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Could Adam Sandler Really Win an Oscar?

October 12, 2017

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The words Adam Sandler and Academy Award have rarely appeared in the same sentence together, unless the sentence is “Adam Sandler will never win an Academy Award.” That could change after his heartbreaking performance in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), writer-director Noah Baumbach’s latest family dramedy — and his best work since 2005’s The Squid and the Whale. Still, I have a feeling that the words Adam Sandler may appear in the same sentence as Academy Awards next year, but it will also include the word snub. Here’s why:

1) His character is too passive. If the question is, “Should Adam Sandler really win an Oscar?” the answer may be yes, based on the weak field of Best Actor competitors so far this year. I haven’t seen such potential contenders as Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour or Christian Bale in Hostiles yet, but I did catch an early screening of Jason Clarke as Teddy Kennedy in Chappaquiddick — said to be a strong candidate — and his performance left me cold. The problem is lead actors usually win Oscars for playing strong characters (although last year’s recipient, Manchester by the Sea‘s Casey Affleck, is an exception), and Sandler’s pianist-turned-sad stay-at-home dad Danny Meyerowitz isn’t exactly Abe Lincoln or Idi Amin.

2) He’ll probably be entered in the wrong category. I’m assuming Sandler will compete for Best Actor, since his Meyerowitz father, Dustin Hoffman, should be a lock for a Best Supporting Actor nomination, and the studio won’t want to split the vote. But given the episodic structure of Stories, Sandler doesn’t dominate the movie the way you’d expect for an ostensible lead. When he’s on-screen, you can’t take your eyes off him, but when the focus shifts to other characters, he recedes or disappears.

3) His movie is coming out on Netflix. Although Meyerowitz is being released in a few theaters, it will premiere on the streaming service simultaneously — a strategy that hurt such seeming slam-dunk nominees as Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation. If Netflix would wait to debut it online (like Amazon did with Manchester), Academy voters might consider this as something more than a glorified made-for-TV movie.

4) The Oscars are historically biased against comedians, even in serious roles. Think Jim Carrey in The Truman Show. Or Jim Carrey in Man in the Moon. Or Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And no, the Academy doesn’t just hate Jim Carrey. Steve Martin in Roxanne, Albert Brooks in Drive, and Bill Murray in Rushmore all deserved some Oscar love and instead got snubbed.

5) He’s Adam Sandler, dammit. Fifteen years ago, he delivered impressively mature work in Punch-Drunk Love, but Sandler has mostly stuck to juvenile comedies like Groan Ups… er, Grown UpsPixels, and Netflix duds like The Ridiculous Six. It’s a long way from Happy Gilmore to Oscar glory, and voters may not be able to erase the image of Sandler in Jack and Jill drag long enough to cast their ballots for him. Sorry, Adam, but to paraphrase Rob Schneider in too many of your films, “You can’t do it!”

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