Can We Talk About…? is a weekly series that may also fake being gay.
So, Scarlett Johansson recently joined the elite club of actors nominated twice for an Academy Award in the same year…
Let’s just get this out of the way, and then we can move on: This year’s Oscar nominations are a putrid garbage fire and I hate them.
Jennifer Lopez was openly robbed for Hustlers, and I’m launching a police investigation into the whereabouts of her nomination for Best Actress. That Johansson was nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress (for Marriage Story and JoJo Rabbit, respectively) certainly doesn’t help the Oscars and its perennially waning relevance and problems with diversity. And don’t even get me started on Kathy Bates (whom I actually love) and her nom for Richard Jewell—which no one saw.
Between the galling lack of noms for actors of color (Lupita Nyong’o and Awkwafina were also snubbed for much-deserved Best Actress nods, for Us and The Farewell, respectively) and the Academy trying to make The Two Popes and Ford v Ferrari happen (#JusticeForKnivesOut), I’m about ready to wash my hands of the whole damn thing. Which is, of course, a lie, since I’ve been obsessed with the Academy Awards and, moreover, Academy Awards history, since I was a baby gay memorizing the winners in all major categories going back to the first ceremony in 1929. Come through, solitary childhood!
Though initially launched as a promotional gimmick, the Oscars used to embody the magic of movies and celebrate, if not the best films of the year, at least the love of the art of the motion picture. Nearly a century later, perhaps it’s time to hang up that little gold man for good, as the Academy seems to be more out of step with the times, despite its best-ish efforts to be inclusive and on the pulse. This recent crop of nominations jut proves how much of a failure those efforts have been.
But anyway, back to this illustrious double-your-pleasure-double-your-noms Oscars club. It includes Jessica Lange in 1983, Sigourney Weaver in 1989, Al Pacino in 1993, both Holly Hunter and Emma Thompson in 1994 (the year forever known as The Great Angela Bassett Robbery), Jamie Foxx in 2005, and most recently Cate Blanchett in 2008. But arguably—and if you want to argue, cash me outside—the most egregious snub and deserving win belonged to Julianne Moore in 2003.
A little background: My best friend-slash-roommate and I have a running joke in which we write a movie that’s literally just 90 minutes of Julianne Moore walking into rooms. It’s called Entering—so that the poster reads: “Julianne Moore is… Entering.” Because A.) Julianne Moore is one of the finest actresses of her or any generation. And B.) Kweens would line up around the block to watch it.
In 2003, La Moore was up for Best Actress for her spectacular turn in Far From Heaven and Best Supporting Actress for her generations-spanning performance in the previously discussed epic The Hours.
On the surface, the two roles are similar—both suffering 1950s housewives in a poetically gay masterwork. In The Hours, Moore is Laura Brown, a repressed mother and wife whose craving for real emotion, for something real, leads her to kiss her neighbor (the reliably great Toni Collette) and eventually abandon her son.
Ugh, is there anyone better at weeping on screen?
In Far From Heaven, Moore is Cathy Whitaker, the model of the midcentury American homemaker, whose seemingly perfect life begins to fall apart before her eyes when she discovers that her husband (Dennis Quaid, still would) is a deeply closeted—and therefore deeply alcoholic—homosexual.
Further complicating matters, she falls in love with a black man, Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert), but the two can never be together due to the constraints of the time, and they are ultimately forced apart. The final scene of Cathy silently bidding Raymond goodbye is one of the subtlest and most beautiful pieces of acting I’ve ever seen. It wrecks me to this day.
Also, there’s nothing I love more than an actress silently staring off into the distance for protracted periods of time. Few can make that interesting. Julianne Moore makes it riveting.
Perhaps the superficial similarities in those performances is why Moore wound up losing both awards. The Oscars love to reward a showy performance, one that announces itself, which is probably why Renée Zellweger is on the road to her second Oscar (her first for a lead performance) for her very good portrayal of Judy Garland in Judy—though it still falls just short of anything the original Garland did.
The year 2003 was also a tough one at the Academy Awards, as most years were for actresses competing for trophies in the early-’00s. Because the girls were working. The first decade of the 2000s brought some of my favorite, and some of the objectively greatest, acting performances in film—and the lion’s share of them were by women.
A sampling: Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream (2000); Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball and Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge! (2001); Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago (2002); Charlize Theron in Monster (2003); Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004); Michelle Williams in Brokeback Mountain (2005); Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada (2006); Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose (2007); Viola Davis in Doubt (2008); Mo’Nique in Precious (2009); Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone (2010); Annette Bening in anything.
And half of these ladies didn’t even win for those roles! Jules Moore didn’t snatch her Oscar until 2015’s Still Alice, which I still haven’t seen since Julianne Moore living is enough to drive me to tears, so I’ll just pass on her slowly dying for 90 minutes. So while this year’s Oscar noms are disappointing, I’m heartened by the fact that some of our best actors never won for some of their greatest performances. Think Bette Davis in All About Eve, or Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, and Julianne Moore in Far From Heaven.
ScarJo can defend her right to play a tree, or whatever she wants. But if we’re being honest, does she have the range for a tree? Having seen both Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit, I’d have to say no. But again, she was fine in both, as Scarlett Johansson is in pretty much everything. Just… fine.
She won’t win both awards, though. Most of the 12 actors who pulled off those double noms were lucky to win one, and Johansson is facing tough competition from Zellweger (the Academy loves a musical biopic)—not to mention Laura Dern, who is already having her name engraved on that Supporting Actress statuette. Which… I’m not mad at. Long live the Dernaissance!
We’ll see how this all shakes out when the Oscars limp onto television screens February 9 on ABC.