Not all Oscar winners are created equal. Audrey Hepburn won a Best Actress Academy Award for her first lead role in 1953's "Roman Holiday," went on to star in numerous classics, and receive four additional Oscar nominations. Daniel Day Lewis won an Oscar in 1989 and then snagged two more nominations over the years before winning his second Best Actor Oscar for "There Will Be Blood."
Meanwhile, Nicholas Cage won a Best Actor Oscar for "Leaving Las Vegas" and then put the statuette to good use in Face/Off, where he played a stunned police officer who switched faces with a criminal mastermind (who was also played by Cage -- somehow). After the action film was completed, instead of reaching back to his Oscar-winning performance, Cage appeared to have kept the exact Face/Off face and all of its mannerisms for several subsequent roles.
Similarly, Halle Berry won an Academy Award for her acclaimed performance in "Monster's Ball" and followed up with "Catwoman" and "Die Another Day." To date, the best thing to come out of those pair of films was that the latter inspired the producers of James Bond movies to entirely revamp the series.
Why do some actors go all the way to Oscar gold with a role and then never really surface again as a contender, or as someone in an even remotely good film? Is it luck? Is it fate? Is it a general lack of scripts or the fact that some actors just find fortune in locating the one really good role before going back to absolute nonsense?
No one can be entirely certain why it happens, but just as sure as acting Oscars will be handed out each year, it will continue to happen.
Some actors have the ability to choose the right roles over and over again, like Cate Blanchett and Denzel Washington. While they have several successful films to their names, stars like these are still allowed to take a chance with an off-beat flick (Washington's Manchurian Candidate remake), or possibly even a bad movie ("Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" thank you for ruining her near perfect record).
It is clear that not all successful actors are able to keep up with the Meryl Streep's and Jack Nicholson's of the world. Even with an Oscar, some stars seem to be allergic to making a good film in the years after their win, and they might find themselves acting like a combination of Roxy Hart and Nurse Betty while bringing down even golden boy George Clooney in bizarre period pieces that do little for the economy, culture or for digestion. And it hasn’t happened only to a few winners.
Helen Hunt was great in "As Good As it Gets." The problem was, she showed how much she loved the role by taking time to appear in "What Women Want," "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" and "Bobby" as practically the exact same character in different clothing. Kim Basinger had a respectable list of entertaining characters before winning an Oscar for "LA Confidential" and has done little of note since, besides appearing in the award-winning "8 Mile." Cuba Gooding Jr. hit the peak of his career with his win for "Jerry McGuire" and just over 10 years later in 2007 he found himself making a midweek appearance at Chicago's City North 16 theaters for the Windy City premiere of his film "What Love Is."
Now, it should be noted that it is the belief of this writer that the Chicago film community should be seen as a more legitimate force in American filmmaking and bringing film shoots and stars to the city is important in achieving this goal. But realistically, if a random filmgoer in Chicago has the opportunity to put down a delicious and huge piece of meat at Fat Willy's and then walk across the street to a movie theater to meet an Oscar-winning actor before catching a weekday evening movie, despite how good the restaurant and theater are, that is a significant step down for the Oscar winner.
So whatever the reason, and regardless of the details of the tired plot of the box office flop that may follow an actor's Academy Award winning performance, the trend of Oscar-winning actors sliding toward mediocrity has been around for awhile, and doesn't appear to be willing to stop any time soon. Until it ceases, though, here's to enjoying the subtly jarring nuances of Nicholas Cage's Ben Sanderson alcoholic ready for the end of his life and following it up immediately with Cage's Stanley Goodspeed quoting Elton John lyrics while dispatching an enemy combatant from Alcatraz Island.