The Academy Awards - and the quest for the Oscars - can be as unfair as everything else in life – and especially if you weren’t born in the US.
Co Galway’s Lawrence of Arabia star Peter O’Toole has had eight best actor nominations and never won.
Shawshank Redemption cinematographer Roger Deakins has also had eight nods without winning, though the Torquay maestro is currently trying again on Sam Mendes’ new Bond movie, Skyfall.
Two of this year’s leading American contenders know all about Oscar frustration.
The peerless Meryl Streep has only won two of her 16 previous Oscar nominations (best actress for Sophie’s Choice in 1983 and best supporting actress for Kramer vs Kramer, 1980) and has even ‘lost’ 12 nods in a row.
Yet although her interpretation of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady is one of the all-time great performances, look out for The Help’s Viola Davis, with whom she co-starred in Doubt (2008).
Even Meryl would applaud the South Carolina girl who is so good that she simply needs more classy roles to become a legend. It’s to her advantage that she’s only the ninth black best actress nominee in 84 years of the Academy Awards. The career downside is that it’s now exactly ten years since the subsequently unfulfilled Halle Berry became the first – and still the only – black actress to actually win.
Even Martin Scorsese had to wait until 2007 to hold a best director Oscar for The Departed. It was Scorsese’s sixth nod and so was due, even if it was merely a remake.
This year Marty has been nominated for the far more original Hugo, which bravely pays homage to cinema’s pioneers while also trying to be a watchable 3D film.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s role is misconstrued and Ben Kingsley is too cold, but Hugo is, technically at least, my film of the year.
The Artist is the favourite to win best picture, though, and that could mean Michel Hazanavicius becomes best director, too, thanks to the help of The Weinstein Co (formerly Miramax), a production company with an unrivalled track record of turning smaller films like The King’s Speech into awards winners.
From My Left Foot in 1989 to The Crying Game (1992), The Piano (1993), Pulp Fiction (1994), Il Postino (1995), The English Patient (1996), Good Will Hunting (1997), Shakespeare in Love and Life is Beautiful (both 1998), The Cider House Rules (1999), Chocolat (2000), In the Bedroom (2001), Gangs of New York, The Hours and Chicago (all 2002), Master and Commander (2003), Finding Neverland (2004), The Queen (2006), No Country For Old Men (2007), The Reader (2008), Inglourious Basterds (2009), The King’s Speech (2010) and The Artist (2011) it has had a best picture nomination every year except for 2005.
After The English Patient in 1996, there have been four more wins.
Only Pixar is so dominant, and that is in the animation category. But it is conspicuously absent this year after four straight wins, leaving Gore Verbinski’s Rango as the animation Oscar favourite ahead of the wonderful but little-seen Chico & Rita.
This year’s other main best picture contenders include Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life and Stephen Daldry’s rank outsider, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Moneyball – with deserved nominations for Brad Pitt (best actor) and Jonah Hill (supporting) – was the sporting equivalent to last year’s The Social Network. But it barely lasted two weeks in Birmingham.