Dear The Academy,
I enjoy a little Oscar curveball just as much as the next guy, so when what’s-his-name from The Artist beat out George Clooney and Brad Pitt for Best Actor, I was cool with it. Especially since it makes another year that Brad Pitt does not have an Oscar. (I don’t think that Brad Pitt should get any closer to an Oscar than picking up Angelina’s every time one of their 17 children knock it over, but I digress.) So thanks, I owe you one.
But then giving Meryl Streep Best Actress over Viola Davis?! That was simply too much. I think this will go down as a colossal mistake, on par with giving Crash Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain and Shakespeare in Love Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan. Now granted, with totally awesome wins from non-shoe-ins like Sean Penn in Milk, Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose, and Marcia Gay Harden in Pollock, I’ve been working on borrowed time for quite a while now. But this is how you even the score? By taking it away from Viola Davis? I just can’t believe it.
It’s like, okay, I get it, Meryl Streep’s such a great actress she gives the illusion of always winning Oscars, even though everyone seems to forget that before last night she hadn’t won one for a film since 1982. Yes, that was already her second Oscar, but a lot has happened between now and 1982; I should know, my wife was born in 1982.
But even still, taking the Oscar from Viola Davis just feels like highway robbery. Davis had already proven her mesmerizing ability as an actress in Doubt, where she held her own against an amazing cast (including an actress named Meryl something-or-other), and earned her first Oscar nomination, even though she was in the film for like 53 seconds. In The Help, she proved that her work in Doubt was no fluke, as she held the entire film together with one of the richest performances I’ve seen in a long, long time.
So how are we gonna make this right, The Academy? I don’t want to see Viola Davis fall victim to the Fonda/Newman curse of getting a long-overdue “honorary” Oscar, only to win a competitive Oscar the following year for some third-rate tearjerker or stupid remake (I’m looking at you, On Golden Pond and The Color of Money).
But perhaps you, The Academy, are merely the symptom but not the disease. We all know that Meryl Streep will get nominated again and may even win again, especially since there are about 15 dialects out there she’s yet to tackle. But Viola Davis? Part of the reason why I feel so burned by her loss is that I’m not confident she will have a role as rich and captivating as her character in The Help; there are simply not enough parts for African American women to shine as she was able to. Perhaps the problem, then, is not just with The Academy, but rather the entire motion picture industry.
Still, The Academy, we do have to make sure Viola Davis gets an Oscar soon. Your history is littered by next-year default Oscars, from Jimmy Stewart (lost for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in 1939, won for The Philadelphia Story in 1940) on down through Renee Zellweger (lost for Chicago in 2002, won for Cold Mountain in 2003, in large part because Nicole Kidman was getting her next-year default in 2002 for The Hours after losing in 2001 for Moulin Rouge!, but I digress). So hopefully Viola Davis will be given her moment to shine, perhaps even as early as next year, although I’m not counting on it.
But let the record show I would do almost anything to make sure that Viola Davis wins an Oscar as soon as possible. I’d even let Brad Pitt win one.
Hugs & Kisses,