Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My 10 Favorite Double Digit Oscar Nominees

Chris Rock
Ladies and gentlemen, we are officially getting close to one of the biggest days in every Oscar season: the nominations! That's right. In 10 days, we will be informed on every nominee for this year's festivities. While I intend to make a predictions list, I am choosing to celebrate the last 10 days of uncertainty by paying tribute to a different kind of double digits. That's right, I'm going to pay tribute to the nominees and winners of Academy Award history who have earned 10 or more moments of recognition. While it was hard to whittle down the list (sorry Edith Head fans), these are the ones that I like the most and feel are more than deserving of their legacies. This category will look at everyone beyond acting that has been nominated, so expect a nice and diverse crowd.

Jack Nicholson in Chinatown
1. Jack Nicholson

Nominations: 9
-Easy Rider
-Five Easy Pieces 
-The Last Detail 
-Prizzi's Honor
-A Few Good Men
-About Schmidt

Wins: 3
-One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
-Terms of Endearment
-As Good As It Gets

If there's one thing that must be understood about me, it's that I generally love Jack Nicholson in the way most people love Meryl Streep. To me, he's nearly flawless and makes the best of even his lesser works. More than any other actor, I think that every single one of his nominations are more than earned and his charismatic acting is always sublime. With a resume that includes several bonafide classics, it's hard to see any other actor in the next 30 years doing anything as significant or impressive as Nicholson. He's more than earned his right as an Oscar heavyweight and there's a reason that he used to be the highlight of every ceremony. Nobody can possibly take his place.

Woody Allen in Annie Hall
2. Woody Allen

Nominations: 19
-Annie Hall (1)
-Interiors (2)
-Broadway Danny Rose (2)
-The Purple Rose of Cairo (1)
-Hannah and Her Sisters (1)
-Radio Days (1)
-Crimes and Misdemeanors (2)
-Alice (1)
-Husbands and Wives (1)
-Bullets Over Broadway (2)
-Mighty Aphrodite (1)
-Deconstructing Harry (1)
-Match Point (1)
-Midnight in Paris (1)
-Blue Jasmine (1)

Wins: 3
-Annie Hall (2)
-Hannah and Her Sisters (1)
-Midnight in Paris (1)

In the echelon of entertainers, there have been few as versatile and recognized as that of Woody Allen. With a film-a-year routine, he is almost expected to show up at the Oscars. Even then, his best work (Annie Hall) is supremely effective in capturing a deeper emotional understanding of relationships through comedy. What's more impressive is that what started as a neurotic comedy shtick has actually endured as having more wit and insight than any other screenwriter. It's impressive that his career is almost 50 years old at this point and that he's still getting nominations. Thankfully, they're not pity votes either. Most of them are really great pieces of work from a unique talent.

Scene from Roman Holiday
3. William Wyler

Nominations: 12
-Dodsworth (1)
-Wuthering Heights (1)
-The Letter (1)
-The Little Foxes (1)
-The Heiress (2)
-The Detective Story (1)
-Roman Holiday (2)
-Friendly Persuasion (2)
-The Collector (1)

Wins: 2
-Mrs. Miniver (1)
-The Best Years of Our Lives (1)
-Ben-Hur  (1)

Honors: 1
-Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (1)

Even if he's not as immediately recognizable as John Ford or Alfred Hitchcock, William Wyler is definitely one of the most impressive directors of his time. He wasn't just able to make compelling dramas that introduced the world to Audrey Hepburn, he was capable of making films that explored themes of war with profound imagery (The Best Years of Our Lives), and wasn't even afraid to do blockbusters (Ben-Hur). His work as a whole is unsurpassed, as he is the most nominated director in Oscar history, and for good cause. It's likely that even if you don't recognize his name, you'll likely enjoy his work quite a bit.

Scene from War Horse
4. John Williams

Nominations: 43
-Valley of the Dolls (1)
-Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1)
-The Reivers (1)
-Images (1)
-The Poseidon Adventure (1)
-Cinderella Liberty (2)
-Tom Sawyer (1)
-The Towering Inferno (1)
-Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1)
-Superman (1)
-The Empire Strikes Back (1)
-Raiders of the Lost Ark (1)
-Yes, Giorgio (1)
-Return of the Jedi (1)
-Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1)
-The River (1)
-Empire of the Sun (1)
-The Witches of Eastwick (1)
-The Accidental Tourist (1)
-Born on the Fourth of July (1)
-Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1)
-Home Alone (2)
-Hook (1)
-Nixon (1)
-Sabrina (2)
-Sleepers (1)
-Amistad (1)
-Saving Private Ryan (1)
-Angela's Ashes (1)
-The Patriot (1)
-A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (1)
-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1)
-Catch Me If You Can (1)
-Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1)
-Memoirs of a Geisha (1)
-Munich (1)
-The Adventures of Tintin (1)
-War Horse (1)
-Lincoln (1)
-The Book Thief (1)

Wins: 5
-Fiddler on the Roof (1)
-Jaws (1)
-Star Wars (1)
-E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1)
-Schindler's List (1)

There's not a lot of new stuff to say about John Williams. With exception to maybe Hans Zimmer, he is one of the few composers who have become their own household names. With an expansive amount of nominations and five wins, Williams' work pretty much speaks for itself and the iconic scores that he has made throughout his career continue to be recognized decades later. While there's plenty of scores that should have won, it's just impressive that he's racked up as many as he has. There's no denying that he's more than earned his reputation as one of the most significant composers in movie history and to most, he is likely going to be considered the best that's ever lived. There's a very good argument that this might be true.

Scene from Cleopatra
5. Irene Sharaff

Nominations: 10
-Call Me Madam
-A Star is Born
-Guys and Dolls
-Porgy and Bess
-Flower Drum Song
-The Taming of the Shrew
-Hello Dolly!
-The Other Side of Midnight

Wins: 5
-An American in Paris
-The King and I
-West Side Story
-Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I am aware that the general rule of thumb is that Edith Head was among the greatest costume designers in film history, but it's impossible for me not to look at Irene Sharaff's filmography and be impressed by the various projects she was involved with. For starters, she was involved with one of my favorite movies (West Side Story) and helped to add elaborate style to the excessively inspiring Cleopatra. While these aren't the only things she's done, it's only the start of an impressive body of work that pretty much has shaped the dramas of the 50's and 60's with elegance and style. It's hard to find a dud in the bunch, if just because of how beautiful those costumes are.

Mary Poppins
6. Walt Disney

Nominations: 38
-Mickey's Orphans
-Building a Building
-Who Killed Cock Robin?
-Brave Little Tailor
-Good Scouts
-Mother Goose Goes Hollywood
-The Pointer
-Truant Officer Donald
-The Grain That Built a Hemisphere
-The New Spirit
-Walter: Friend or Enemy
-Reason and Emotion
-How to Play Football
-Donald's Crime
-Squatter's Rights
-Chip an' Dale
-Pluto's Blue Note
-Mickey and the Seal
-Tea for Two Hundred
-Toy Tinkers
-Lambert the Sheepish Lion
-Rugged Bear
-Ben and Me
-Pigs is Pigs
-No Hunting
-The Truth About Mother Goose
-Paul Bunyan
-Donald in Mathmagic Land
-Noah's Ark
-Mysteries of the Deep
-Goliath II
-Islands of the Sea
-Symposium on Popular Songs
-Mary Poppins

Wins: 22
-Flowers and Trees
-Three Little Pigs
-The Tortoise and the Hare
-Three Orphan Kittens
-The Country Cousin
-The Old Mill
-Ferdinand the Bull
-The Ugly Duckling
-Lend a Paw
-Der Fuehrer's Face
-Seal Island
-In Beaver Valley
-Nature's Half Acre
-Water Birds
-The Living Desert
-The Alaskan Eskimo
-Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom
-Bear Country
-The Vanishing Prairie
-Men Against the Arctic
-Grand Canyon
-Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day

Honorary: 4
-Creation of Mickey Mouse
-Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
-Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award

Even if you've so much as breathed air in the past century, you're likely familiar with the work of Walt Disney. His work is such an institution that to include everything that his production company got nominated for would to add hundreds of additional spots. What makes it more impressive is that Disney himself managed to leave behind a legacy of unbeatable heights thanks to his 22 Oscar wins (including four in one night) that showed the progression of animation as an art form for the masses. Even if very few of his films were recognized during his lifetime, it's impossible to ignore the triumphs that he made into making art what it is today. For that alone, he deserves mention.

7. Alan Menken

Nominations: 11
-The Little Shop of Horrors (1)
-The Little Mermaid (1)
-Beauty and the Beast (2)
-Aladdin (1)
-The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1)
-Hercules (1)
-Enchanted (3)
-Tangled (1)

Wins: 8
-The Little Mermaid (2)
-Beauty and the Beast (2)
-Aladdin (2)
-Pocahontas (2)

For a certain generation, the amount of credit that Alan Menken deserves is unsurpassed. Speaking as I was born in 1989 and experienced the 1990's Disney Renaissance in the most appropriate way, it's hard to look at this list and not just break out into those songs. They're mostly rooted in my childhood, though their clever lyricism and rhythms all amount to something that is genuinely the best that Disney would have to offer, even when compared to the Golden Era that appeared in their pre-60's work. However, the best thing about this is that even latter day Menken is great, as Enchanted still manages to feature great work by the composer, even as it pokes fun at the legacy that he helped to build.

8. Henry Mancini

Nominations: 14
-That's Life! (1)
-10 (2)
-The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1)
-Sometimes a Great Notion (1)
-Darling Lili (2)
-I girasoli (1)
-The Great Race (1)
-Dear Heart (1)
-The Pink Panther (1)
-Charade (1)
-Bachelor in Paradise (1)
-The Glenn Miller Story (1)

Wins: 4
-Victor Victoria (1)
-Days of Wine and Roses (1)
-Breakfast at Tiffany's (2)

As anyone who follows my Best Song column will know, I do have a soft spot for Henry Mancini's work, and his work on "Moon River" is among my all time favorites. I love his ability to mix sentimental rhythms with personality and sincerity that separated him from his competitors. Of course, even his straight instrumentals are superb, as his work on The Pink Panther will prove his ability to turn espionage into iconic score material. As a whole, there's few composers that are as riveting in the 60's than Mancini was, and few have been able to match his uniqueness since.

Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage
9. Bette Davis

Nominations: 9
-Of Human Bondage
-Dark Victory
-The Letter
-The Little Foxes
-Now, Voyager
-Mr Skeffington
-All About Eve
-The Star 
-Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Wins: 2

It would seem inappropriate to talk about double digit Oscar nominees without talking about Bette Davis. For starters, she was the first actress to achieve the honor of having 10 Oscar nominations. Even if you disqualify her first Oscar nomination (a write in for Of Human Bondage) she still managed to prove her capability as one of the most unrelenting actresses of her era with performances that were both gritty and uncompromising to the general standards. What she leaves behind is an impressive body of work that proves that acting performances could be more than glamour and safe roles. 

Scene from African Queen
10. Katharine Hepburn

Nominations: 8
-Alice Adams
-The Philadelphia Story
-Woman of the Year
-The African Queen
-The Rainmaker
-Suddenly, Last Summer
-Long Day's Journey Into Night

Wins: 4
-Morning Glory
-Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
-The Lion in Winter
-On Golden Pond

Rounding out the list is the actress with the most wins to her credit. Katharine Hepburn's body of work is an impressive look into the depiction of progressive women in cinema. While some of her roles may not hold up (The Rainmaker), her best work definitely captures a nice mixture of drama (The Lion in Winter) and comedy (The Philadelphia Story). There's a lot of credit that should be made to her for her depictions of confident and strong women, even if they're occasionally dated. However, she remains an icon for a reason, and these 12 nominations are a perfect embodiment of why she continues to resonate all of these decades later.

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