2014 Tony Award Winner Predictions (Based Solely On Headshots)

The all-powerful headshot can make or break an acting career. You thought it was talent, hard work, and luck? So did I – until I was 12. That was the year that all of my acting friends got the secret memo to wear makeup and flat-iron their hair before updating their photos. They all looked like they walked out of Seventeen magazine, whereas I looked like.. well, like:

Yep, that’s the headshot of someone who’s going to be stuck in child roles for a good while. The only way I would be playing a girl next door is if the main character happens to lives next door to a Victorian orphanage. So trust me, headshots matter. That’s why I’m pretty confident that the key to this year’s Tony wins is in the almighty 5×7. To be as impartial as possible, we are judging this year’s winners solely by the headshots available on the official Tony Awards website.

Best Performance By A Leading Actor In A Play

Samuel Barnett – Twelfth Night

Okay, the dabbled gray background is a little school portrait. But the icy blue, straight on stare says “I can play dramatic roles!” and the slight smirk says “but if the dialog gets a little funny, I’m on top of it!” The bright flash highlights Barnett’s pale complexion, as if to say “I can play British.”

Bryan Cranston – All The Way

The fuck, Cranston? No. NO. You’re like that one kid whose parents didn’t properly understand sending in a baby picture for that one section of your senior yearbook, and sent one from freshman year instead. You are the default silhouette picture from Myspace. Even Tom doesn’t want to be friends with that.

Remember Tom, everyone?

Chris O’Dowd – Of Mice And Men

Well as I live and breathe. Chris O’Dowd has out-Cranstoned Cranston. There are actual people in the actual background, and you know what? Blurring them out by enlarging the “blemish remover” function on iPhoto is just making me notice it more. Good luck winning a Tony with this Photobucket-quality headshot, buddy. Good freaking luck.

On the other hand, maybe this is clever. Maybe it tells us that he is too busy for headshots — busy going to events where he, and blurry others, wear suits.

Mark Rylance – Richard III

White sheet backdrop aside, this is art. ART. The lowered left eyebrow. The tremulous sidelong glance. The windswept locks. His mouth is even ever-so-slightly agape. It is like everything that Jay Manuel and Janice Dickinson told contestants to do on the early seasons of America’s Next Top Model, except for posing with limbs askew and pretending to have been murdered. I think we might have our winner. And that earring? That’s just boss.

Tony Shaloub – Act One

Like, is this photo editing, or does he have a legitimage twinkle in both eyes? Speaking of Tyra Banks: smizing. Notice how you sort of feel like Tony Shaloub has read the story of your soul, and would recommend it to a friend? It’s all in the smize.
The winner, based on headshot alone: Mark Rylance. That headshot has RANGE.

 

Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role In A Play

Tyne Daly – Mothers And Sons

Okay, now we’re cooking with gas. There’s a neutral but varied background. There’s warm, soft lighting. You know what this looks like? This looks like a headshot where the actress is at least TRYING. See the Shaloub-esque half smile?
Also, I think that, as in paintings by Renaissance masters, if you look at this from different points in the room, Daly’s eyes follow you.
Her face is so captivating that I almost didn’t notice that this photo almost reaches a Glamour Shot-caliber boob suggestion. Glamour Shots: Not the boob itself, but the idea of the boob.

LaTanya Richardson Jackson

FINALLY. Now it’s a contest. Look at this. It’s like Headshot Bingo. Or a headshot drinking game. Let’s count:
(1) Flowy wrap sweater
(2) Gently contrasting background
(3) Statement necklace
(4) HAND SHELF.
It’s like every headshot cliche in one photo. Ms Jackson, I salute you. Question, though: what is up with the curled-up, partially visible left hand?

Cherry Jones – The Glass Menagerie

I’m of two minds here. The first: the blurred background is, well… have we learned nothing from O’Dowd? It looks like Jones is in some sort of outdoor patio or porch situation, which is at least pleasant. Contrast that with O’Dowd, who is in some sort of formalwear context that is almost definitely not fun.
The second: Does she have the headshot smile down or what? Happy but not too happy. Warm without a photoshopped eye twinkle (unless that’s how Shaloub’s eyes are naturally, which… maybe, you know? Maybe.)

Audra MacDonald – Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar And Grill

Even if I didn’t know who Audra McDonald was, which I guess I’m trying to do here, I’d know this was the photo of a champion. That is the cozy sweater of someone who can play a mom or a business professional on a day off. Her hair is glorious. The background is neutral but, with the hint of light oak chair, not antiseptic. There’s gentle accessorizing. There’s nail polish. There’s attractive lighting, like in Barbara Walters specials.
Brava, Ms. McDonald.

Estelle Parsons

While I don’t deny that Estelle Parsons is probably a lovely person and a wonderful actress, this is simply not a Tony Award Winning headshot. That is the downward facing chin of a nominee, not the proud, upright chin of a winner!

Besides, it took me about 3 minutes to figure out that was a scarf tucked into her sweater and not some really weird collar or even weirder neck/chin situation. Tony voters don’t have time for that.
The Winner, Based On Headshot Alone: Audra. That’s the headshot of a lady who came to win.

 

Best Performance By A Lead Actor In A Musical

Now, for a little bit of the ‘man behind the curtain’ in the blogging world: my browser is doing something it’s never done before, and making text and photos appear straight on top of each other, and my curser is moving around will-nilly. So let’s just cut straight to the winner, shall we?
Winner, based on headshot alone:

Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig And The Angry Inch

 

This was a process of elimination win. Ramin Karimloo looked a little too ‘intentionally disheveled hot guy.’ Andy Karl was posed in front of some sort of industrial piping, which, like, you’re in Rocky. We know. Jefferson Mays looked like he was going to turn me into ice with his crystalline blue stare. Between Bryce Pinkham and Neil Patrick Harris, Harris’s headshot was a little edgier. Pinkham’s, shot in soft light with a white background, seemed to say “I’m here for the art, not to win.”

Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role In A Musical

 

Can we discuss these award category names? They are all roughly twice as long as they need to be, right?
The winner, based on headshot alone:

Sutton Foster – Violet

This was another process of elimination. Idina Menzel, bless her talented heart, almost tries TOO hard in her headshot. I’m talking about a wind machine. Jessie Mueller manages to look most like someone I’d want to hang out with in real life – meaning, unlike some theater people, she doesn’t look absolutely exhausting. But she does have the visible, photoshopped background person going on. Kelli O’Hara has so much blinding white light going on that I think she might be the first person I’m seeing after dying.  Mary Bridget Davies brought her A-Game, but Foster’s got the approachable smile down. She was probably smile-coached along with Cherry Jones.

 

So, was my 12-year-old self right? Can you tell a great actor by headshot alone? Tune in to the Tony’s on Sunday night to find out!
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Point-Counterpoint: Ugly Cry Showdown – Anne Hathaway vs. Claire Danes

 Film-goers and TV viewers love a good ugly cry. As a matter of fact, apart from gaining or losing a lot of weight or wearing unflattering facial prostheses, ugly crying may be the best way to secure acting award nominations. While less-serious starlets look put-together and beautiful while they cry, maintaining matte skin as a single, picturesque tear rolls down their cheeks, ugly criers are the real deal. Their eyes and noses get red, there is snot all over, their mouths gape, and sometimes I swear they’re practically drooling.
Two of the best ugly criers of our generation are Anne Hathaway and Claire Danes. Both got their start on network TV, then moved on to film roles. Today Danes is an Emmy winner for her work on the acclaimed Homeland, while Hathaway is nominated for an Oscar for her role in Les Miserables. But until now, nobody has settled who the best ugly crier of the two really is. Wonder no longer — Cookies + Sangria point-counterpoint has you covered.

Point: Hathaway ugly-sing-cried in Les Miserables.

Most actresses struggle to produce even an acceptable ugly cry, but Hathaway did the unthinkable – she managed to ugly cry and sing at the same time. Do you even realize the breath and mucus control that requires? Next time you’re ugly crying, pay attention to your diaphragm. It’s probably spasming, or at least not working regularly. Alright, now try to sing I Dreamed A Dream. It’s almost impossible! But not for Anne Hathaway. Note how she retains her trembling, wailing mouth-shape while performing a pitch-perfect rendition of a musical theater classic — LIVE. For added unattractiveness points, Hathaway’s hair is cropped and she’s made up to look like she has tuberculosis. THAT’s how you cry when you’ve just been forced into prostitution and haven’t seen your child for years and your teeth were ripped out and you’re singing your feelings.

Counterpoint: Claire Danes’ Ugly Cry Is So Iconic That It Was Lampooned On Saturday Night Live

Okay, Hathaway does a pretty good ugly cry, but do you know what the root of all comedy is? Truth. Well, and robots fighting with things. And fart noises. But mostly truth. So when SNL chose to parody Claire Danes’ ugly crying on Homeland, they were doing so because her hideous weeping is known far and wide. Once something has been spoofed on this late night comedy, you know that it’s a feature on the pop culture landscape. I mean, come on. They put mom jeans on the map.

Counter-Counterpoint: Yeah, But It Was Hathaway Who Did The Claire Danes Ugly Cry Parody

Dying is easy, comedy is hard. What that means is, it was nothing for Hathaway to ugly cry as a consumptive prostitute, but to ugly cry and make it hilarious? That takes some serious chops.

Point: Claire Danes International Ugly-Cried in Brokedown Palace

Have you seen this? If you had HBO in the early 2000s, the answer is probably yes, because it was on all the damn time. Anyway, Brokedown Palace is a treat. Claire Danes ugly cries her way in to and out of a third world prison. And she ugly cries so vehemently that she is practically slobbering and seizing. Seriously, like you wonder if someone was off camera ready to hold her tongue so she didn’t swallow it.

Counterpoint: Hathaway is so committed to crying that she cried every day while filming Love And Other Drugs

According to the Internet, Hathaway said: “I was a wreck from start to finish. I think I cried every single day. I had to lean so much more heavily on everyone around me than I’m used to. I’m used to pulling my own weight. But I totally fell apart.” Did you get that? God, Hathaway ugly cries even when the camera’s not rolling. You can tell me she cried beautifully, but I won’t believe it for her second. Recreational ugly crying?! Anything for her craft. [Ed. note: please note Hathaway’s references to “leaning heavily” and not being able to “pull her weight.” This was obviously before she went from regular skinny to very, very skinny for Les Mis. Her weight loss secret? Expelling excess water through tears. Very strict regimen. Lots of onions and feelings.]

Point: Danes’ Award-Winning Teen Angst Crying In Little Women, Romeo And Juliet, and My So Called Life

You know what’s hard? Being a teenager whose love interest wrote a song that you thought was about you – and learning that it was about his car. You know what’s really hard? Being a teenager dying of scarlet fever. You know what’s ridiculously hard? Being a teenager whose star-crossed love affair ends in the death of the both of you. It’s hard to even imagine how difficult those scenarios are, but luckily we don’t even have to – Claire Danes’ tears did the talking, before she even had a driver’s license. What were you ugly crying over at that age? Whatever it was, you probably weren’t winning Emmys for it.

Counterpoint: Anne Hathaway is the Crown Princess of Genovia

A lot of things happened to teenaged Hathaway, too! Like, this one time, she thought she was a regular teen, but then she found out she was a princess! But you know what she didn’t do? Cry about it, really. She made some ugly faces of disgust and shock but that only gets you like a half-point, maybe. I still don’t know how I’m supposed to be scoring this but I think Danes wins this round.

Point: Temple Freakin’ Grandin, though.

The real Temple Grandin has said that “geeks that cry keep jobs” and that she “turned her anger into crying.” What are the chances that one noted crying enthusiast would play another noted crying enthusiast in an HBO biopic? And you thought there were a lot of parallels between Halle Berry and Dorothy Dandridge.

Counterpoint: (Rachel Getting Married Spoiler) Killed her sibling while drunk. How’s that for ugly?

Little known fact, if your character inspired the ugly cries of other characters in the film, that counts a little, too. It’s like getting a recruitment bonus when you sign a friend up for your insurance.

The Verdict:

I don’t really know how to quantify this. I mean… they’re both really good. Why does everything have to be a competition? Why can’t we just appreciate their unique, teary, snotty-nosed talents on their own merit? Okay… I’m calling it a tie. But if Hathaway wins on Oscar night, she becomes the reigning queen of the Ugly Cry, until Danes EGOTs or something.

Note: All images link to source. You’ll notice that a lot of the Danes pics link to The Claire Danes Cry Face Project . I found out about that blog when I was drafting this, but haven’t read it yet because I didn’t want to be influenced… but now I’m going to go spend half a day there and you should too!
 
Note 2: Those wanting further discussion of the Hathaway ugly cry should join us on Sunday, February 24, as we live-blog the Oscars!
 
OSCAR UPDATE: Anne Hathaway won an Oscar for her Fantine ugly cry, gave a shoutout to prostitutes, and made our worst dressed list. She started her speech with “… it came true!”. “It” being the dream that she dreamed, of being the ugliest crier in all the land. Details are in our liveblog.