Ultimate Oscars: The Long Island edition

If we could hand out a Long Island Oscar, what would it look like? A model of the land mass itself seems a little awkward for a trophy. A windmill could work, but that’s too specific to the Hamptons. How about a railroad car? A big duck? Is there a way to make a sculpture of traffic?

Maybe it’s better that we’re not actually going to manufacture statuettes. We will, however, publish here our list of the nominees and winners for the best Long Island movies and performances.

The rules governing nominations are straightforward (if a little loose). Eligible movies must have a strong local connection -- either set here or filmed here, or both. It isn’t enough to feature a local actor (sorry, Natalie Portman) or be written by a local screenwriter (sorry, Alexander Dinelaris of “Birdman,” but you already have a real Oscar). “North by Northwest,” for instance, was filmed partly on Long Island and even includes a quick reference to Glen Cove, but we found other movies with even stronger local connections. And while everyone knows that Charles Foster Kane appears to live in Huntington’s Oheka Castle in “Citizen Kane,” it’s only a photograph, not the actual building. So you’re out of the running, too, Orson Welles.

Who finally made it onto our list for the Long Island Oscars? Roll out the red carpet and read on:

Best picture nominee: “Joy” (2015)

Jennifer Lawrence, teaming up again with director David O. Russell, plays yet another Long Island housewife, and a famous one: East Meadow’s Joy Mangano, who invented the Miracle Mop (assembled in her father’s Deer Park auto-shop) and turned herself into a one-woman business empire. It’s a Long Island story through and through, even if the movie was filmed largely in Massachusetts.


Best picture nominee: “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, the financial whiz-kid and fraudulent stockbroker who lived in Old Brookville and ran his shop out of Lake Success during the 1990s. If you thought Gatsby’s parties were wild, they were nothing compared to the strippers-and-dwarves debaucheries that director Martin Scorsese depicts here. What’s more, several scenes were filmed in Sands Point, Bayville and Upper Brookville.

Best picture nominee: “American Hustle” (2013)

David O. Russell’s freewheeling crime drama stars Christian Bale and Amy Adams as con artists coerced into a sting operation by a sleazy FBI agent (Bradley Cooper). And who could forget Jennifer Lawrence as a Long Island housewife (hmm, doesn’t she play that role in another movie)? Best of all, the plot was inspired by the FBI’s Abscam operation, which took down more than a dozen elected officials and was headquartered in an office in Happauge.


Best picture nominee: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004)

It’s hard to think of many surrealist sci-fi films set in Long Island, but here’s one. Written by Massapequa’s Charlie Kaufman (and directed by Michel Gondry), this labyrinthine love story stars Jim Carrey as Joel Barish, a Rockville Centre man who has his mind scrubbed of all memories of his relationship with Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet). One memory lingers, however —  her whispered words, “Meet me in Montauk.”


Best picture nominee: “Pollock” (2000)

Ed Harris directs and stars in this biopic of Jackson Pollock, the painter whose drip-and-spatter canvases made him a towering figure in the world of modern art. With his wife, Lee Krasner (played by Marcia Gay Harden), Pollock lived in the East Hampton area called Springs, and it was there he came up with his famous “action painting” technique. Harris filmed at the Pollock-Krasner House as much as possible, though the large concrete pad where Pollock did much of his work was off-limits due to fears that the actor might accidentally paint over the leftover splashes. The exteriors of the house and studio, however, are the real deal.

Best picture nominee: “The Great Gatsby” (1974)

There have been four films based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, which was written during his years in Great Neck and is set in a fictional version of the town. The 1926 silent has been lost to time; the 1949 version, starring Alan Ladd, has its moments; and the 2013 update benefited from an excellent Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role. As far as we know, none were actually filmed on Long Island. Still, we’re nominating the 1974 adaptation, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, for its faithfulness to Gatsby’s locally inspired book.

Best picture nominee: “The Godfather” (1972)

By now, Francis Ford Coppola’s Mafia masterpiece needs no introduction. We’ve nominated it for a Long Island Oscar for two key scenes, each among the most famous in cinema history. One is when movie-mogul Jack Woltz (John Marley) wakes up next to the severed head of his favorite horse (filmed in the Falaise mansion on Sands Point Preserve, the former home of Newsday founder Alicia Patterson). The other is the multiple-machine-gun murder of Sonny Corleone (James Caan), which was filmed at Mitchel Field.

Best picture nominee: “Lilith” (1964)

Robert Rossen’s acclaimed but largely forgotten drama from 1964 stars Warren Beatty as a therapist who becomes obsessed with a seductive but schizophrenic patient (Jean Seberg). The asylum where most of the action takes place is said to be in Maryland, but filming was done largely at Killingworth (also known as the Myron Taylor estate) in Locust Valley. What’s more, in 1973, “Lilith” became an opening-night feature at the mom-and-pop movie theater now known as the Cinema Arts Centre.


Best picture nominee: “Sabrina” (1954)

It’s easy to forget that much of this lightweight rom-com, starring Audrey Hepburn as a chauffeur’s daughter pursued by two wealthy brothers (Humphrey Bogart and William Holden), takes place on Long Island. “Once upon a time,” the narrator tells us, “on the North Shore of Long Island, some 30 miles from New York, there lived a small girl on a large estate.” More precisely, all these characters must live in or near Glen Cove, since that’s where Hepburn’s Sabrina catches the LIRR.

And the Long Island Oscar for best picture goes to: "The Brothers McMullen" (1995)

Better than “The Godfather”? Maybe not, but this indie gem is way more Strong Island. As an aspiring filmmaker in his 20s, Valley Stream’s Ed Burns followed the old adage, “Write what you know,” and came up with a story about three Irish-American brothers grappling with life’s problems. Burns worked on a shoestring budget, and one of his biggest cost-saving devices —  filming largely in his own real-life family home in Valley Stream —  gave the movie an authenticity that bigger budgets can’t always buy. Although the fledgling Hamptons International Film Festival turned down Burns’ film (which stung him at the time), “The Brothers McMullen” became a smash hit at Sundance and helped usher in a Golden Age of independent cinema.

Best actress nominee: Mia Farrow, “The Great Gatsby” (1974)

Farrow lays her ingénue routine on a little thick here, but she’s a fine choice to play Daisy Buchanan, the poor little rich girl from East Egg (in real life, Sands Point). Her beaming smile and those slightly too-wide eyes tell us poor Gatsby never really stood a chance.


Best actress nominee: Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy” (2015)

If ever there was an echt-Long Islander, it’s Joy Mangano, the housewife-turned-inventor from East Meadow. Lawrence plays a fictionalized version of her, but it’s a strong performance with plenty of mettle and grit.

Best actress nominee: Jean Seberg, “Lilith” (1964)

Who’d have thought Locust Valley would become a film shoot for this French New Wave actress (Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless”)? What’s more, it’s the place where Seberg delivered a performance —  as a mentally unstable woman —  that finally forced critics to acknowledge her as a serious actress. 


Best actress nominee: Audrey Hepburn, “Sabrina” (1954)

The Brussels-born actress, daughter of a British man and a Dutch baroness, doesn’t exactly scream “Long Island,” even when playing a girl from posh Glen Cove. Still, this is a sparkling performance that helped set the tone for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and other Hepburn classics.

And the Long Island Oscar for best actress goes to: Kate Winslet, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004)

As Clementine Kruczynski, a lost love who may still be waiting for her soulmate in Montauk, Winslet walked a deft balance between dreamy ideal and self-possessed woman. Winslet may be the only actress who has made the Long Island Rail Road seem romantic. 

Best actor nominee: Marlon Brando, “The Godfather” (1972)

The cotton in the cheeks, the hoarse voice, the world-weary eyes -- Brando’s Don Corleone sometimes veers into actorly schtick, but it’s still one of the most memorable performances in the movies.

Best actor nominee: Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)

DiCaprio earned strong reviews for his portrayal of Jordan Belfort, the stockbroker who ran his fraudulent firm out of Lake Success. DiCaprio turns Belfort into a classic figure: a smart little pipsqueak who gets way too big for his britches.

Best actor nominee: Christian Bale, “American Hustle” (2013)

Sporting a large paunch and a terrible toupee, Bale, right, is quite convincing and often very funny as a con-artist caught in an FBI sting — a plot inspired by the Happaugue-based Abscam operation in the late 1970s.

Best actor nominee: Robert Redford, “The Great Gatsby” (1974)

The handsome, golden-haired actor isn’t who we usually think of as the guy who loses the girl, but Redford does a good job here as the doomed Gatsby, whose pretty face and massive mansion aren’t enough to win the heart of high-class Daisy Buchanan.

And the Long Island Oscar for best actor goes to: Ed Harris, "Pollock" (2000)

As the brilliant but self-destructive painter Jackson Pollock, Harris delivers a searing performance for which he was robbed of an Academy Award (he lost to Russell Crowe in “Gladiator”). He certainly deserves our Long Island Oscar for doing some of his best acting in Pollock’s chosen hometown, the East Hampton neighborhood of Springs.


Best supporting actress nominee: Margot Robbie, “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)

Here’s where the Australian actress made her mark, as a blond knockout married to a dishonest financier. Robbie plays Naomi Lapaglia as a not-so-classy but wicked-smart woman who, in the end, knows exactly when it’s time to cash in and get out.

Best supporting actress nominee: Diane Keaton, “The Godfather” (1972)

Though we mostly know Keaton as Woody Allen’s romantic ideal —  smart, flirty, fidgety —  one of her first roles was as the non-Italian lover of a dangerous Mafioso. She’s terrific, too, a glimmer of modernity in an oppressive old-world atmosphere.


Best supporting actress nominee: Amy Adams, “American Hustle” (2013)

As a seductive scam-artist who’s perfectly honest with the two men trying to woo her —  she’ll simply choose whoever has the best offer — Adams is the glue that holds this farcical comedy together.

Best supporting actress nominee: Connie Britton, “The Brothers McMullen” (1995)

Before “Friday Night Lights,” before the series “Nashville,” Britton made her film debut here as the wife of a man with a wandering eye. It was a small role, but confidently played, and director Ed Burns would turn to Britton again for his 2012 comeback film, “A Fitzgerald Family Christmas.”


And the Long Island Oscar for best supporting actress goes to: Marcia Gay Harden, "Pollock" (2000)

As Lee Krasner, the wife of Jackson Pollock (Ed Harris), Harden manages to be hard-nosed, headstrong and heartbroken all at once. The actress already has an actual Oscar for this performance, and it’s well deserved.

Best supporting actor nominee: Bradley Cooper, “Joy” (2015)

Cooper plays a mover and shaker at QVC, the home shopping channel that introduced Joy Mangano’s Miracle Mop to the world. Cooper is perfect as a true believer in the capitalist dream, using his blue eyes and slick words to dazzle and seduce but —  somehow —  he never comes off as phony.

Best supporting actor nominee: Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)

The comedic actor had already played a straight-ahead role in “Moneyball,” but this Martin Scorsese film proved that Hill had real chops. As the toothy, frizzy-haired, drug-huffing Donnie Azoff, Hill finds the middle ground between caricature and pathos, and in the end he’s one of the film’s most memorable characters.

Best supporting actor nominee: Bruce Dern, “The Great Gatsby” (1974)

Talk about counter-casting: The tall, rangy Dern, standing, as the broadly handsome Tom Buchanan? Yet it works. Dern gives the philandering Tom a mean, brutal edge —  expected from an actor who frequently plays villains —  but he manages to look respectably patriarchal in his polo boots, too.


Best supporting actor nominee: William Holden, “Sabrina” (1954)

Another actor might have turned the playboy David Larrabee into the usual debonair cad, but Holden adds something extra: a slightly coarse, not-so-classy edge that tells us he’s probably The Wrong Guy.

And the Long Island Oscar for best supporting actor goes to: James Caan, "The Godfather" (1972)

It isn’t just because Caan, center, is such a live wire as Sonny Corleone, or that the role is still a model for every smiling yet unpredictably violent gangster we see in the movies. It’s also because Caan’s most famous scene takes place at Mitchel Field —  and in this Oscar race, that’s the winning edge.