winslet is a lead actress for "The Reader," which of course she is, they can vote for her accordingly. But she can't get nominated twice in the same category -- ie for "Revolutionary Road" and "The Reader."

But that's another rule, and you'll have to come back for that.


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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

Picture this

  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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