Among the many Hollywood legends is the notion of the “Oscar” curse.
This potentially disabling condition — at least for a career in film — is known to attack actors or actresses after they win Academy Awards. Some of its troubling symptoms are weak roles in weak films that may represent weak judgment in the wake of the Oscar excitement.
As you consider what movies to watch on television this weekend, consider a few examples those affected by, or those who survive, the “Oscar” curse.
In 1987, Cher was the popular winner of the Best Actress Academy Award for Moonstruck, a performance that, looking back, may be more endearing than expert. Today it’s difficult to imagine how, for the second year in a row, the Academy bypassed an iconic portrayal by Glenn Close, this time for Dangerous Liaisons. But Cher prevailed, perhaps because of the popularity of her film or, more likely, the strength of her “I want to be a actress” narrative that followed her through Silkwood, Mask and The Witches of Eastwick. After her Oscar win, though, she seemed to substitute any real intentions to continue a serious acting career with television advertisements for artificial sugar, less-than-memorable screen performances in Mermaids, Faithful and Tea for Mussolini, and this wretched would-be musical from 2010. How sad for this lovely performer, so rich with talent and magic, to be relegated to a supporting role in a minor offering with but one significant musical moment. Such a talent deserves a second act.
Friday, March 14, 2:30 p.m., Bravo
On the roster of unlikely Oscar winners, Catherine Zeta-Jones occupies a priority spot. When she was named Best Supporting Actress for Chicago in 2002, she was better known for her marriage to Michael Douglas than for her screen work. While Zeta-Jones displayed her exuberant personality in The Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas and Entrapment opposite Sean Connery, only her wife-in-denial role in Traffic showed promise and, when Chicago premiered, the surprise of her carefully groomed work excited film buffs. Thanks to a well-crafted script by Bill Condon, the timeless score by Kander and Ebb, and the strategic direction of Rob Marshall, Zeta-Jones milked every moment to easily overshadow Renee Zellweger’s musical turn. After winning the Oscar — over the deserving Meryl Streep (for Adaptation) or Kathy Bates (for About Schmidt) — her screen work sadly returned to the bland, including this confusing comedy opposite Aaron Eckhart. While its premise — of a chef who takes care of a young niece — has potential, and Eckhart is charming, Zeta-Jones looks uncomfortable. Hopefully, she will again find a screen role that gives her the chance to shine. Or sing.
Friday, 4:30 p.m., E
Butterflies Are Free
An actress who successfully avoided the Oscar curse is Goldie Hawn, the perennial audience favorite and awards show presenter. Her surprise win for Best Supporting Actress for Cactus Flower in 1969 ignited a love affair with audiences that continues years later. While her first post-Oscar appearance was less than memorable (There’s a Girl In My Soup with Peter Sellers) she quickly recovered with this delightful screen adaptation of a Broadway play about a blind man who discovers how much he can experience. While Eileen Heckart steals the film (and won an Oscar) as the mother of all mothers, Hawn turns in one of her most endearing performances as a woman who may use her ditzy act to carefully disguise how she actually feels. Hawn’s subtle work reminds us how love, no matter how defined, can help anyone overcome any adversity. Watching the film is a welcome opportunity to savor her magic on screen.
Saturday, March 15, 10 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
The Princess Diaries
Of the Hollywood survival stories, the Julie Andrews saga may hold the record for ups, downs and ups. When she hit the screen in 1964 — and won the Best Actress Oscar for Mary Poppins — she created the biggest sensation the industry had experienced in years. She quickly followed by almost winning a second Oscar for The Sound of Music, which became the most popular movie of all time, and delivering the hits Hawaii, Torn Curtain and Thoroughly Modern Millie. But Star, her 1968 musical about Gertrude Lawrence, was overshadowed by the similar Funny Girl and, two years later, Darling Lili died a painful box office death, leaving Andrews a movie has-been at age 35. She made a few films in the 1970s before reinventing herself in the 1980s with 10, SOB and, most successfully, Victor/Victoria, an iconic portrayal that reminded moviegoers why they loved her in the first place and garnered her a third Oscar nomination. Since then her hilarious nanny in the Eloise films on television and regal vocal work in the Shrek films connected her to new generations as well as her delightful Queen Clarisse in the Princess Diaries movies. Despite their predictable plots, these fun films give Andrews wonderful moments to remind us why she will always be our favorite star who delivers our favorite things.
Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Oxygn
Sharing worthwhile movies can be as easy as turning on the television or going online.
And, when you watch together, be sure to chat about what you’re seeing.
That makes it even more fun.