Oscar Theory #10: The Academy Loves A Crazy Female Character

I’m not sure exactly how time is passing so quickly, but we are now only nine days away from the Oscars. To be clear—that’s one week and two days. As the big day creeps closer and closer, people seem to be feeling more confident that Natalie Portman will win Best Actress for her ballerina-gone-loco turn in “Black Swan.” Why? Well, because she won both the Golden Globe and the SAG awards for the role. Also, she’s pregnant and that often bodes well for Oscar contenders. Plus, as Newsweek so delicately put it in headline a few weeks ago: “Want to Win an Oscar? Play a Crazy Chick.”

Last week, we looked at a theory—that the Academy favors actors who take on real life roles—that could predict who will win for Best Actor this year. Today, let’s look at the off-their-rocker roles that have garnered Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress wins.

  • Marion Cotillard became the first actress in a French film to win Best Actress for her portrayal of Édith Piaf in 2007’s “La Vie en Rose.” In the flick, Edith starts out battling crippling stage fright. She later becomes totally unhinged—not to mention hooked on morphine—when her lover dies in a plane crash.
  • Charlize Theron bravely took on the role of female serial killer Aileen Wuornos in “Monster.” She won the Oscar in 2003 for her spot-on, totally unglamorous portrayal of the prostitute who snaps after being attacked by a john and begins murdering multiple customers.
  • In the opening scene of “The Hours,” Nicole Kidman—as Virginia Woolf, of course—commits suicide by drowning herself. Nicole got a little golden man in 2002 by bringing a relatable edge to Woolf’s many nervous breakdowns.
  • Jessica Lange took home the Best Actress Oscar in 1994 for “Blue Sky.” In the movie, her character is a housewife with Borderline Personality Disorder who falls into serious depression and has an affair. It’s an instability trifecta.
  • Oh, how off-her-rocker Kathy Bates is in 1990’s “Misery.” She stalks, abducts, and eventually sledgehammers the ankles of her favorite romance novel author—and won the Academy Award for the gruesome role.

Interesting that the crazy theory also holds true for Best Supporting Actress. Here are a few folks who won Oscars for off-kilter supporting roles.

  • Maybe it’s wrong to call Mo’Nique crazy in “Precious”—after all, she abuses her daughter physically, verbally, and sexually. But she managed to make this monster both terrifying and the victim of life circumstances. She was a shoo-in for the Oscar for the complex portrayal.
  • Penelope Cruz seemed visibly unstable as Maria Elena, (now-husband in real life) Javier Bardem’s ex-wife in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” She won Best Supporting Actress in 2008 for the shotgun-wielding role.
  • Angelina Jolie memorably won best Supporting Actress in 1999 for playing the charismatic bad girl at a mental institution in “Girl, Interrupted.” No one has ever made a hospital gown look as sexy as she did in that movie. Ditto for holding a knife up to their throat.

So how will the crazy factor effect shape this year’s Oscar races? Well, let’s just say that Annette Bening, Michelle Williams, Nicole Kidman, and Jennifer Lawrence didn’t give us extreme OCD, violent hallucinations, eating disorders, and paranoia to the extreme, all rolled into one.

As for Best Supporting Actress, I think the crazy effect will certainly boost Melissa Leo, whose portrayal of a mom in “The Fighter” is 10 steps beyond delusional. That is, if her “For Your Consideration” ads didn’t dive-bomb her chances.

Who do you think will win for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress?