It’s not quite Oscar season yet but already Lee Daniel’s The Butler is garnering plenty of praise that suggests the film will not be forgotten come January when the nominations are announced. But while the film is being noted for it’s makeup and spot on costume design, two actors may end up getting nominations in their respective acting categories.
The first of those two actors is Forest Whitaker, who plays the main character Cecil Gaines. Not every critic has praised the film, but universal acclaim is coming in for Whitaker for his performance. At it’s core, Whitaker’s role has Oscar written all over it as he plays the central character who a stellar supporting cast revolves around and he remains the best thing in the film.
Whitaker isn’t a stranger to the Oscars either as his performance as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland back in 2006. At the time critics claimed that was the role of Whitaker’s career but we’ve again heard that chatter surface again when Whitaker’s performance as The Butler comes up.
But while Whitaker is an obvious name to float around come Oscar season, another name we may hear is Oprah Winfrey. Not only does she own her scenes in The Butler, but she has the clout to get herself an Oscar nomination this year. It’s been 14 years since we last saw Oprah appear in a live action film and it’s worth mentioning that she’s been nominated for an Oscar in the past.
Now, 28 years removed from her film debut and that Best Actress Oscar nomination, we could see Oprah walking the red carpet again as a nominee. She has a pivotal role in the film that some see as almost bigger than that of Whitaker’s. Where Whitaker is the titular character and the drive behind the film, Oprah’s character helps explain to the audience how important he is to the world.
Is it an unbelievably preachy role, yes. Does the Academy love intolerably preachy roles in films that deal with history, of course they do. This doesn’t mean Oprah is a lock for Best Supporting Actress — as she’s far from it — but it’s something to consider as all the forces that need to conspire to get her that nomination are in play.
The bottom line is all the Oscar buzz for The Butler is legitimate and rightfully so. It’s not a perfect film but it’s one that will at least get one acting nomination if not two when all the nominations are announced.