At one point in my life, I was an actor. It was then that I began to pay attention to the Oscars. Yes, I know they are political much of the time. And yes, people get honored for some of the wrong reasons sometimes. But in the end, it is the only acting award that I really appreciate because it is an award voted on by peers. Over the years, I have compiled quite a spreadsheet with every actor and actress nominated (and have been working for some time on trying to include the directors as well.) When the nominations come out, I go through and add the names of the first timers and add the movies to those who have been nominated before. It's pretty spiffy, if you ask me...but then you didn't, did you? Well, how about some more knowledge that you could probably live without? I bet you find it interesting all the same.
Now, I have never bothered to look through and find out what year had the most first time nominations for acting. But outside of the very first year, this year has a large number - 10 to be precise, out of 20 slots. And that does not include the 3 first time directors. This is Scorsese's 5th nomination (and no wins, I am sad to say.) It is also Eastwood's 5th if you count both his acting and directing nominations, his 3rd as a director and his 2nd as an actor. He, by the way, has that one win for directing Unforgiven in 1992.
As for the actors, no actor reached the magic 5th nomination this year, but Kate Winslet did reach number 4, as did Morgan Freeman. Neither has ever won an Oscar. A travesty to be sure, especially in Freeman's case. He is among the finest working today. But for those that think that is simply too amazing to be true, let me give you a rundown on those that do have those magical five nominations, and see how many of them have at least one win, if not two...and how many of those have none. It's not so much the actual number we are looking at here - it's the name next to the number that fascinates.
Starting with the heavy hitters, let's look at those with 7 or more nominations. It's an elite club, actually. I will list the actor, the number of nominations, the years of the first and last nomination and then the number of Oscars won (and I am only counting acting nominations and wins here):
- Meryl Streep - 13 (1978-2002) - 2 wins
- Katharine Hepburn - 12 (1932-1981) - 4 wins
- Jack Nicholson - 12 (1969-2002) - 3 wins
- Bette Davis - 10 (1935-1962) - 2 wins
- Lawrence Olivier - 10 (1939-1978) - 1 win
- Paul Newman - 9 (1958-2002) - 1 win
- Spencer Tracy - 9 (1936-1967) - 2 wins
- Marlon Brando - 8 (1951-1989) - 2 wins
- Jack Lemmon - 8 (1955-1982) - 2 wins
- Al Pacino - 8 (1972-1992) - 1 win
- Geraldine Page - 8 (1953-1985) - 1 win
- Ingrid Bergman - 7 (1943-1978) - 3 wins
- Richard Burton - 7 (1952-1977) - 0 wins
- Jane Fonda - 7 (1969-1986) - 2 wins
- Greer Garson - 7 (1939-1960) - 1 win
- Dustin Hoffman - 7 (1967-1997) - 2 wins
- Peter O'toole - 7 (1962-1982) - 0 wins
Now just look at that list. It is a veritable Mt. Rushmore of acting greats. It has just about everything, from Streep's recent over-taking of Hepburn's record of 12 nominations (soon followed by Nicholson tying her) to Nicholson equaling only three other actors in winning more than two - Hepburn with 4, Bergman with 3, Walter Brennan with 3 and now Nicholson with his third. But the craziest thing is the lack of Oscars for 7 time nominees Burton and O'toole. Pacino was in that same boat in 1992 when he finally won for Scent of a Woman, which was just plain wrong since if he was going to win for anything that year it should have been Glengary Glen Ross. At least O'toole still has time (though limited.) Burton died without ever winning one, and that just seems wrong to me.
Now let's take a look at those with 5 and 6 nominations, though I won't mess with the years on these in the interest of keeping this shorter.
First those with 6:
Michael Caine (2 wins)
Robert De Niro (2 wins)
Robert Duvall (1 win)
Ellen Burstyn (1 win)
Deborah Kerr (0 wins)
Jessica Lange (2 wins)
Vanessa Redgrave (1 win)
Thelma Ritter (0 wins)
Sissy Spacek (1 win)
Maggie Smith (2 wins)
And then those with 5:
Anne Bancroft (1 win)
Glenn Close (0 wins)
Gary Cooper (2 wins)
Judi Dench (1 win)
Irene Dunne (0 wins)
Olivia De Havilland (2 wins)
Albert Finney (0 wins)
Gene Hackman (2 wins)
Tom Hanks (2 wins)
Susan Hayward (1 win)
Audrey Hepburn (1 win)
Jennifer Jones (1 win)
Arthur Kennedy (0 wins)
Shirley MacLaine (1 win)
Frederic March (2 wins)
Paul Muni (1 win)
Gregory Peck (1 win)
Susan Sarandon (1 win)
Norma Shearer (1 win)
James Stewart (1 win)
Elizabeth Taylor (2 wins)
Denzel Washington (2 wins)
Now you can see what an exclusive club even 5 or more nominations is. And look how many have zero Oscars to show for it. Thelma Ritter...Glenn Close...Albert Finney - these people never won an Oscar?? Glenn Close is the saddest of the bunch - she was nominated five times from 1982 to 1988 and never won. Wow!
I don't guess this teaches us anything other than sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Henry Fonda never got more than two nominations his whole career. Thankfully he finally won for On Golden Pond. Vivien Leigh was only nominated twice - and she won them both, for A Streetcar Named Desire and Gone with the Wind. The Oscars are a tricky and fickle award. Sometimes they love you, like Russell Crowe's three consecutive nominations from 1999 to 2001. And sometimes they don't - like our poor winless souls above. You want to think about something really crazy? Think about all the great performances that Jack Lemmon gave after 1982, the last year he was nominated. As great as he was, he could have easily surpassed Hepburn, Davis and Olivier (who were the leaders at that time in terms of nominations.) Who knows - he might have even won a third...or fourth for that matter. I know he was damn good in both JFK and Short Cuts, not to mention his own masterful performance in Glengary Glen Ross.
In the end, I firmly expect Freeman to win his Oscar. He is simply too good not to. Further, I would not be surprised to see names like Cheadle, Owen and Portman to appear many more times after these first nominations. Shoot - do you realize that this is only Depp's 2nd...only Blanchett's 2nd...only Alan Alda's 1st nomination ever?
And look at the directors - this is only the 1st nomination for both Alexander Payne (he of the great Election) and Mike Leigh (he of several great films already!) I expect to see their names come up again too. But I will tell you one thing - as much as I love Clint Eastwood as both an actor and director, if Martin Scorsese doesn't finally win his first Best Director award this year, I may have to reconsider my love for these awards. It is simply robbery that he did not win for either Raging Bull or Goodfellas. In the end, I have a feeling it is his year. Let's hope so. That is all.
EDIT on 3/4/06 - added Judi Dench to the list of five time nominees.