Congratulations are in store.
South Side native and American Idol reject Jennifer Hudson won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Dreamgirls. It was well-deserved. Her co-star, Eddie Murphy, however, was passed over for Best Actor.
But the film, which received the most nominations with eight, won only two awards – the other for sound mixing in a film.
Before it was an Oscar contender, Dreamgirls was a hit Broadway musical from Michael Bennett 25 years ago. It garnered
enthusiastic praise from audiences and critics alike and won six Tony Awards.
Perhaps foreshadowing its Best Picture snub this year, the musical never won a Tony for Best Staged Musical.
Entering the Academy Award season, two things seemed absolute locks. Helen Mirren would be nominated for Best Actress in The Queen, and Dreamgirls would be nominated for Best Picture.
Mirren was a lock while Dreamgirls was locked out for Best Picture. Mirren won the award for playing England’s Queen Elizabeth.
However, in an Academy season where nothing has gone according to tradition (one being that the film with the most nominations was not nominated for best picture or director), the Dreamgirls snub clearly seemed all the more shocking because of its supposed Oscar credentials.
It had a star-filled cast, including pop singer Beyoncé. Director Bill Condon was nominated for best adapted screenplay for 2002’s overrated Oscar winner Chicago.
Clearly, the best picture snub, accompanied by its poor showing at the Oscars, was the result of an apparent backlash against the film.
The hype machine was in full force as early as October when the entire cast worked the film festival and talk show circuit. Oprah proclaimed, “When Jennifer (Hudson) performed ‘Love You I Do’ we were all standing up and cheering.” Industry insiders felt it was the film to beat.
But the film failed to live up to the hype in the eyes of some (including mine).
It suffered from the “it was good but I was expecting a masterpiece” response. Expectations killed the film’s momentum, which ran into a brick wall this past Sunday.
The film, loosely based on the story of the Supremes, focuses on a fictitious R&B trio named the Dreamettes, who are given a chance to sing back-up for a fading soul singer by their ambitious manager, Curtis Taylor Jr., played by Jamie Foxx.
The girls would eventually branch out as a recording group.
Beyoncé Knowles as Deena was originally a back-up singer before being pushed to the forefront by Taylor for marketing reasons. Effie, portrayed by Hudson, was pushed aside for the more picturesque Deena and understandably bitter about it. Anika Noni Rose played the group’s third singer, Lorrell. Eddie Murphy starred as James “Thunder” Early, an old-school, soul singer representing the type of flamboyant staged theatrics that the Motown sound would eventually replace.
The film not only failed to receive nominations in any of the top five categories, but turned out to be the biggest Oscar loser. So much for being the odds-on favorite as the most nominated film. Hudson was the odds-on favorite to win best supporting actress, and did so. Hudson’s soaring rendering of “Love You I do” is arguably the film’s highlight.
Eddie Murphy was also considered the favorite for his James Brown-inspired performance. But Murphy fell victim to “sentimental favorite” and eventual winner Alan Arkin for his role in Little Miss Sunshine.
Didn’t Denzel Washington suffer the same fate against Al Pacino in 1992, losing the best actor award for Malcolm X to Pacino, who hadn’t won in seven tries up to that point?
And Sunday’s disappointed conjures up the painful and bitter memory of The Color Purple, which received 11 nominations in 1985 and walked away with nothing.
Dreamgirls didn’t suffer that fate, but the disappointment may be just as bitter a pill to swallow.