Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Topic Of The Day: Why I Hate Category Fraud

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's topic, I figured I'd discuss a topic pertaining to the Oscars. That is the egregious case of category fraud. For those of you who don't know, category fraud is when a lead actor or co-lead drops down into the Supporting categories in order to better their chances at getting nominated as well as winning. It is a practice I have not become fond of and I'll go into why.

For this post, I will use a case study, if you will, from this year. Even though her distributor didn’t have the strongest campaign for her, Kristen Stewart had the perfect narrative to get in Best Supporting Actress for Clouds of Sils Maria. She was getting career-best reviews, it was sort of a redemption for her after her days of Twilight and that horrific cheating scandal with the Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders, and she made history as the first American actress to win a Cesar Award, which is the French version of the Oscars.

She also collected her fair share of critical hardware for Best Supporting Actress, including the New York Film Critics Circle, National Society of Film Critics, the Boston Society of Film Critics, Florida Film Critics Circle, and runner-up at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. She collected more hardware than nominees Rachel McAdams and Kate Winslet. She only wouldn't have been able to overcome those two names because McAdams was able to coattail off a Best Picture nominee and Kate Winslet had plenty of boxes to check off (previous winner, makeup transformation, big emotional scene, etc.).

But a bigger roadblock, to me, was Rooney Mara for Carol. I think Rooney Mara is absolutely fantastic in the film and I'm not pinning Stewart's exclusion entirely on her since I hear it's usually the actor's handlers that decide where their clients go. But her inclusion in Supporting wouldn't bother me so much if the film didn't focus so much on her POV and emotional arc or if she didn't have more screentime than Cate Blanchett. Even the Golden Globes and Spirit Awards have corrected this, putting both names in Lead.

Besides Kristen Stewart, another actress that collected the most critical hardware was Alicia Vikander for Ex Machina. But Vikander ended up getting derailed by her own lead performance in The Danish Girl which is flustering because a.) It prevented a legitimate genre performance from getting this kind of recognition and b.) She's the Danish Girl of the freaking title! At one point in the film, Matthias Schonaerts refers to her as a "Danish Girl" and the film's opening shot is even on Vikander's face. It's practically her movie more than it is Eddie Redmayne's.

So to me, what's so frustrating about the committance of such category fraud is that because the studios want to land as many nominations as possible, it prevents a legitimately supporting dark horse from having a shot along with some unique, out of the box performances like Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina or perhaps Julie Walters in Brooklyn from getting in the conversation. I've read complaints on different message boards about Rachel McAdams' inclusion in this year's Supporting Actress category and that she had little to do in Spotlight. But at least she's actually a supporting player.

Another thing that's so frustrating about category fraud is that it is so difficult to believe that a lead or co-lead is supporting their own narrative. Carol could've easily been titled Carol & Therese and it would still feel like the same movie.

So those are my thoughts on why I hate category fraud so much. I get that the Oscars are a part of a political game. But the studios and the agents should have some dignity about where their actors go.

What do you guys think? Are you as frustrated by category fraud as I am? Please be sure to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!