Here's a question for you: If a good actor acts in a really bad movie and a really good film in the same film season, will the crappy flick ruin the actor's chance to win an Oscar for the great role?
It's a question getting tossed around a lot this December because of one Ms. Natalie Portman. See, after a decent career with not-as-decent fan love, the actress earned hallelujahs across the country when she starred in 'Black Swan' and made people remember her talents from 'The Professional.' But Portman has to overcome more than history to earn the top prize. She's got another movie coming out next month, but this one isn't a Darren Aronofsky gem.
It's a romcom with Ashton Kutcher called 'No Strings Attached.'
In the film Kutcher and Portman are friends who decide to add benefits to their friendship, but then, of course, start falling for each other. It's the usual romantic comedy fare, nothing shocking nor revelatory, but it does have awards-followers worrying about Portman's Oscar chances because she's canoodling Kutcher as the Academy votes.
On a rational level, it shouldn't mean a thing. We don't question the talents of Peter O'Toole for popping up in 'Phantoms' (though really, that movie was bad-tastically awesome). Hollywood has a long history of talent showing up in terrible films. We live in a world where the great Orson Welles has 'Transformers: The Movie' as one of his final films. There are great roles that test the far reaches of an actor's talents, roles that are taken on just for fun and laughs and of course, roles taken on for money, like Michael Caine's work in the '80s.
Nevertheless, there's precedent that can pull Portman either way.
The Hollywood Reporter links Portman's 'No Strings' to Eddie Murphy and the battle between 'Norbit' and 'Dreamgirls.' The latter brought Murphy all kinds of praise and reminded the masses that the actor's talent was still there, even if the last decade plus has tried to erase it from our memories. But then came 'Norbit,' which was not only bad, but also a reminder at just how many repetitive and terrible movies the actor was busying himself with. As Laremy Legal explained, the 'Dreamgirls' "goodwill has now been washed away in a sea of 'Norbit' fat jokes."
Though there are a million factors that figure into voting, from the influence of heavyweight studios to friendships and ill will, many believe Murphy lost his statuette because of 'Norbit.' When the Oscars came, the trophy went to Alan Arkin for 'Little Miss Sunshine.' (Though it must also be noted that there was some stiff competition including Jacke Earle Haley's work in 'Little Children.')
That doesn't bode well for Portman, but at the same time... First, though many might loathe the Kutcher-coms that have no signs of stopping, one flirtation with a romantic comedy isn't the same as a disappointingly repetitive and offensive fat-suit comedy. Second...
Anyone remember Sandra Bullock? If we rewind only one year, we have a woman with some drama under her belt, but also a very long history of romcoms. In 2009, she starred in three films -- a popular romance, 'The Proposal,' that made her a top money earner, a critically applauded dramatic stint in 'The Blind Side' and a Razzie-winning turn in the truly abysmal 'All About Steve.' Though it was bad, and was part of a precedent of not-so-great fluff fare, Bullock not only won the Razzie, but also the Oscar for 'Blind Side.' Accolades in one hand, derision in the other.
And now we've got Portman, primed to possibly win the Oscar, with supporters worrying that one romcom will kill it all. But if Sandra can do it, can't Natalie?
Do you think recent bad films affect a contender's Academy chances?