Odds & ends about Oscar
“Like those odds” “Chicago’s” 13 noms lead this year’s Oscar field — and makes it the prohibitive favorite to win best picture. Over the past 74 years, 50 pic winners, 68%, were either the year’s sole nomination leader or shared that honor with one or more films. In 57 of the past years, 77% of the time a film that had the most nominations ended the Oscar ceremony with the most kudos (either outright or in a tie with another film).
“Baker’s dozen”: “Chicago” is the eighth film to earn a total of 13 Acad nominations, and the fourth in the past nine years. In 1939, “Gone With the Wind” was the first to achieve the feat, followed by “From Here to Eternity” in 1953. “Mary Poppins” (1964), “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966), “Forrest Gump” (1994), “Shakespeare in Love” (1998) and “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001). Two pics are tied for the most overall noms: 1950’s “All About Eve” and 1997’s “Titanic with 14 apiece.” “Titanic” and 1959’s “Ben-Hur” share the record for most Oscars won — 11.
Trifecta: “Chicago” has a shot at tying the record for the film with the most acting Oscars. Two pics — 1951’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Network” — each earned three thesp statuettes.
Lingua franca: For the first time in 26 years, two foreign-language pics have earned screenwriting noms (Spain’s “Talk to Her” and Mexico’s “Y tu mama tambien”). In 1976, it was Italy’s “Seven Beauties” and France’s “Cousin, Cousine.” The only foreign-language pics to win screenwriting Oscars are the German-lingo Swiss film “Marie-Louise” (1945) and “Divorce — Italian Style” (1962). (French short “The Red Balloon” (1956) won a writing award, but pic was dialogue free.)
Rhymin’ Simon: Songwriter Paul Simon earned his first Oscar nom this year for his song “Father and Daughter” from “The Wild Thornberrys Movie.” Simon, who surprisingly wasn’t nominated with former partner Art Garfunkel for “Mrs. Robinson” from 1967’s “The Graduate,” has said the high-profile snub was due to a failure to fill out the submission forms.
Decades apart: In 1967, composer Elmer Bernstein won his first Oscar for “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” If he should win this year for “Far From Heaven” — his 14th nom — Bernstein would hold the record among male Oscar winners for the longest gap between first and second Acad wins: 35 years. Actress Helen Hayes, though, remains the overall champion in this category: Her supporting actress win for 1970’s “Airport” came 38 years after her lead actress kudo for “The Sin of Madelon Claudet.”
Across the Rio Grande: Actress nominee Salma Hayek (“Frida”) is the third Mexican thesp to earn an Oscar bid. Anthony Quinn earned four bids, winning both his supporting acting nominations (1952’s “Viva Zapata!” and 1956’s “Lust for Life”), while Katy Jurado earned a supporting actress nom for 1954’s “Broken Lance.”
Young blood: “The Pianist” star Adrien Brody, 29, has a shot at being the youngest actor winner in Acad history. Richard Dreyfuss, who was 30 when he accepted the 1977 Oscar for “The Goodbye Girl,” holds the record.
Marvy Harvey: Miramax’s 40 nominations, including the nine “Hours” bids shared with Paramount, breaks the distrib’s previous record haul of 24 in 1998 (when it had two pic nominees — eventual winner “Shakespeare in Love” and “Life Is Beautiful”), but falls short of United Artists’ 45 bids in 1940, when the studio claimed half of the 10 picture nominees.
Melody maker: With his nom for “Catch Me if You Can,” John Williams earns his 42nd career nomination, leaving him just three shy of tying the record of late fellow composer Alfred Newman, who notched 45 in various music categories.
Waiter: “Catch Me if You Can” nominee Christopher Walken, whose last nom 24 years ago earned him a supporting actor Oscar for “The Deer Hunter,” could break the record for the longest span of time between first and second wins among male thesps. The reigning champ: Gene Hackman and his 21-year wait between “The French Connection” and “Unforgiven.”
Crazy eights: Sound mixer and editor Gary Rydstrom, seven times Oscar’d and a sound editing nominee this year for “Minority Report,” could tie the record for most Oscars among living individuals should he win. Composer Alan Menken and visual effects technician Dennis Muren currently share that honor with eight apiece.
Sweet 16?: Sound mixer Kevin O’Connell, who has yet to take home an Oscar after 15 nominations, earned his 16th bid this year for “Spider-Man.” Should he lose, he’d hold outright the dubious honor long shared by art director Roland Anderson and composer Alex North, who each notched 15 without a win, though North did receive an honorary statuette at the 1985 awards.
From beyond: Conrad L. Hall received a posthumous nomination for “Road to Perdition’s” cinematography. Should he win, Hall — who died in January — would be the second individual to win a cinematography Oscar posthumously. After his death in 1980, the late lenser Geoffrey Unsworth shared the Oscar with Ghislain Cloquet (his posthumous replacement) for Roman Polanski’s “Tess.”
Fake I.D.: Donald Kaufman, the fictional co-writer and brother of “Adaptation” scribe Charlie Kaufman, isn’t the first fake writing nominee since the end of the blacklist era: In 1984, Robert Towne had his contribution to the “Greystoke: Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes” screenplay credited to his sheepdog, P.H. Vazak.
Lucky 13: Meryl Streep’s nomination for “Adaptation,” her 13th, makes the actress the most-nominated thesp in Acad history — she surpasses 12-time nominee Katharine Hepburn, who held the record for 20 years. Hepburn, however, still holds the record for most lead actress noms — her dozen bids were in that category. Three of Streep’s nominations, including her current one, came for supporting roles.
Speedy Streep: Hepburn took 48 years between first and last nom to achieve her 12-bid record, while Streep only needed half that time to break it.
Jack’s back: Jack Nicholson’s actor nom for “About Schmidt” reps the thesp’s 12th mention, making him the male thesp with the most acting noms, ahead of Laurence Olivier (10) and Spencer Tracy and Paul Newman (nine each). Olivier and Tracy, however, hold the record for the most lead actor bids — while all of Tracy’s noms and nine of Olivier’s were for leading roles, only eight of Nicholson’s are in that category.
Perennials: Nicholson and Michael Caine (“The Quiet American”) now become only the second and third performers to receive acting nominations in five consecutive decades (the 1960s through the 2000s). Olivier, who earned at least one nom per decade from the 1930s through the 1970s, was the first.
Top dog: The list of potential Nicholson precedents is impressive: Thesp could match Hepburn’s record four acting statuettes if he wins for Schmidt — he earned laurels for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Terms of Endearment” and “As Good as It Gets.” He would also have earned his four Oscars in record time — 27 years vs. Hepburn’s 48. And he would become the first three-time actor winner (his “Terms” Oscar was in the supporting category).
Eminence grise: Newman, who turned 78 in January, however, isn’t the oldest supporting actor nominee — he trails both 1975 winner George Burns (80 at the time of his “Sunshine Boys” Oscar) and 1984 nominee Ralph Richardson, who died prior to his “Greystoke” nomination at 82. Newman is also about a year younger than 1979 supporting actor winner Melvyn Douglas (Being There), who won his first Oscar playing Newman’s father in 1963’s “Hud.”