Previous Oscar Nominees Get Another Shot at Gold

Invitation to that most exclusive of groups, the Oscar winners club, must be gratifying to those who have come up short in the past.

Some have had to put a brave face before the cameras on double-digit occasions. Sound mixer Kevin O’Connell, for instance, endured 20 unsuccessful nominations before triumphing as part of the team on 2016’s “Hacksaw Ridge.” Randy Newman came up short 15 times before winning for song in 2002 (and copping the same award eight years later).
Crack cinematographer Roger Deakins won his first Oscar only last year on his 14th nomination, “Blade Runner 2049.” Now he’s up again for his work on “1917,” while serving as visual consultant on animated feature nominee “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.”

The current roster features multiple past nominees who have yet to bring home the bacon. For these perennial bridesmaids — some of whom are category front-runners — a trip to the altar on Feb. 9 could have some particular consequences, such as Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”).

With her two previous losses, she’s part of a family of Oscar bridesmaids with father Bruce (“Coming Home,” “Nebraska”) and mother Diane Ladd (“Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”). The three share a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and you have to figure mom and dad will feel more pride than jealousy should the daughter win for her sleek turn as divorce lawyer Nora Fanshaw.

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Speaking of families: Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story”) and Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”) would become the first avowed romantic partners (and parents) to win writing Oscars in the same year for different movies.

Then there’s the winningest family of all: Thomas Newman (“1917”) has now received the same number of nominations, 15, as cousin Randy amassed before entering the winners’ circle with late uncle Lionel and Thomas’ late father, Alfred. A Newman family Thanksgiving clearly features more Oscar nominees per square-foot than any other, and if Thomas triumphs he can move up from the cousins’ table.

Despite 11 noms for hits including “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” Diane Warren (“Breakthrough”) has had the bad luck to contend with past non-winners such has Phil Collins, Randy Newman and Lady Gaga, and music heavyweights Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sam Smith, among others. With Elton John and Bernie Taupin and (yes) Randy Newman on this year’s list, her winning would be a real “Breakthrough.”

A win for Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”) would reinforce the notion that extreme weight loss or weight gain — not to mention extreme thesping — can’t hurt in the hunt for Oscar gold.

Margot Robbie (“Bombshell”) has a knack for bringing out the depth and integrity in women too often dismissed (Tonya Harding; Sharon Tate). Her win would be empowering for female performers everywhere.

Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”) showed his skill with moppet thesps in his 2004 live-action nominated short “Two Cars, One Night,” “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” and now “Jojo Rabbit.” If he wins, he’ll start getting the kid-centric scripts they used to send to that Spielberg guy.

Anthony McCarten (“The Two Popes”) scripted three best picture nominees in four years: “The Theory of Everything,” “Darkest Hour” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Now he’s dealing with the Vatican. A win could show the power of prayer.
Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”) not only was seemingly in every movie this year, but made them all better. After his award, it will be Kennedy Center Honors next.

Saoirse Ronan (“Little Women”) is another actor who brings luster to everyone else’s work, prompting one to think of “Father Goose” screenwriter Peter Stone’s awards speech thanking the film’s Oscar-less star Cary Grant, “who keeps winning these things for other people.” Honoring Grant — or Ronan — would be simple justice.

Todd Phillips and Scott Silver (“Joker”) are nominated, respectively, as one of the five writers of “Borat,” and one of the four writers of “The Fighter.” If they win: so much for teamwork!

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