There were two major upsets in Sunday’s Academy Awards, “The Lives of Others” beating out “Pan’s Labyrinth” for Best Foreign Language Film and Alan Arkin knocking off pre-show favorite Eddie Murphy for Best Supporting Actor. The former may simply have been a case of one great film being honored in its sole nominated category over another great film cleaning house in numerous categories. The latter may very well be forever known as “The Norbit Effect”.
Many people (myself included, but not on this blog) postulated that the release of the low-brow comedy “Norbit” could negatively effect Eddie Murphy’s chances of winning the Oscar. This despite the fact that Murphy had already picked up the SAG Award for Best Supporting Actor. The SAG Awards are often pretty good harbingers for the Oscars; after all, actors comprise the single largest branch inside the Academy, by orders of magnitude over the next biggest branch, producers (almost three times as many). Statistically, this was a very good sign for Murphy. It’s not that the other branches couldn’t completely overwhelm the actors, but the odds were definitely in his favor.
As in any voting situation, multiple factors played into Murphy’s loss. Surely Alan Arkin was definitely a sentimental favorite. But one must wonder if the release or Norbit tarnished the memory of his “Dreamgirls” performance in the minds of voters. Memories are short lived–only the most recent stick.
Lesson learned: if you’re nominated for an Academy Award and you’ve made a terrible movie (forget the question of why you did so in the first place), do everything in your power to have the bad film’s release pushed until after the Oscars!