No, No…Wake Up

Academy voters are basically sheep — a herd. The shepherd just has to show control and point the way, and unless his/her suggestion is nonsensical and/or unwise almost all of the sheep will follow. The shepherd (i.e., Paramount marketing) has made it clear that True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld is a Best Supporting Actress contender. That’s because her fiercely intelligent performance can’t overpower a basic human tendency to regard 14 year-olds as entertaining but marginal figures. The only choice, obviously, is the Best Supporting Actress route. It doesn’t matter how large or central her role is — she’s 14.

To hell with the Keisha Castle Hughes precedent pointed out by Scott Feinberg. That was then, True Grit ain’t Whale Rider, etc.

Steinfeld having received Best Supporting Actress nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Screen Actors Guild Award settles it. Whatever the Hollywood Foreign Press kumquats did or didn’t do means nothing.

On top of which it would it would be wrong, wrong, wrong if Steinfeld (whose spirited and highly willful Mattie Ross, don’t get me wrong, is a complete delight) were to push aside Blue Valentine‘s Michelle Williams, as EW‘s Dave Karger has reported, because “some voters I’ve talked to are turned off by the film’s darkness.” (AMPAS Newsflash: films about the breakup of marriages are only dark if they’re doleful and depressing and covered in fake-behavior sauce, which Blue Valentine clearly is not.) And while I’ve disagreed with Sony Classics decision to push Another Year‘s Lesley Manville in supporting category, she still gave the performance that she gave, and anyone who’s still talking about sending her to the showers because “not everyone has even seen that late-year release”….c’mon! At this late date?

So Karger’s 1.3.11 EW piece is singing the wrong tune….sorry.

And Coming Soon‘s Ed Douglas (who was completely blind on the Lesley Manville issue, claiming that she had to be a Best Actress contender because the size and depth of the role demanded it) is wrong also. There’s no basis for category confusion with Steinfeld. The HFPA is composed of marginal whores and their opinion means nothing — they simply provide a popular TV show. But Douglas is right about one thing: “The lead actress category is already fairly jam-packed, [so] there’s a good chance Steinfeld will get snubbed [in that category] despite having a SAG nomination precursor.”

Feinberg notes that 15 first-timers have been nominated for Best Actress, but the only kid who made it was Whale Rider‘s Keisha Castle Hughes, and that performance was extra-extraordinary, I believe, due to Whale Rider touching people on much deeper and more primal level than True Grit, no offense.

47 thoughts on “No, No…Wake Up

  1. Despite whatever politics are in play to move everybody into their correct slot, she IS a lead actress in this film. I’d say Bridges is leading actor and everyone else is supporting. Her age has nothing to do with it.

  2. Do Academy voters have the option of nominating an actor in both the lead and supporting categories, or is it an either/or thing? How are the actors presented to the voters for nominating – is it a gigantic list of actors, and voters are supposed to figure out which category to nominate the actor? How does it work?

    Steinfeld deserves to be nominated in the Best Actress category – it is her film, she is the lead actor in the film – but I agree with Jeff on the age issue, and I do hope that she is placed in the supporting category, and I hope she wins!

  3. I was 14 seven years ago. It always blew when, no matter how intelligent you were, a lot of adults (old farts) wouldn’t take you seriously. A move-along-junior type attitude.

    Haile Steinfeld is the lead in True Grit. Not because the Hollywood Foreign Press says so, but because anyone who sees the movie and doesn’t have significant brain damage can see she’s the heart, soul, and voice of the movie. Nominating her alongside Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech and Mila Kunis in Black Swan is -absurd-.

    Would it be sad if Michelle Williams or Lesley Manville missed an Oscar nomination this year? Definitely. But category fraud is category fraud, and saying, “Putting the kid who carried the Coens’ blockbuster in the ghetto of Supporting Actress makes room for Michelle Williams!” doesn’t make it go down any easier.

  4. It’s NOT category fraud to put a first-time-in-the-big-leagues ingenue into supporting, dammit! That’s how it’s done. That’s how people are, how the industry is. Life is unfair and kids have always had to wait their turn. It doesn’t matter how big or central her role is — she has to take supporting. And then when she’s made two or three more films and scores again, then she goes into the Best Actress category.

  5. Having seen Another Year for a second time more recently (first time was back in SEptember), I can definitely see the arguments on Lesley Manville… the movie is an ensemble piece and there really are no leads (except maybe JIm Broadbent) and it just make sense to make everyone ensemble. But honestly, you could say the same thing for The Kids Are All Right. Does Annette Bening really have *that* much screentime that she’s the lead? The story is about her daughter really and her journey. I don’t buy the whole “If they’re a certain age, they only get supporting” because we’ve seen way too many veteran actors like Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin and George Clooney winning in the supporting category essentially for their body of work… so why are young actresses thrown into supporting without a chance of winning and older actors honored by being given an Oscar in that category (rather than as a lead, which seems to still be going to 30 somethings for the most part).

  6. Are you senile? Keisha Castle-Hughes was nominated in supporting by SAG in 2003. Then Oscar bumped her up to lead because that’s what she was. Castle-Hughes was even younger than Steinfeld is now. Her making it into lead would in no way be unprecedented, unexpected, or inappropriate.

    Wells response: Keisha Castle Hughes gave an exceptionally emotional and triumphant performance in Whale Rider that sank way deeper into the emotional membranes of Academy members — it was a truly exceptional thing all around. Steinfeld is very good, but she’s mainly doing smart and plucky and dogged. Different concoctions.

  7. Would it matter if she was 18 playing a 14-year old, ala Bishil in Towelhead? Just curious. Or is that not a fair comparison, as Bishil had to take on the sexual undertones of her coming of age that Steinfeld got to ignore. I can see the point of disallowing any performance of a character in the lead categories that lacks any sexual dimension. Hoffman’s Rain Man, e.g., was supporting all the way.

  8. Jeff, if we kept going by how “it’s done” and how “the Industry is” then The King’s Speech will win best picture because that’s how it’s always been done. Here’s an idea. How about the Actors nominate whoever they want in whatever catagory they want to nominate them in? What’s wrong with that? Why don’t we leave it in the hands of the people who are actually doing the voting? Am I missing something? Is this one of those popular votes vs. electoral college things?

  9. The Castle-Hughes nomination supports Jeff’s thesis, not the other way around. If you want to reward a first timer with a lead nomination, you want to be sure as hell that it launches their career into the big leagues. And when so young, there are just too many unknowns, foremost maybe being what will this person look like in a few years, and will the camera still approve. A lead over supporting nomination does little for Steinfeld, but crushes whatever vet she bumps out of lead.

  10. Imagine, last year:

    “Oh, I don’t know…Carey Mulligan’s quite young. We want to welcome her to the business and recognize her breakthrough performance, but lead is a bit of a stretch. Plus, it kicks Marion Cotillard out of contention for Nine… Oh, my, my, my. Let’s campaign Mulligan for Best Supporting Actress. Peter Sarsgaard is a definite lead, though. Best Actor campaign all the way.”

    Would’ve been ridiculous, just as ridiculous as suggesting Steinfeld is a supporting player in True Grit

  11. Actually suggesting that a 24-year old and a 14-year old are comparatively young is the most ridiculous thing on this thread yet.

  12. I’m baffled how you get from “That’s just the way it’s done, so live with it.” to “It’s not category fraud.” Of course it’s category fraud. How does the fact that you’re cool with it change the definition of category fraud?

    If people think it was really that great then they should bloody well vote for it in the correct category. Otherwise, isn’t starring in a big hit Coens brother movie reward enough? I would rather not see a great supporting performances like Barbara Hershey or Jackie Weaver get the brush off just because people think Steinfeld can’t hack it with the grown-ups.

  13. So was Judy Garland a lead or supporting player in The Wizard of Oz?

    I love Jeff sometimes, but these categorizations have become inane. Hailee Steinfeld isn’t just the lead actress in “True Grit”–she’s the lead, period. It’s her story. Nominate her or not based on that. If she’s one of the top 5 lead actresses, great. If not, fine.

    But to place her in supporting is absolutely bonkers. Who is she actually supporting? How is Mattie Ross a “supporting” role?

  14. Who was Tim Hutton supporting in Ordinary People? Total category fraud, and yet it worked. He won. And people had no beef with this. He was young and wet behind the ears, and they accepted the supporting designation.

  15. Wells to ModernLifeIsRubbish: Carey Mulligan was playing a slightly naive and yet wise and educated and beautiful young woman with a very old soul. In other words, a total adult. On top of which Mulligan had been around in English TV dramas and had done Chekhov on B’way, so don’t tell me.

  16. Fair enough — Hutton was probably the lead of Ordinary People, although you could make a decent case that Sutherland and Moore are the stars of the picture. That movie’s far more of an ensemble piece, though, than True Grit.

    The point is more that category fraud is dumb. Even accepting that category fraud exists, Steinfeld being called a “supporting actress” breaks any kind of logical limitation. It’s a dumber decision than Al Pacino being a “supporting actor” for the Godfather (which still makes absolutely no sense whatsoever).

  17. Is Best Supporting Actress meant to be a lesser award? Is there really a hierarchy of acting awards? Do you get docked if you win two Oscars, but they’re both for Best Supporting Actress?

  18. I’m less annoyed by leading players nominated as supporting than by supporting players winning as leads: Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, Kidman in Hours, etc.

  19. “And while I’ve disagreed with Sony Classics decision to push Another Year’s Lesley Manville in supporting category”

    Jeff – didn’t you post an interview with her where she said they were going to push her as Best Actress instead of Supporting?

  20. “Do Academy voters have the option of nominating an actor in both the lead and supporting categories, or is it an either/or thing?”

    JR – technically, they *could* do a write-in, but the studio decides what category to push the people in. So the voters will get a list of eligible people with her listed under supporting actress.

  21. “Who was Tim Hutton supporting in Ordinary People?”

    The guy who has the big climactic speech in the movie and then the final scene in the movie. Another big one (not applicable to ‘True Grit’), the only character in the movie who has an arc and actually changes over the course of the movie.

    Donald Sutherland.

  22. Also I say this every year, but the supporting categories, especially actress, ALWAYS throw in some neophyte/amateur or kid or foreign chick or tranny or some “great story” first timer….

    Don’t you think the other actresses hate that shit? You do theater for a decade then bit parts and work your way up and hit the awards circuit and talk shows and all that…

    …then you’re in a category with some little kid lucky enough to have had idiot stage parents foisting her into auditions?

    They should institute a rule that no one under 16 is allowed to be nominated, and no one with fewer than FIVE film credits.

    And no one named Roberto Benigni.

  23. “and no one with fewer than FIVE film credits.”

    you’re right, Lex, the Academy would have a lot more credibility if they refused to nominate Peter O’Toole for ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ or ‘Becket’ on a technicality. Or Al Pacino for ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Serpico’. What they really need is more rules to limit nominating great performances.

    What you’re saying is something everybody knows, that the Oscars love a narrative, and that’s why the hypothetical Melissa Leo you refer to should know better than to put any stock or faith in the Oscars.

    But probably the funniest part is the idea that a kid is lucky to have stage parents forcing him or her to audition.

  24. “But probably the funniest part is the idea that a kid is lucky to have stage parents forcing him or her to audition.”

    Yeah, GEE, I’d have HATED having my parents get me a SAG CARD and INSTANT ACCESS to decades of MOVIE ROLES AND PUSSY, instead of putting me in Little League and making me work at McDonald’s when I was 15 to pay for my Winger tapes.

    It’s CHILD ABUSE to NOT get your kid into showbiz, especially in an era when ONLY fame matters.

  25. “Life is unfair and kids have always had to wait their turn.”

    Wells, didn’t you learn anything from your hero Roman Polanski? He knows all about treating children like adults. (Zing!)

  26. I like how Jeff accuses the Academy members of being “sheep” if they put a young actress who is a clear lead into the Leading Actress category, while it’s the reasoning behind his plea for her as Supporting Actress (“this is how it’s always done!”) that truly comes off as sheep-worthy.

    Anyway, the simple solution here — at least for my selfish tastes — is to knock Steinfeld down to supporting, and nominate Noomi Rapace in the fifth slot for Actress. It’ll never happen, I know, but Michelle Williams? I’m sorry but someone needs to invoke the Dawson’s Creek law here.

    Who’s next, Joshua Jackson? We simply cannot allow this to happen (although, having said that, I fully supported the push — sadly non-existent — to get the BEEK an Oscar for his scorching performance against type in Avary’s Rules of Attraction).

  27. Yeah, Lex, that’s why so many people who were actors in their youth have such great adult lives, it’s because it’s so awesome. It’s certainly in their best interest and never has anything to do with their own failed dreams and/or trying to steal the money their children earn.

  28. This isn’t even close. She’s a lead. It’s her story and she’s in 99 percent of the film. End of story.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we followed Jeff’s reasoning and could all look back on The Wizard of Oz and think, wow, Judy Garland was so great that she won Best Supporting Actress. Supporting Toto, no doubt.

  29. “…the only character in the movie who has an arc and actually changes over the course of the movie…Donald Sutherland”

    I hung on. I stayed with the boat.

  30. Chauncey – I’m willing to bend a bit and agree that he has some form of arc, but as far as I remember, the end of the movie (unlike most therapy movies) is not that he’s cured, but that he’s taken the first step on the long journey toward acceptance. Compare that with Donald Sutherland’s arc, realizing that he loves his one remaining son more than he loves his wife and actually taking decisive action over it. (And obviously MTM’s arc pretty much all takes place before the movie starts.)

  31. “I’m less annoyed by leading players nominated as supporting than by supporting players winning as leads: Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest…”

    How is Fletcher not a co-lead with Nicholson? Take Nurse Ratched and her insistence that she’s in the right out of the picture and there’s no movie. She is the one who stops Randle from being sent back to prison because “we must not pass our responsibilities onto someone else.”

  32. After having beans and cornbread, we would have more cornbread with butter and honey on it. The next point against gold is this. googlesense: Professional Writer of On-line articles on Revenue Share Basis But BSA’s supremacy led to the Clubman’s TT being dropped after the following year. She turned her back like she normaly did and closed her eyes, to fall a sleep. Gold Coins Guinea

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>