Well, now we've brought it up: what has changed? What does it take now to get the Oscar nomination compared to then? As always, the Academy seems attracted to certain types, but one has to stretch a bit to draw direct parallels between the past and present.
One type that's always been a sure thing: the Monster Momma. She's hateful, she's crass, she's the chief antagonist in her daughter's life. Kim Stanley, previously nominated in Lead for Seance on a Wet Afternoon, took the Monster Momma slot in 1982; in 2017, it's Allison Janney for I, Tonya - unlike Stanley, she's the favorite the win.
Then there's the character who's almost a second lead, the emotional core of the entire movie. The aforementioned Jessica Lange takes on this role in Tootsie, as the woman who teaches Dustin Hoffman how to be a better man as a woman, while Laurie Metcalf has the honor in Lady Bird, as the exhausted mom whose tough love and concern come from genuine worry and love.
There's the character you miss whenever she's off-screen, whether it's Teri Garr filling Tootsie with her comic brilliance or Lesley Manville deepening our understanding of Phantom Thread's world. On the other hand, there are also enjoyable characters who don't draw so much focus but are still warmly received whenever they appear, like Lesley Ann Warren in Victor/Victoria or Octavia Spencer in The Shape of Water.
Then there's the fun narrative of The Established Performer Breaking Through in Films. Glenn Close was already a respected, eight-year Broadway veteran and Tony Award nominee when she made her film debut in The World According to Garp, netting wins from LAFCA and the National Board of Review and nominations from the National Society of Film Critics, NYFCC, and the Academy. Meanwhile, Mary J. Blige, a music legend with nine Grammy Awards, is no stranger to film and television, but her previous performances have capitalized on her reputation as a singer, and hile Mudbound may include an original song by her in the credits, her work in the film hinges on delivering serious thesping. And, like Close, she's been a frequent face at precursors, with
Critics' Choice Award, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award nomination.
Lange won her first Oscar for Tootsie, and whether or not you agree with the category placement, you cannot deny it's a strong performance. But I didn't vote for it. My pick was obvious from the moment I saw it:
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP
(And as for the 2017 lineup:
Lesley Manville - *****
Laurie Metcalf - *****
Allison Janney - ****
Octavia Spencer - ****
Mary J. Blige - ***)
Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Original Score: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Gandhi, An Officer and a Gentleman, Poltergeist, Sophie's Choice.