January 28, 2008

Veterans Can Win Oscars: Even She Knows That...

Veteran actress Ruby Dee's Oscar nomination for American Gangster was among this year's biggest (and most controversial) surprises. The now SAG winner has been getting considerable criticism for her very brief yet, memorable performance in the Ridley Scott hit.

If she wins the Oscar over favorites Cate Blanchett and Amy Ryan, you can attribute her win to this particular scene (and of course, the veteran factor).

What do you think? Is Ruby Dee a deserving Best Supporting Actress nominee?


  1. There's no question Dee was great in that scene, but for all 55 seconds of it? To me, Supporting role should still have depth, or influence the plot of the film more profoundly than during one scene. Looks like she's plain and simple getting veteran attention.

  2. its gonna be a big fraud if she wins, amy ryan, tilda swinton and cate blanchett are more deserving and they contributed much more to their film's story.

  3. It's unfortunate that quality of performance vs quantity of time on screen should be the deciding factor...Once again, the Oscars have often granted awards to people who while not necessarily the best of the year, they still won. Look at last year w/ Alan Arkin over Eddie Murphy as a prime example. Judi Dench and Beatrice Straight each won oscars for limited screen time, but the time that they were on screen really packed a wallop. How truly magnificient was Straight's fury at William Holden in "Network"? Enough to win her the most coveted award an actor can receive. If Ruby Dee wins, and I hope she does, it is a defining moment for the Academy, who as we all know does not care about rules...unless they are enforced against Miramax!!

  4. Dee deserves to be nominated because for the 5 sec. she was on screen, she made you forget about Denzel, Russell, and everybody else in the cast. As far as the whole veteran thing goes, I think that's also a reason why she deserves to be nominated. Ruby Dee is an icon and deserved to be recognized for her work in "A Rasin' in the Sun" and "Do The Right Thing". I think the Academy is really starting to open up more to minorities. Last year is a perfect example. There were more black, hispanic, and asian nominees than ever. I wouldn't say Dee is a frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress quite yet but if she is I think she totally deserves the award.

  5. I am on her side if she wins. She woke me up in a very dull film and for me. Does she not support Denzel and guide him into making certain decisions?
    I do not hear anyone go on about Casey Affleck being nominated in supporting when he so clearly is a co-lead. Category fraud will always happen.
    If Saiorse doesn't win, Ruby or Tilda are wonderful choices.

  6. She was also great on that scene where Denzel shows her the bedroom.

  7. i havent seen the movie, but that clip is great and very deserving of a nomination

  8. I thought she was grate in those 55 seconds. But I do not think that had a big enough impact to give her the Oscar. I think that she is very deserving of the nomination but not the win. One of the reasons would be because her performance wasn't as great as Cate Blanchett or Amy Ryan who I think was amazing in her role.

  9. She definitely deserves the nomination. The win, however, should go to either Cate Blanchett or Amy Ryan.

  10. This is certainly a subjective element to choosing a winner. Moreover, there is not set time limit, so that argument is somewhat moot. If you remember, Anthony Hopkins was only on screen for 16 minutes in Silence of the Lamb. His influence on the characters was both implied and explicit. I think Ruby Dee as Denzel's mother played an integral role in shaping the complex character of Frank Lucas. The scenes that she performed in were nothing short of spectacular.

    Moreover, she has been in the industry for over 40 years. and Not only is she a wonderful actress, but she battled on the front lines during civil rights with her husband, Ossie Davis. I'm not saying this should give her the win, but if selecting a person to win is part subjective and part objective, who's to say that this stuff does not factor in to the minds of all the voting members?

    the term "deserving" is awfully subjective. One must clearly define what that means in order to make any arguments on desert.

    as a caveat: I'm not trying comparing Hopkins influence on Silence with Ruby Dee. But, if we stipulated a time limit for any performance, it's possible that people like Hopkins would not have won. just saying....

    In the end, I think one can construct reasonable arguments going both ways. I personally liked Swinton the most, but I'm not voting so it does not matter.

  11. People can argue for or against her. She gave a good performance; but it is veteran-status that got her THIS nomination. She wasn't as great as Judi Dench was in Shakespeare.

    I make a list of top ten performances in each category every year and she made my top 10; but she isn't in my top 5.

    My list of worthy nominees (alphabetically):

    Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
    Ruby Dee - American Gangster
    Jennifer Garner - Juno
    Catherine Keener - Into the Wild
    Kelly MacDonald - No Country for Old Men
    Vanessa Redgrave - Atonement (another limited screen-time performance)
    Saoirse Ronan - Atonement
    Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
    Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton
    Marisa Tomei - Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

    Re-looking over these, I'd say Dee is even #10 in my opinion. I think veteran support won her this award -- remember all, Gloria Stuart won a SAG award for Titanic! They awarded two trophies that year -- one to her and one to the more-deserving Kim Basinger in LA Confidential.

  12. Sure quality is way more important than quantity. I don´t think that only because Ruby Dee appears for about 2 or 3 minutes the entire film that she´s not deserving. She does play her role with a lot of dignity.

    However, when comparing Ruby Dee´s role to other actresses this year - such as Cate Blanchett, Amy Ryan or Tilda Swinton - she doesn´t look as deserving...

    Her SAG win was for sure a 'veteran' thing... 'even she knows that'! And stating that she deserves because she´s been deserving before is quite a ridiculous argument...

    She´s nominated for "American Gangster"; not a career lifetime achievement award.

  13. "Her SAG win was for sure a 'veteran' thing... 'even she knows that'! And stating that she deserves because she´s been deserving before is quite a ridiculous argument..."

    I offer my dissent with respect...It's an epistemological problem we face. We do not know what "criteria" the voters use to ultimately select the winners. As I mentioned before, "deserving" is too subjective. If you can get into the minds of each voting member, then I would respect your argument. But obviously that can't be done.

    Perhaps, it would be fairer if she was judged based solely on her AG performance. However, some voting members are factoring in her past performances...that's the way it is, and the way it will be unless they place a restraint on how voting members votes (like a time limit, quality of performance, impact, etc.).

  14. "Her SAG win was for sure a 'veteran' thing... 'even she knows that'!"

    Where's the evidence for this...

    Here's an article from vanity fair:


    She certainly does not seem to agree that her win was based just on a "veteran thing". She seems to argue that her role had an impact worthy of the nod.

  15. I bet she does...

    Too bad for her, since she´ll end up with no Oscar...

  16. The Oscar's are a political animal and we all know this. So many people have won awards in this category simply for career achievement...dare I even say Dame Judi Dench when she won for this same award for 'Shakespeare In Love'. With this being said why is Ms. Dee not equally or more so deserving. She paved the way for African-American actors in almost every generation of actors in the last and current century. She and Ossie Davis stood and continue to stand for justice, art, and above all a love that withstood the test of time. She was as good as her competitors with a more impressive resume and a resolve unparalled - why not an Oscar for Ruby Dee is 2008 - hell she should be getting a Lifetime Achievement Award!

  17. PERFECT.

    She should be getting a Lifetime Achievement Oscar.

    NOT a best supporting actress one.

  18. I'm disappointed that this is even a question at all. Great points made here about her performance during other scenes in the film and her adept handling of her role as a supporter of Denzel. I say we should leave the question alone. If she wins, don't degrade her moment of recognition with pointless conjecture.

    That said, I'm a big supporter of Tilda Swinton. Her last scene in the film, when she seems to involuntarily drop to her knees, when the scam is up, immediately brought tears to my eyes. I wish I were in the film too. So, I could see her work that choice out.

    Also, I wish Vanessa Redgrave were nominated for Atonement. Another example of supporting the lead cast to fantastic affect with only a few minutes of assigned screen time.

  19. Yes, it's a great scene and her purpose was to guide Washington's character. She deserves her nomination and though Amy Ryan or Tilda Swinton deserves to win the most, I won't mind if she does. Actually I wouldn't mind if anyone of them win.

  20. Whenever I think of the veteran award for the Oscars I think of Paul Newman winning for "The Color of Money," when clearly its because the Academy feels like jerks for not giving it to him sooner, or Al Pacino for "Scent of a Woman." Then again, you look at William Hurt in '06 getting nominated for 13 minutes of work in "A History of Violence." Hell, Ellen Burstyn got nominated for an Emmy for 45 seconds of work in "Mrs. Harris." Honestly, I wanted Rudy Dee to win or Amy Ryan...Cate just bugs me (and I know that's not a good reason to deny her an Oscar.) That, and I also want Linda Hunt to keep the title of "the only Oscar Winner for playing a man." Linda needs more face time. Google her every once in a while or something :)