Heading into Sunday night’s Academy Awards, few expected any major surprises in the top categories. “The Artist” was expected to take Best Director, Actor and Picture, while Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer had been considered locks in the supporting categories for weeks.
In the Best Actress category, however, some Oscar analysts (MTV News included ) may have been too quick to call the Best Actress category for Viola Davis in “The Help.” Such confidence resulted in the biggest surprise of the evening when Meryl Streep won her third Academy Award for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.”
So what happened to Davis? In the night that belonged so heavily to the odds-on favorite, how was it that Streep pulled off the upset?
Even Streep had to admit that most people thought the award belonged to Davis. “When they called my name,” she said during her acceptance speech, “I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, ’Oh no! Oh come on, why her? Again?’ But … whatever.”
Jo Piazza, the author of “Celebrity Inc.,” said that the crowd’s familiarity with Streep may have been her key to Oscar gold. “It wasn’t Meryl’s performance that gave her the edge,” Piazza said. “It was the fact that she hasn’t won in 30 years. Her performance was great, but that was what gave her the advantage.”
The perceived disappointment was a direct result of both Davis’ status as a favorite and the success of “The Help.” When it came to ensemble awards, even “The Artist” couldn’t come close to topping the wins for “The Help” this awards season. The cast won at the SAGs, the National Board of Review and the Broadcast Film Critics Association. It also certainly helped to have Octavia Spencer cleaning up the Supporting Actress awards wherever she went.
Because of the awards and nominations close to Davis and her strong performance in the film, many saw her as the favorite for Best Actress, despite splitting many of the key awards with Streep. Davis won over the Broadcast Film Critics Association and took home Best Actress at the SAG Awards, the last major awards show before the Oscars.
But all of that overlooks the hefty haul of awards Streep took home before last night’s Academy Awards. Naturally, Streep won Best Actress at the BAFTAs, a victory undermined by the very British subject matter of “The Iron Lady, but also, more importantly, at the Golden Globes, where Streep’s future Oscar seemed the most likely. Though it may have initially been thought of as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s signature celebrity-love, Streep’s Globes win should have been considered more heavily when predicting the Oscars.
Streep, after all, embodied many of the key traits of an Oscar winner. She played a historical figure, donned makeup to transform into her character and is a repeat winner, so perhaps there shouldn’t have been as many “Oh, no’s” as there were. Phil Contrino of BoxOffice.com told MTV News that Streep’s status as a Hollywood legend should have precluded any talk of upsets. “You can never call a Meryl Streep win a real upset, because she’s so beloved in the industry,” he said. “It’s important to remember that she was running very close to Viola Davis for most of the season.”