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Friday, January 18, 2013

Who's afraid of the Oscar Curse?

Folks in the entertainment industry are rumored to be a superstitious lot and that notion is somewhat supported by the lore of an "Oscar curse" that befalls either viable nominees or winners in the acting categories.

How much credence you want to give to these Hollywood harbingers of doom is up to you but there is a bit of considerable evidence behind a few of the more persistent movie awards myths.

Let's examine a few of them and see how well these Hollywood hexes truly mark the spot:

THE ROTTEN RELEASE JINX: This is a fairly recent one,started by the surprising loss of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls. His role as the charismatic singer James "Early" Thunder impressed both critics and audiences alike and his win appeared to be a sure thing.

However,a few weeks before the awards,Norbit hit the theaters and while the insulting comedy made a decent profit,it also earned the scorn of those critics who had been singing Murphy's praises months ago. It's doubtful that many of the Academy voters even saw Norbit(which ironically received a Best Make-up nomination a year later)but the timing of it's release did seem to be a true stroke of bad luck:

That then began the notion that the release of a bad movie just before the Oscar could sink the chances of someone looking to win big. Anne Hathaway's dramatic turn in Rachel Getting Married,for example, was thought to be a shoo-in for her to get Best Actress yet she happened to lose that golden boy not long after the release of Bride Wars.

The alleged comedy that reduced two gal pals into big league bridezillas was so reviled that film critic Mark Kermode declared that if it did not make his Worst of the Year list,he would retire(the man's still in business there).

Fortunately for Hathaway,there are no other dreadful romcoms with her name on them recently to sink her chances this time around. She's a definitive lock for Best Supporting Actress(which has hazards of it's own)and as long as she resists the urge to team up with Kate Hudson again,her future for award winning roles looks bright:

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS SLUMP: The list of ladies whose careers have gone in a tailspin after winning this award is quite lengthy,with the likes of Mercedes Ruehl,Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker,to name a few.

The main standard bearer for this jinx has been Marisa Tomei,whose unexpected win for My Cousin Vinny was long rumored to be a mistake(that allegation has since been shot down). Nevertheless,the string of lackluster films,such as The Paper,Untamed Heart and Only You, that she made afterwards further perpetuated that belief.

Eventually,Tomei made a comeback and even earned another Oscar nomination for The Wrestler in '09. Granted,she didn't win but she did prove that supporting actress slump is not a permanent condition:

The heiress to Tomei's dubious throne for some time since has been Mira Sorvino,who received her trophy for Mighty Aphrodite in 1995. Despite the cult success of her co-starring role in Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion,Sorvino has so far stayed in slump mode.

Her most recent onscreen appearance was on the small screen,in a made for TV flick called Finding Mrs. Claus(yes,it was a Christmas movie). Hopefully,Sorvino can find the right part that will bring her talents to new heights rather than the lows she found in films like Mimic and The Replacement Killers:

FAILED FOLLOW-UP SYNDROME: Separate from the Best Supporting Actress Slump is the curse that strikes down both actors and actresses who achieve wins at the Oscar stage but grievous body blows at the box office from there on out.

Talents such as Halle Berry,Cuba Gooding Jr. and F. Murray Abraham have suffered from this movie malaise and still do. Keven Spacey's decline in this jinxed category is particularly interesting,since he became a mainstream marvel playing likable yet devious characters in films like The Usual Suspects,L.A. Confidential and the one he won the Oscar for,American Beauty.

Since then,he's appeared in sympathetic sap fests like Pay It Forward and K Pax or
beleaguered melodramas such as The Life of David Gale. Spacey has tried to make a comeback(as well as done some directing) but even his turn as Lex Luthor in Superman Returns wasn't wicked enough to win moviegoers back into his corner. Nothing wrong with an actor stretching their wings there but in this case,he would've done better to stay a bad boy:

Another recent notable name in these ranks,Gwyneth Paltrow was considered to be on her way to bigger and better things when she picked up the Best Actress Oscar for Shakespeare in Love.

However,the film roles she took up since then have been a mix of lowbrow humor(Shallow Hal,View From the Top)and over labored dramas such as Possession and Country Strong. She has made strides towards regaining her past glory with her reoccurring role in the Iron Man movies and guest appearances on Glee yet it'll be some time before Paltrow can be taken seriously in a serious role there:

It's too soon to tell if any Oscar curses are in full effect this year but actors and actresses should take comfort in knowing that they can be broken. After all,if Sandra Bullock can take home an Oscar and a Razzie with the same stellar aplomb and good natured grace,anything is possible under the Hollywood sun and on the red carpet:

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