Share & Connect
Of the main categories on the nomination list for the Academy Awards, I find that the supporting role nods offer the most confusion; a lot of contention always arise as the supporting characters can vary greatly in age, screen time and seriousness.
This years nominations have left me with two sore points; Jonah Hill for ‘Moneyball’ and Melissa McCarthy for last years hilarious ‘Bridesmaids’. But I’ll get back to those.
First of all, let us talk about those who were left out. The greatest surprise was the horrendous omission of Albert Brooks. In the run-up to the nomination announcement, it was predicted to be a split battle between Christopher Plummer for ‘Beginners’ and Brooks for the acclaimed ‘Drive’. The award showers in the run-up had pointed to this situation, even to Brooks as the possible winner this year, so for him to not even get a shot at the target was shocking. Fans were baffled over the final decision but Reuters could report that the man in question took the bad news in good humor, tweeting shortly after the announcement: “I got ROBBED. I don’t mean the Oscars, I mean literally. My pants and shoes have been stolen,” and later put a candid twist on Sally Fields notorious 1985 acceptance speech: “And to the Academy: “You don’t like me. You really don’t like me.”
Brooks was not the only snub; Shailene Woodly, who plays George Clooney’s daughter in The Descendants, was mentioned as a prime candidate, as well as the scene-stealing Patton Oswalt for the bittersweet comedy ‘Young Adults’. That Young Adults was left out completely is a whole other crime in itself.
There are of course the nods who came about despite an averagely performing package. Some speak against Janet McTeer and her role in the drama ‘Albert Nobbs’, saying she got the nomination at the expense of Woodly. One IMDB.com user went as far as to say “To me, McTeer completely overacted her part. [...] Contorting the face to look “manly” is one of the most simplistic and poorest forms of acting I can envision.” But in for those in favor; McTeer was subtle and endearing in her portrayal that reflects a unique situation – no one could even imagine that a woman would dress up as a man in 19th century Ireland. Both her and Glenn Close (who is also nominated) are meant to be women, pretending to be men. Not actual men. McTeer was on all accounts a scene-stealer, like Oswalt, and her nomination is if possible, more deserved than Close’s.
Then we have Max von Sydow, who alongside the nominated cast members of ‘The Artist’ makes 2012 the year where a whopping three acting nominations were given without a single word spoken (that is a lie; Jean Dujardin has one line). Much controversy has been dragging behind the 9/11 drama ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ for stealing away a nomination for Best Picture despite mixed reviews. But von Sydow is a keeper; in silence he conveyed the delicate highs and devastating lows of contemporary human emotion and though the movie has been labelled an overall misfire (the New York Post called it “emotional blackmail” and the Toronto Star singling it out as ‘calculated Oscar bait’), you can’t deny a performance like that. Not to mention that some actually liked the overall film, thanks to him.
Much ado about nothing?
When the Academy pronounces the nominations, it is given without pattern nor order. Sometimes it feels like the nominations for supporting roles are made in an equally disorderly manner. The field is incredibly obscure and you ask yourself; on what basis is it decided what constitutes a worthy supporting part?
The first contention is screen time. A look back at the Oscar records show that screen time is no hindrance when it comes to dazzling the Academy. The shortest-ever winning performance for an Actor in a supporting role was Anthony Quinn for ‘Lust for Life’ in 1955, only dominating the screen for a mere eight minutes. Shortest Supporting Actress performance was won by Beatrice Straight in 1976 for a meager 5 minutes and 40 seconds. Judi Dench is another example when she won in 1998 for her eight minutes work in ‘Shakespeare in Love’.
In comparison, the shortest Best Actor performance to win was David Niven’s 15 minutes and 38 seconds in ‘Seperate Tables’. Next to him is Anthony Hopkins for 16 minutes in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’.
Clearly, time is not the greatest obstacle. Supporting parts are simply tough to evaluate because they usually do the background work that lifts everything else. And it varies how talented or important that lift is. Scene-stealers are naturally favored, but the Academy has an equally recurring tendency of nominating a main character as a Supporting performance if they ‘don’t really know where to put them’, e.g. they are reluctant to recognize a performance in the more significant Leading category.
This year our first question is why Bérénice Bejo was nominated in the Supporting category by the Academy — but as a Leading actress at the BAFTA awards. What constitutes a lead performance over a supporting one? Can there only be one main character? This is not the first time that the Academy makes these types of calculated mistakes and it’s a shame because a lead character being categorized with supporting characters will either rob them of their due diligence or destroy their chance of winning because the voters will be distracted by the misplacement. Bejo will not win this year.
Read the continuation of this debate here.
Image Courtesy of ©Douglas Kirkland 2012