In today’s Oscar news, Irish Times writer Donald Clarke attempted to tackle the importance of campaigning during awards season through what he calls “the red carpet Olympics.”
Clarke begins by explaining why he thinks Luptia Nyong’o should best Jennifer Lawrence for the Best Supporting Actress trophy.
Let me get this out of the way first. I think Lupita Nyong’o deserves this year’s Academy Award for best supporting actor. Jennifer Lawrence is fun in American Hustle. Sally Hawkins was fine in Blue Jasmine. June Squibb was a trooper in Nebraska. Julia Roberts was actually rather better than Meryl Streep in August: Osage County. But Lupita’s turn in 12 Years a Slave is in a different class. Her desperation is positively discomfiting. Her degradation is painful to watch.
Despite Nyong’o’s magnificent performance in 12 Years a Slave, Lawrence—who is somewhat of a Hollywood darling—claimed the Golden Globe trophy, and many pegged her as the front-runner for the Oscar.
And then, Lupita’s star began to rise.
After dazzling style critics with her stunning red carpet looks, scoring numerous editorials in magazines, and making the rounds as she campaigned for 12 Years a Slave, Nyong’o began to pick up steam as a Oscar contender. Her chance of taking home Hollywood’s most coveted prize grew even larger after winning Best Supporting Actress at the Critics Choice Awards, Palm Springs International Film Festival, and a Screen Actors Guild Awards.
While Nyong’o’s performance in 12 Years has certainly earned her the right to claim the top spot, Clarke asserts that her ability to look flawless while exhibiting her sparking personality is what has propelled her ahead of Lawrence in the Oscar race.
For the first month or so of awards season (which now lasts all year) she looked to be tailing Lawro by some distance. Jennifer won the Golden Globe and, in her endearingly affectless way, managed to come across as a smart woman and a proper movie star. That’ll do. But, on that same evening, Nyong’o planted a flag that had fluttered ever more vigorously in the interim. It was nothing to do with her performance (or not her performance in the film, anyway). Lupita achieved victory on much more significant terrain: she won the red carpet. This was partly to with her admittedly fabulous dress: a red affair with a cape that shouldn’t have worked, but did. It was as much to do with her patient demeanour while being asked stupid questions on that stupid red carpet.
A week or so later, she won at the Screen Actors Guild and delivered a speech that was well poised, modest and charming. Sod, you, Lawrence. You can forget about becoming the first back-to-back acting winner at the Oscars since Katharine Hepburn. We’ve got a new queen of Hollywood now.
Campaigning during Oscar season is nothing new, and unfortunately, it’s apart of the process. Those who eschew lobbying for the award are often passed over (see: Robert Redford’s snub) for those who grant nonstop interviews and hobnob with Academy voters. It’s one of the main reasons I predicted Nyong’o would take home an Oscar (she just so damn electric), while her costar Chiwetel Editor probably will not despite turning in one of the best performances of his life.
While I understand, and even agree with Clarke’s assertion that the Academy often awards Oscars to those who not only perform well, but also campaign harder, I wonder why he decided to frame his argument around Nyong’o instead of Lawrence.
Though Lawrence’s performance in American Hustle was good, it wasn’t as arresting as Nyong’o’s heart wrenching portrayal of Patsy in 12 Years a Slave. Moreover, if anyone has benefitted from being a great campaigner it’s Lawrence, who is seen as one of Hollywood’s most favorite daughters, not Nyong’o.
In the end Clarke says that he hopes Nyong’o will take home the Oscar, not because of her ability to woo Academy voters, but because she turned in the best onscreen performance.