Scarlett Johansson: Why Oscar Voters Need to Consider ‘Her’ Performance

Scarlett Johansson: Why Oscar Voters Need

It’s the 21st century, and technology and the economy have changed everything. As a result, we have discarded a lot of old notions — and it’s time to dump several others.

For example, let’s abolish the idea that an actor needs to be seen on camera in order to give a “real” performance. Scarlett Johansson creates a full character in “Her,” so she should be seriously considered for supporting actress.

The Rome Film Festival this week gave her the best actress prize. Fests are pretty unreliable as Oscar predictors, so it’s hardly an omen. But it IS a heads-up that some people are able to think outside the usual parameters. The Academy and SAG Awards have affirmed that she’s eligible; with Globe ballots going out Nov. 27, the HFPA hasn’t determined yet, but the org has often taken pride in pushing the envelope in its voting, so fingers are crossed.

For me, the two key factors in a great performance are whether anyone else could have played the role as well, and whether the character lingers after you’ve left the theater. In both categories Johansson earns perfect scores.

On the exhaustive (and exhausting) awards party circuit in the past few weeks, I’ve heard many people praise “Her” and her (i.e., Ms. Johansson). However, they speculate that “some people consider it’s only half a performance.” (I’m not kidding, I’ve heard those exact words several times.)

But look at Judi Dench in “Shakespeare in Love” or Beatrice Straight in “Network.” Each woman was onscreen for less than 10 minutes, but won Oscars. Were those only fractional performances? I consider them mega-performances because they created full, rounded characters with limited screen time.

Jean Dujardin, Jane Wyman and John Mills won Oscars for films where they didn’t talk. Anne Hathaway and Joel Grey won Oscars for singing, without speaking a line of dialog. Were those “half a performance”? Absolutely not.

There is no precedent for an Oscar nom for Johansson in the Warner Bros.-Spike Jonze film, but it’s the 21st century. It’s time to rethink things.

Some folks fear if Johansson is nominated, it would open the floodgates and the next step would be nominations for voice actors in animated films. Oh, horrors! What if Robin Williams (“Aladdin”), Ellen DeGeneres (“Finding Nemo”) or Eddie Murphy (“Shrek”) had been nominated? What if Andy Serkis had been nominated for his work in the “Lord of the Rings” movies or “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”? Somehow, civilization would have survived and some talented artists would have received their due recognition. And I doubt those kind of noms would have created a revolution in awards categories, just an expansion.

I can’t tell critics or members of voting organizations who they should vote for. But I CAN urge them to think outside the box. Johansson in “Her.” George Clooney in “Gravity” and Alfre Woodard in “12 Years a Slave.” Those two have limited screen time but they create vivid characters who are crucial to the films. They should be considered as well.

It’s the 21st century, gang! And, whether the actor’s face is seen or not, a terrific performance will endure. So why not recognize the accomplishment?

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  1. david says:

    this is a very very good article! totalty agree with you.

  2. niki says:

    i will check out this movie…

  3. Seriously, she got that award in Rome because they WANTED HER TO ATTEND. That’s it. AMPAS can get her to attend without giving her an award or a nomination. If a voice over performance can get a major award then Dan Castellaneta should have received 25 Emmys for Best Actor – Comedy.

  4. Ryan says:

    They wouldn’t nominate her when she was a favorite to be nominated so all the more her chances here are slim. The academy can’t even think outside the dramatic box — they should also really consider the best female performance period and that is melissa McCarthy in the heat

  5. FOR THIS KIND OF PERFORMANCE you need a NEW CATEGORY ADDITION. Scarlett gives a “hidden performance” which is a whole NEW ballgame.

    As for GEORGE CLOONEY, let’s just be content that those CARY GRANT genes continue to surface from time to time. MAYBE somebody else can play a Clooney character. But, just as it was with Cary, NOBODY ELSE can do HIM and that’s why HE SHINES!

  6. ronnie says:

    Not going to happen for ScarJo. The Academy would have to invoke a change and it would also have to include other Voice Over performances and other “alternative performances” as well and that is not going to happen this year. The critics will consider it, but that is only as far as it will go.

  7. Michael Anthony says:

    Love most of Clooney’s work, but his performance in “Gravity” was nothing special. I can think of a dozen actors who would have done the same. It doesn’t compare to Dench or Straight. I saw “Network” when I was 16 and never forgot her torrid performance. The same goes for Dench. You could feel the power surround the Queen. The same cannot be said for Clooney.

  8. bette says:

    George Clooney always plays himself in all his roles , since his ER days. I understand people in Hollyweird love to kiss-up to Clooney, but he is very overrated in the acting department . Hopefully , George will not be nominated for Gravity .

    To be fair , Anne Hathaway had some spoken dialogue in Les Miserables .

    Any well-regarded film actress could have portrayed Scarlett Johansson’s role in Her. Samantha Morton was originally cast to do her role, plus she is a much better actress than Scarlett .

    • Louise says:

      SJ was awarded the prize in Venice because she accepted to show up against the near certainty that she would receive the prize for best actress. She did not even participate in the press junket, which was a disappointment anyway because those Her actors who participated were practically aphasic. I think she played the role because the director knew that her voice would conjure Scarlett Johansson´s physical, seductive appearance. Very, very smart move. If a voice actor should be awarded the Oscar, then this should rather go to Emma Stone for The Croods. Oh, but Her is an artistic endeavour ….

    • stark says:

      You are saying basically any actress could have done that role, and yet Samantha Morton, who you deem the better actress was replaced. Hmmm logic, where art thou?
      Anne Hathaway having ‘some spoken dialogue’ in Les Mis is hilarious considering that film had one short spoken line every half hour and she only appeared for 15 minutes.

      • Tim says:

        Morton completed the role, and Johansson re-performed it in its entirety in post. By all accounts, Morton’s voice work doesn’t compare with Johansson. There is much disdain, earned or not, for Johansson, but let’s just this performance based upon its merits once we’ve seen it.

  9. Dean says:

    There’s a distinct difference between acting and voice acting. Voice acting, the actor is in a sound booth, recording their lines separate from the actors, therefore there isn’t any connection to the other actors. There’s only so much “her voice alone brings character” can hold on to. It’s still half a performance. The other half is the physicality. The physical emotion. That’s what hits a performance home. The ability to physically be mad,or sad, or happy, or bitter, or in love. It strikes a more powerful chord.

  10. Suzan says:

    The BBC has Audio Drama Awards

  11. Dave Andrews says:

    If anything, her performance should be given EXTRA consideration for evoking such emotion with only a voice in her toolbelt. Well done Johansson!

    • Dean says:

      So the work of Andy Serkis means squat because he’s providing mo-cap? He’s way more deserving.

      • Tim says:

        And this same hype surfaced for Serkis a few years back, as you’ll recall. I’m unsure your point. To call Johansson worthy is not to call Serkis un.

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