Can Daniel Day-Lewis Break The Spielberg Acting Awards Oscar Losing Streak For ‘Lincoln?’

Can Daniel Day-Lewis Break The Spielberg Acting Awards Oscar Losing Streak For 'Lincoln?'

With festival season getting underway in only a few short days, we’re about to see which actors will gain traction for the awards season ahead of us. But there’s at least one major performance that we won’t know about for a few months yet (or until we see a trailer), and it’s one that’s probably been the presumptive front-runner ever since the film was announced: Daniel Day-Lewis in Steven Spielberg‘s “Lincoln,” the director’s biopic of Civil War-winning President Abraham Lincoln, focusing on the last few months of his life before his assassination at the hands of John Wilkes Booth.

After all, it’s one of the most lauded actors of modern times, who last won in 2007 for “There Will Be Blood,” in the kind of transformative historical figure role that always pays dividends with Academy voters, and working for the first time with America’s most beloved filmmaker, a two-time Best Director winner. Once Day-Lewis came on board, many assumed that they might as well start carving his name on the statue. But will that really be the case? Looking at history a little more closely, it becomes clear not only that Spielberg’s not necessarily the Oscar favorite that he’s made out to be, but also that a win for Day-Lewis would be unprecedented on a number of levels. So before people decide that it’s already sewn up based on a poster that debuted this week, let’s look at the stats. It’s certainly true that Spielberg’s films have been frequent visitors to the Academy. Twelve of his movies have been nominated for four or more awards, and three got more than ten.

But when he picked up Best Director for the second time, for “Saving Private Ryan,” the film lost Best Picture to “Shakespeare In Love.” And perhaps even more importantly, no Spielberg film has won an Oscar since. “Munich” got five nominations, including Best Picture, Director and Screenplay, and “War Horse” got six, including Picture (but not director). But it’s fifteen years since a film by the director actually picked up an Oscar. And perhaps more importantly, no actor or actress has ever won an Oscar for a performance in a Spielberg film.

There have been plenty of nominations: Melinda Dillon for “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind“; Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey for “The Color Purple“; Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes for “Schindler’s List“; Anthony Hopkins for “Amistad“; Tom Hanks for “Saving Private Ryan” and Christopher Walken for “Catch Me If You Can.” But none actually converted it for a win, and maybe it’s because there were more deserving winners, or maybe it’s because Academy voters have never quite shaken the view that Spielberg is a master technician first and foremost. But it’s a fairly bleak precedent for Day-Lewis, as well as Sally Field, David Strathairn and Tommy Lee Jones, who are said to be the supporting players to keep an eye on, as Mary Todd Lincoln, William Seward and Thaddeus Grant respectively.

Furthermore, Day-Lewis also has another disadvantage. If he wins, he’d be the first performer in history to win three Best Actor Academy Awards. Jack Nicholson has two, plus a Best Supporting Actor prize for “Terms Of Endearment,” and Walter Brennan has three Supporting Actor wins, for “Come And Get It,” “Kentucky” and “The Westerner.” If he wins for “Lincoln,” he’d be essentially anointed as the greatest actor in Hollywood history. And given that it’s only five years since his last victory (for a performance that would be the peak of most actors’ careers), it may be that the Academy won’t quite be ready to make that step, especially in a year that looks like it won’t be lacking in strong competition — Joaquin Phoenix, John Hawkes, Bill Murray, Hugh Jackman, Clint Eastwood and Denzel Washington all have serious potential, at least this far out.

None of this is to say that the film, and central performance won’t be a major player. It’s a match of source material, director and performer that happens once in a blue moon, and should be firmly in the Academy’s wheelhouse, even if the movie disappoints — certainly, when Spielberg has taken on subject matter like this, he’s been rewarded in a big way. But if one is to look at the record books, it may have a trickier awards season fight on its hands than many have anticipated. We’ll find out when the film opens on November 9th. But what do you think. Does DDL have the juice to take it all the way?

Let us know below and check out this week’s Best Picture Chart on page two.

The Best Picture Chart
(last time’s positions in brackets)

1. “Les Miserables” (2)
Even as it continues to be under the radar (and we can’t imagine we’ll see a full trailer before October, when Universal will open another musical movie, “Pitch Perfect”), given the pedigree, the material and the cast, this seems like a perfect storm. That said, we saw the trailer on the big screen recently, and Hooper’s style looks more distracting than in “The King’s Speech.”
2. “Lincoln” (1)
See above. Plus, we’d long since seen a “War Horse” trailer by this time last year, a movie that opened six weeks later than “Lincoln” is in 2012. Is this a sign that Disney/DreamWorks aren’t quite sure how to sell this one? A poster did at least appear this week, so let’s see if it’s followed by a trailer.
3. “Argo” (3)
We’re continuing to hear very strong buzz about this one. Warner’s decision to offer Ben Affleck “Justice League” seemed to demonstrate how confident they are in the film, and Affleck’s decision to turn it down shows that he’s serious about this whole filmmaking lark. Does it have a real chance at winning, though?
4. “Life Of Pi” (6)
Ang Lee’s film is opening the New York Film Festival, the same slot that “Good Night, And Good Luck,” “The Queen” and “The Social Network” all had in recent years, which bodes very well. Then again, that slot didn’t much help “Carnage” last year, so don’t assume that it’s a home run just yet.
5. “The Master” (4)
The confirmation of the TIFF premiere make it clear that this is Harvey’s great hope for the year. “There Will Be Blood” marked an awards breakthrough for Anderson, but let’s not forget that beyond scattered acting and screenplay nods, his earlier films weren’t necessarily Academy favorites, and this is apparently his most difficult yet.  
6. “Beasts Of The Southern Wild” (5)
Still one of the best-reviewed films of the year, but it’s also something of an underdog (young first-time director, unknown cast) in a year full of serious behemoths. Will it end up looking like a minnow against the previously-lauded likes of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hooper, Ang Lee and Kathryn Bigelow?
7. “The Impossible” (10)
On the one hand, this has pretty much the undivided attention of Lionsgate/Summit, while most studios have multiple films competing for campaign time. That said, while the companies have Best Picture winners in the recent past (“Crash,” “Hurt Locker”), they’ve gone a few years without a nominee. But a trailer aimed expertly at awards audiences made it look like a real player, and one early review certainly seems to suggest it’s got the goods.
8. “The Promised Land” (11)
With an official release date, going limited on December 28th, followed by a wider bow in January, this is definitely going to be a player, although it’ll be a while before we find out if it will dliever. The source material sounds like it’s right in the Oscar wheelhouse (word is Hal Holbrook in particular is one to watch, performance wise), but Gus Van Sant can be inconsistent with this sort of thing. And will hitting the season so late help or hinder it? The last Best Picture winner to follow a similar release pattern was “Million Dollar Baby” eight years ago, and it may be finished too late for many critics’ awards or even Top 10 lists.
9. “Hyde Park On Hudson” (13)
We saw the trailer again recently, and it reminded us that the film looks like the kind of thing that the Academy eats up. It will be carried on the back of Bill Murray and his performance, but the star can be reclusive and secretive with the press. He’s probably assured an acting nomination, but he might have to step up and campaign if the film is to follow with him.
10. “Moonrise Kingdom” (9)
Hitting DVD in October, gives it a perfectly-timed second wind just as festival season winds down. We can see this making it onto a lot of ballots, but how many crucial first-place votes will it get?
11. “Zero Dark Thirty” (7)
One of the more divisive films right now for prognosticators, our gut says this could be a big player, but will what seems to be a journalistic, ensemble approach without a clear lead, hurt it? Are there any acting nominations up for grabs in the film? And will controversy about the research process be a problem?
12. “Flight” (15)
A premiere on the closing night of the New York Film Festival certainly shows that Paramount have Oscar in mind for this, and given that “The Descendants” had the same slot last year, it might well pay off. Then again, Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” had it the year before, plus Zemeckis isn’t an Academy golden goose. “Forrest Gump” aside, his other films haven’t cracked the Best Picture line-up, even something like his last live-action film “Cast Away.”
13. “The Sessions” (8)
The more we think about it, the more this might be a performance-only affair, and the multiple title changes show Fox Searchlight’s nervousness about it. But it could start building buzz again by popping up at Telluride, and hopefully carrying its Sundance buzz through to Toronto.
14. “Anna Karenina” (18)
We know it’s screened. We hear it’s going to be very divisive. Reviews will start appearing just before TIFF, as the film opens in the UK on September 7th. Let’s see how that turns out…
15. “Cloud Atlas” (13)
Some test screening reports got some exposure recently, some suggesting the film simply isn’t Academy material. There’s a slight sense that Warners aren’t quite sure what to do with it, but the presence of Academy favorites like Tom Hanks and Jim Broadbent can only help it if the film works.
16. “The Silver Linings Playbook” (14)
We spoke to someone who’d seen the film, and they suggested it was interesting enough, but likely too brash and vulgar to figure into the awards season. Describing it “like all the loud, noisy [family arguments] in ‘The Fighter’ stretched to feature length,” they suggested that the film wouldn’t play with the Academy. But they also said that Jennifer Lawrence and especially Robert De Niro could figure into the acting races, but then again, it’s just one person’s opinion, so who knows… 
17. “Django Unchained” (19)
We keep being told we’re undervaluing this, but it’s always felt more “Kill Bill” than “Inglourious Basterds” to us. Then again, the period/Western setting might help, even if the slavery themes probably won’t.
18. “To The Wonder” (17)
Between this and “Argo,” Ben Affleck feels like he’s about to have a Brad Pitt year — the star used the momentum of “Moneyball” to help “The Tree Of Life” get a nomination last year. But that film was a fairly unopposed critical favorite, while “The Master” and “Beasts Of The Southern Wild” could pip this to the post. We’ll find out if this works in a little over a week.
19. “The Dark Knight Rises” (16)
Feels more like “Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Pt. 2” than “Return Of The King” at this point, but then Warners are more concerned with the box office than awards campaigning this time around. It would help if the publicity-shy Christopher Nolan can be convinced to do the awards-centric press rounds later in the year.
20. “Song For Marion” (New)
We’ve been tipping this as a dark horse for about 18 months, but weren’t sure if it was going to see the light of day in 2012. It’s closing TIFF, which will give it a big boost, but that slot doesn’t have a great history, with “The Young Victoria,” “Last Night” and “Page Eight” playing in recent years. And do the Weinsteins have a place for it on their release calendar? If it plays well with critics, you bet they do.

Out: “Hitchcock” and “Out Of The Furnace” — sources confirmed to In Contention that Fox Searchlight and Relativity had been flirting with the idea of pushing these two films up for Oscar contention, but have ultimately decided against it.

Bubbling Under:
“This Is 40,” “The Hobbit,” “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “Trouble With The Curve,” “Amour,” “Killing Them Softly”

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Comments

CR

Do you know what the problem with moviegoers these days? We're so focused on stats and streaks that we forget about what's important: the actual movie. Here we have movies that haven't even been released and we're already trying to predict who will come out on top. While it's okay to speculate who will win, you cannot reach these sorts of conclusions without the slightest inkling of what the movie has in store. And the Academy? Don't get me started! They have made the movie industry so political that I can't tell for sure if the best film/actor/actress did win.

Thomas Sundby

If Daniel Day-Lewis can give a close picture of "Honest Abe" I`m sure he`ll be greatly rewarded for acting.

AJMR

Regarding the Oscar chart and the placement of Silver Linings Playbook, so one person's opinion motivated you guys to move SLP from 14 to 16?…yeah, right, whatever….as long as Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert DeNiro receive the nominations they so richly deserve (and from what I'm hearing, especially Jennifer Lawrence), I'll be fine if Silver Linings Playbook does not score a best film nomination. It is funny though how you totally serious film types at IW play right along with the Hollywood politics (LOL).

JD

DDL will almost certainly get a nomination, as the guy just dosen't give bad performances, even if not every single film he's starred in has been great (although most have) and he is by general consensus far and away the best actor of his generation in an iconic role of one of history's great figures so the stars seem to be aligning. However the competition will be tough, yes Phoenix will more than likely garner a nomination as his performance is the best of his career. Whilst I favour Murray to get a nod for playing another president in Hyde Park on Hudson as for the others it is difficult to say who will come in the final nominations but at this stage it looks a 3 horse rivalry for the top honour, but this of course means nothing when you consider the snubs (Pacino 72-74 stands out) and unjustified wins that the academy has handed out (Tom Hanks Twice). So predicting the winner is hardly an exact science, only guessing the nominees is the closest we can get.

LA2000

This feels like Joaquin Phoenix's year. The Oscars are selected by storytellers and it always seems that there is some narrative psychology going on (more than simply a clinical evaluation of merit) when they pick a winner. These people love a "come back" story, they love obvious actor-ly transformations like losing or gaining weight, they love the notion of hard earned redemption, and they love to anoint a new "king/queen for a day".

Phoenix's narrative aligns with all of these. I think he's going to win because not only is the performance good, but because it will make a good story.

DG

Marie- Good point!

DG

Good point!

Xas

I read this argument before and I think this could be the biggest Day-Lewis' big disadvantage – Himself . His Daniel Plainview is considerated by many as one of the best Oscar winning performances and we need to remember he became unstoppable in that award season. The bar is too high and his Lincoln needs to surpase it with critical acclaim -Even more than Daniel Plainview- and unfortunally for him, his second Oscar is too recent in AMPAS members' memories. And next, his competition is strong: Hawkes -Character actor playing a real life diseable man in a feel-good movie hit by Sundance-, Joaquin Phoenix -One of the best actors of his generation who can make a great comeback with a tour-de-force performance in a PTA film not less-, Hugh Jackman -One of the most succesful Hollywood stars and Tony Award winner who has found a perfect role for his talents-, Bill Murray -Ex comedian playing another beloved US president in difficult times-, Denzel Washington -Maybe the most respected black actor of our times and also, he's still a magnetic Hollywood star- and even Brad Pitt -International Hollywood star whose last six years is making excellent choices working with auteurs and could have afterglow love after his last year's defeat-. So, I think, unless Day-Lewis surpass himself with an excelent film by Spielberg, he could be happy with just the nomination.

Flor

All I hope is that Joaquin Phoenix will win the Oscar for best actor, is excellent and deserves it for years!

Rajat

It's too early to say anything but i wish its DDL.He is the one of the greatest actors alive.He has done just 11 films since 1989,and given everything to each and every role.Other actors are also great but he is the best indeed.

Mark

Let's wait and see the performance first. Personally, I reckon it'll be a magnificent performance and the Oscar is his to lose.

Tom

I trust DDL to give the right kind of performance for Lincoln. That said, the Academy does seem to prefer showy work. It's a bit ridiculous to predict without seeing any of the films yet, but I'd say DDL, Joaquin and John Hawks are the three main players.

MAL

There was no more deserving winner than Ralph Feinnes the year he was nominated (but didn't win) for Schindler's List. As Marie sites below, his was subtle, nuanced and frightening — too frightening for the Academy. Instead, the award went to the showy, over-the-top performance by Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. Mr. Jones is an outstanding actor but there is really no comparison between his performance in No Country for Old Men to The Fugitive. Nope – the Academy goes for showy over subtle.

sp

Marie, you made a very good point .

MJ

If it brings back the subtle DDL of old, I have no problem crowning him "the greatest actor in Hollywood history".

Mike

DDL might be really great in Lincoln and he might win a lot of precursor awards this upcoming awards season, but I think the Academy voters will say pass on him. Just like what happened with his performance in Gangs of New York. The Oscar will go to somebody else. Either for Murray who hasn't won or maybe Phoenix who will stir up more talks in The Master.

mpbstereo

"Oscar losing streak…" most directors would consider it a compliment to even qualify for a losing streak.

yer

Having seen THE MASTER a couple of days ago in SF, DDL's performance will have to be right up there with his best to beat Phoenix. Phoenix gives a De Niro in his prime type of performance in TM.

Dan

Joaquin Phoenix or John Hawkes will win.

sandra

Not if Joaquin has anything to say about it.

DG

I'm not sure why people are treating Lincoln like some sort of guaranteed success already. Yes it has a lot going for it in terms of cast and the idea of DDL doing something like this sounds obviously amazing but I think the subject matter honestly sounds like a potential snooze rest. Maybe I'm totally wrong and the movie will be riveting but I'm guessing if that happens it will because DDL gives an intense performance, in which case he'll deserve awards talk/recognition, but for now it seems a little premature no?

Prolly Not

No. Daniel Day-Lewis is bound to give an incredible performance but I can see him being passed up for either Joaquin Phoenix in THE MASTER or Bill Murray in "Give Me An Oscar in Hudson"

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