Monday 18 November 2019

James Dempsey: Age may triumph over youth as Jennifer Lawrence bids for Oscar glory

Jennifer Lawrence, left, and Bradley Cooper in
Jennifer Lawrence, left, and Bradley Cooper in "Silver Linings Playbook."

In a year that has stirred the now expected controversy, with omissions and inclusions that have turned heads, there’s some certainty heading into this Sunday’s 85th Academy Awards’ ceremony – Daniel Day Lewis, Anne Hathaway and Argo.

But if you’ve grown tired of watching Steve from accounts win the sweepstakes for the last three years, it’s the closer-run categories that may offer you the chance to sweep to victory. Wreck his winning streak with Ralph, Disney’s best shot at Animated Feature. Show Amour some love in the Best Foreign Feature, while Searching for Sugar Man will keep things sweet in the documentary stakes.

Of course it’s the categories that are harder to call that make for more interesting viewing, and trickier speculation. None this year is closer than Best Actress, with the four women and one girl vying to take home the statuette.

The frontrunner, arguably still, is Jennifer Lawrence of Silver Linings Playbook, whose star is very much on the rise. After her breakthrough role led to her first Oscar nomination two years ago, the actress has quickly climbed the ladder to A-list, by way of a prolific mix of beauty, talent, charm and, above all, good choices.

Of the five, J-Law has been the most visible, affably sending herself up in talk-show interviews that play up to her quick wit, sass and warmth. In the battle for starlet supremacy, Lawrence has enthralled Hollywood, and in many ways she is everything that Kristen Stewart isn’t – likeable.

Lawrence has won the big lead-up awards, and her acceptance speeches have been filled with snap crackling pop culture references that have won her over a swathe of fans across the Internet. Memes and GIFs of the actress have made her a bankable asset for the ageing Academy, whose telecasts over the last decade have seen dwindling numbers from younger viewers. Add to that being taken under the wing of super producer Harvey Weinstein, following his patented Golden Statue Playbook, and a victory on Sunday is highly likely.

While youth is on Jennifer Lawrence’s side, however, it may also run against her. The median age of an Oscar-voter is 62, and not every voter has taken to her ballsy charm. The Hollywood Reporter, a trade publication, published two days ago an interview with an anonymous director, in which he explained who he was voting for, and why. Describing Lawrence’s opening monologue on Saturday Night Live, in which she poked fun at her fellow nominees, as “mean-spirited” and lacking in maturity, the director has gone another way.

And if maturity is what he was after, no better nominee than Emmanuelle Riva, the French Nouvelle Vague actress, who turns 86 on Sunday, and would be the oldest winner ever in an acting category.

She has come from relative obscurity to challenge Lawrence’s certainty, in a role as a Parisian piano teacher suffering from a stroke in Haneke’s Amour. Despite claiming the BAFTA and Best Actress award at Cannes, Riva wasn’t nominated by either the Screen Actors’ Guild or the HFPS at this year’s Golden Globes, and it has been 13 years since an actor who had not claimed a SAG award managed to grab a prize on Oscar night.

But the buzz has shifted, with GoldDerby, a website dedicated to tracking the outcome in awards’ season, saying that it has seen a movement away from Lawrence to Riva in the past few days. Add to that the fact that this is probably her only shot at the prize, and the fact that Lawrence is considered to be an actress with years of nominations ahead of her. This may be her moment to shine, but this is Riva’s only one.

It’s hard to call, to the point that it would be a major upset one of the other candidates won. Or you could always see what the odds are for a repeat of 1969, in Barbra Streisand and Katherine Hepburn tied and shared the award.

That would really rub it in Steve’s face.


Don’t miss James Dempsey’s live Oscars blog on on Sunday night and into the early hours.


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