Whether you’re planning on a sporty bit of Oscar bingo or a drinking game sans the game, Sunday night will inevitably become a high-stakes endurance test wherein you relentlessly combat your heavily-drooping eyelids and maybe an imminent sugar crash, all in the noble pursuit of finding out which flick is branded the Academy’s favorite pick. Unlike the winning (or for that fact, nominated) films which always enjoy a nice pre- and post-Oscar boost in ticket sales, triumphant stars and starlets rarely see their Oscar gold translate to box office gold. Remember Best Supporting Actress Mercedes Ruehl? What about Best Lead Actor F. Murray Abraham? Neither do I!
But unlike these venerable superstars of yesterday, who ultimately resort to TV movies or else sulk in obscurity, today’s Academy Award winners now have babies, bloggers, and Botox to thank for their unnaturally prolonged, age-defying careers. Winners such as Adrien Brody and Nicole Kidman almost constantly find their latest projects drawing the ire of critics and repelling the masses. More than fellow Oscar champs Brody (The Village), Halle Berry (Catwoman), or Russell Crowe (A Good Year), Kidman is a Hollywood paradox, having been christened Queen of Flops. To think that if she sidestepped the circus of Tinseltown, she could replace “Flops” with “Indies” and go the way of Chloë Sevigny or Parker Posey. We could call it the Slumdog syndrome: As underdogs to The Man, we always root for the snubbed — and when they succeed, we fail to associate with them and turn to someone else more empathetic. Nicole Kidman and her A-list ilk make empathy challenging. But come Sunday, we may find ourselves hoping against all hope that crowd-pleasers like Taraji P. Henson and Kate Winslet lose despite their right to reign victorious. Not out of meanness, but just so that in ten years, they’re not banished to basic cable or the floppy fringes of Hollywood limbo.