By Jeff Simon
Poor Bob. Redford, that is.
In defiance of all predictions, The Screen Actor's Guild didn't even nominate his solo tour-de-force in J. C. Chandor's extraordinary film "All is Lost" as one of the best performances of a crowded year. And when your fellow actors don't even give you a nomination, that may yet turn out to be a dire augury for an Oscar nomination when those are announced. That's because actors are the largest single voting bloc of the Motion Picture Academy, which nominates and gives out the Oscars.
Sure, sure, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was kind enough today to nominate Redford in a drama for "All is Lost" but if you think they were going to give any love to "All is Lost" itself or its director/writer J.C. Chandor, forget it. Both were excluded from "Golden Globe" nominations.
But then, the marketing of Redford's performance and the amazing movie that houses it has been botched from the very first. No one at Lionsgate or Roadside Attractions thought to make a push to enter their film into the Toronto Film Festival, the greatest film showcase on the North American continent. They either didn't have the money to spend it promotionally on the film or the inclination to do so. Or both.
If that was Redford's own way of declaring himself above the vulgar awards season fray, it would be entirely in character. But it would also help explain the reason why his fellow actors couldn't be bothered to give him a SAG nomination for best actor. Add to that his unusual industrial power as the founder and majordomo of the crucial Sundance Film Festival and you've got more than enough reason for actors to ignore him. Even more important, I think, though was the simple fact that actors, by training, aren't taught to recognize what Redford does in "All is Lost" as Major League ACTING (thank you, Master Thespian.)
Acting, to them, is creating a character. Dealing effectively with language, including wit. Presenting emotions. Conveying verbal music. Eliciting laughs or tears. Inventing fictional human beings in front of us.
What Redford is doing in the wordless "All is Lost" is more likely to be appreciated by film producers and directors - and especially film critics - than fellow actors. It's too much of a challenge to actors to recognize the physical virtuosity of a 77-year old man not only doing what a strenuous role required but conveying, without words, the terrors and horrors of a disciplined man trying to survive in the most hostile possible universe.
That's film acting as Lillian Gish might have understood it when D. W. Griffith put her on an ice floe. Or as Buster Keaton might have understood it as his body performed miracles while his face remained made of stone.
Would Redford, Chandor and their film have been buried in nominations if, say, master award manipulator Harvey Weinstein had been in charge? You can get your lunch money on it.
As it is, Redford's hopeless idealism and loftiness will make him and his incredible film among the season's most significant award show orphans.
Who else? The actors in SAG were happy to nominate Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and, in fact, the entire ensemble for "Lee Daniels' 'The Butler'" but the Hollywood Foreign Press Association?
Fat chance. But then they're foreign, you know.
It wouldn't be a Golden Globe nomination slate if there weren't at least one absolute howler among them. (In memory of fabled GG winner Pia Zadora, whose boyfriend threw her the right party at the right time.) Would you believe Ron Howard's "Rush" over "All is Lost" or "Lee Daniels' 'The Butler'" for Best Drama? No? Me neither.
Yes, we know that "Rush" was a significantly international film made all over the world but anyone who simply doesn't understand how absurd and even corrupt award season can be simply needs to contemplate how "Rush" did this season compared to vastly better and more powerful films in a great movie year. (Even the actors in SAG gave "Rush's" Daniel Bruhl a supporting actor nomination over Bradley Cooper who's terrific in "American Hustle," the kind of film that makes award season credible. To the SAG actors' credit, though, they did give James Gandolfini a posthumous nomination for supporting actor in "Enough Said," something the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was too foreign to do in their Golden Globe nominee slate.)
Some other significant winners and losers--
Everyone, thus far, nominated Tom Hanks for the right performance in 2013: playing "Captain Phiillips" and not Walt Disney in "Saving Mr. Banks," a film whose major nominations, rightly, encompass Emma Thompson and that's all.
Other shoo-ins were shooed-in to nomination slates: Judi Dench in "Philomena," Bruce Dern in "Nebraska," Meryl Streep in "August: Osage County," Sandra Bullock in "Gravity," Chiwitel Ejiofor in "12 Years a Slave." I'd personally have preferred that the Golden Globes gave a nod to Forest Whitaker rather than Idris Elba playing Nelson Mandela but then, they're foreign, you know. (Have I mentioned that before?)
Scorsese's "Wolf of Wall Street" - set to open Chriistmas Day - got its love from the Hollywood Foreign Press, not the actors in SAG. They were resolutely unimpressed for any of the big prizes.
And before anyone involved with "Wolf" gets too festive, the Hollywood Foreign Press was as disinclined to nominate Scorsese as Best Director as they were to nominate J. C. Chandor for that scruffy little masterpiece "All is Lost."
Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto got all the right recognition for "The Dallas Buyer's Club" - so much so that they pulled in some stray extra attention with them.
All the TV nominations have proceeded predictably so far. (The Emmys, after all, were already dispersed.) The relative lack of affection for previous darling "Homeland" is nothing if not significant this year. (See my column, coming Sunday, for my consideration of that little wrinkle in the year's TV.)
In this preliminary report on award nomination season, let's just put it this way: the astonishing plenitude of excellence in 2013 moviehouses has made for an awards season, thus far, that is more than a bit of a mess.
Even more than usual.
Me, I hope Bob has to get his tux cleaned for Oscar night but as it stands now, there's a very good chance he won't need to. He can watch the show at home in his P.J.'s, just like the rest of America.