Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Who am I?; on 2012 and Category Placement
When the nominees for the 2010 Oscar nominees were announced I remember being particularly incensed when Hailee Steinfeld earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in True Grit. Sure, I was irked by the obvious fact that I did not find her work riveting and it had earned a nomination in a year of especially great performances (I was harsher on the AMPAS then) but my true annoyance went deeper. For a performance which manned the entire film but for one scene I felt the campaigning of Steinfeld in the supporting category to be one of the most egregious cases of specious category placement.
It’s easy to make an argument with any batch of Oscar nominees and pick out potentially unsettling examples of category fraud but this year I feel as if the issue has become slightly difficult to assess not because of the prevalence of the category fraud incidences this year (or, better, not because of the prevalence alone) but because this year – more than any in recent memory – I’m uncertain as to when category fraud is occurring and when it is not. Forget even the actual nominees, taking a glance at the pool of potential contenders for the 2012 Oscar season I can’t recall when I’ve found it so difficult deciding where to categorise some performers for their work in my own year-end awards. On so many occasions, I found myself vacillating between whether they were supporting or leading performances…
…Which really is the crux of it all, right? For what is a true leading or a true supporting performance? The question that may be exasperating and frustrating us in turn for years to come. Category fraud indicates not a straddling of the line between supporting and leading – that’s just when actors are campaigned for awards in the wrong category. Richard Burton’s first Oscar nomination for My Cousin Rachel for supporting actor 1952, where he is so obviously the protagonist, is bizarre to the point of being hilarious. But, the fifties weren’t all about the obviously fraudulent. Katharine Hepburn’s nomination for Best Actress in Suddenly Last Sumer often makes me ponder, it’s one of the few films to earn dual Best Actress citations and as much as Violet Venable towers above all in the film I do wonder if she’s really a true lead – whatever that is. How do we decide?
For example, I eventually came to a decision on these five 2012 performances, but initially I was between two minds as to where they belonged....
Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained
Verdict: Leading, by a fair margin
Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy
Verdict: Leading, by an inch or two
...more 2012 performers that may be in the wrong category...
below the jump
Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook
Garrett Hedlund in On the Road
Verdict: Leading, by a comfortable margin
Helen Hunt in The Sessions
Verdict: Supporting, by a hair
Other 2012 performances that others have claimed have been campaigned wrongly. Persons have argued that Shirley MacLaine (Bernie) and Dwight Henry (Beasts of the Southern Wild) are leading but they’re both clear supporting roles to me. Same goes for Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Cotillard (Rust and Bone) and Roberts (Mirror Mirror) are just a bit more tricky, but I say leading roles, both of them
And, still, even as I’ve given my verdicts I wouldn’t deny that there are possibly formidable arguments to make in the opposition regarding some of these category placements. And, I feel as if it’s not getting any simpler – films keep getting more and more “leads” and the situation is ripe for differences in opinion. It’s shame awards’ races tend to dictate category placement….so often I disagree.
What say you? Has this year shows the difficulties in category placement? Or is the fraudulence more obvious for you?