Another round of living legends vs. young ingeues
Shirley MacLaine, 'Bernie'
Pro: Wanna talk living legends this year? There are few bigger than MacLaine these days. The 78-year-old actress has been nominated for Oscar six times previously including a long awaited win for "Terms of Endearment" in 1984. She's also won two BAFTAs, seven Golden Globes (including the Cecile B. DeMille lifetime achievement award), an Emmy Award and two best actress honors at both the Venice and Berlin Film Festivals. In Richard Linklater's latest, she's absolutely in her element as Marjorie Nugent, a real life Texan widow who was so cruel and demanding that her friend/kept man Bernie (Jack Black) literally can't take her anymore. MacLaine pulls it off while embracing her character's humorous traits, but doesn't push the performance as over-the-top as her reputation may sometimes suggest (it's not "Steel Magnolias"). It's a great turn that is part of two Gotham Awards nominations - best picture and best ensemble. Millennium Entertainment is working a strong campaign for the company's biggest indie release and will push MacLaine hard as a contender.
Con: It's really going to come down to whether the Academy will like the movie and appreciate the performances. MacLaine has an excellent shot in a wide-open year and if she gets some love from SAG and her friends at the Globes, that won't hurt either. Moreover, after so many failed awards campaigns over the past decade or two (or three), does MacLaine really have the energy at 78 to pound the pavement on the circuit this time around?
- Gregory Ellwood