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Chris Pratt might be best known as the dumb, goofy, accident-prone Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation, but pratfalls and ad-libs aren’t the only skills he possesses as an actor. You see, Pratt has a very specific gift. It’s an ability that only a few, rare souls in Hollywood have, though all of them secretly crave: he has the power to earn his films a Best Picture Academy Award nomination simply by appearing in them.
Okay, so he doesn’t have the magic touch with all of his films – although, really, did anyone think that What’s Your Number? would ever come anywhere near the Oscar conversation? – but for three consecutive years, Pratt has appeared in a Best Picture nominee. Shortly after popping up in a prestigious film, that film inevitably lands on the Academy’s list. In fact, Pratt actually has a better Best Picture record than Meryl Streep, who hasn't appeared in a film nominated for the top prize since 2002.
But for those who aren’t ready to bombard Pratt with scripts in the hopes of getting an Oscar nomination, let’s examine this phenomenon bit. It all began back in 2011, when Pratt won the role of Scott Hatteberg in Moneyball, and proved that he could do more than just make people laugh by running into things. Sure, Jonah Hill got most of the praise (and the Best Supporting Actor nod), but reviews everywhere made a note of Pratt’s performance and ability to play against type, which was likely the extra push the Academy needed to name it one of the best movies of the year. You could argue that Brad Pitt might have had a lot more to do with it, but did Brad Pitt lose 30 pounds? No he did not. And what does the Academy love more than drastic weight loss? Absolutely nothing.
Then, he followed that up by playing a NAVY Seal in Zero Dark Thirty and transformed his chubby, slouchy Andy Dwyer-physique into the ripped, toned body befitting of one of the most elite soldiers in the world. (You’ve probably seen the picture, it’s been shown off in every interview Pratt’s done in the last three years.) His character might not have been the most prominent, but he was the one that required the biggest transformation, and as we’ve previously established, the Oscars love to award dramatic physical changes. “But wait,” you’re probably saying, “just dropping a ton of weight and gaining an impressive set of abs isn’t enough to guarantee a nomination.” You would be right, except that his ZDT character Justin is as far from the dumb but lovable good guy as Pratt has gotten over the years. If the McConaissance proved anything, it’s that the only thing the Oscars love to reward more than weight loss is a comedic actor’s ability to completely change pace and play a dramatic role. Add that to the fact that both Jessica Chastain and Katheryn Bigelow were familiar faces and that it’s a political drama about war, and you’ve got yourself a guaranteed contender.
And then, of course, there’s Her. Unlike Moneyball and Zero Dark Thirty, Pratt didn’t need to do anything drastic to prepare for the role of Paul... although we’re sure the stylish moustache helped. All he needed to do was turn on the easygoing, laid-back charm that has become his signature and adjust it for a more serious film. Think back to when you first watched Her, and the sheer delight you felt when Theodore revealed that he was dating an OS, and Paul immediately decided to invite them to Catalina. Most of the joy you probably experienced while watching that movie likely came from Paul’s effortless acceptance of his friend’s girlfriend and his desire to spread happiness wherever he went. Look, the love story is nice and all, but without that spark of pure, unadulterated joy, that movie would not have been nearly as effective.
Which leads us to 2014, and the two films that Pratt has starred in this year. The most obvious, of course, is Guardians of the Galaxy, which is likely going to certify its lead as the talented, goofy, well-meaning movie star that it was obvious he could be the instant Bert Macklin appeared on our screens. Pratt’s ability to guarantee a Best Picture nomination as a leading man is still without scientific backing, but if we’re honest, there is one other film that might be better suited to the nomination this year: The Lego Movie.
It’s got the drastic physical transformation that Pratt usually makes for his Oscar-nominated films. Yes, he’s transformed into a Lego person, but it’s still very different from what he looks like normally. It’s got critical acclaim, humor, drama, an underlying message about individuality, creative expression and the corrupting nature of big business, and an appearance from Morgan Freeman. But most importantly, it has Pratt, playing a lovable, slightly dim good guy who just so happens to have a lot more lurking underneath the surface. It was practically designed to appeal to the Academy, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see The Lego Movie on the list of nominees come Oscar season.
Even if it doesn’t get a nod, don’t be surprised if Pratt starts becoming as much of a fixture on the awards circuit as Streep herself. After all, he does seem to have the better luck with these things.