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Oscar Updates: Rule Changes, Germany's Submission, Child Stars

Oscar, continually bewildering himself with rule changesRULE CHANGES & THE BIG SHOW
If you thought you heard paradoxical wild-mild applause at Oscar's new rule changes that was, uh, me. The Art Direction category will now be called Production Design which is all well and good since it's the Production Designer (aka the boss) that wins the prize, not the Art Director (who reports to him/her). The Best Original Song category finally gave up its horrifically unfair voting procedures where you could sabotage competitors rather than voting for them (yuck) by scoring them with low marks and now it'll be a simpler process with a standard five nominees and ranked nomination ballots like all the other categories. I'm going to pretend that this is The Film Experience's fault for our years of bitching about how screwed up that voting process was. Oh shush. It's possible we talked some sense into them... especially since every other site seems to have been asking them to just cancel the category already. I'd rather stick with history and keep the same categories, but treat them fairly. Too bad we can't use a time machine to get Cher her rightful performance time at the 2011 ceremony.

Meanwhile, I know you've heard that Craig Zadan and Neil Meron of Chicago and Hairspray fame will produce this year's ceremony. If they're true to their roots maybe they'll rescue the newly reformed Song category with big ass production numbers? Or maybe they'll hire Hugh Jackman to host again since they'll need a song & dance man to move the High Holy Night along. Yes, Jackman hosting might get awkward if Les Miz is in the (major) running but the Tonys do that all the time (nominees as hosts). Not that we approve...

Oh and while we're on the Oscar topic, I have finished updating the charts. Just in time to alter them again when film festival season [Venice, Telluride, TIFF and NYFF comin' atcha] give us more info on the competition to come.

BARBARA (2012). Germany's new Oscar submission

The drama Barbara, from director Christian Petzold of Yella fame, will represented Germany in the Foreign Film competition. Can the drama about a doctor in trouble with the government in East Germany become their 17th nominee? Their 16th nominee last year was the 3D dance documentary Pina. Barbara stars Petzold's regular muse, the award winning actress Nina Hoss.

Ewan holds his family in the poster for THE IMPOSSIBLECHILD STARS FOR LEAD OSCARS?
Meanwhile Kris Tapley at In Contention weighed in on the somewhat suddenly buzzy tsunami family survival drama The Impossible and Summit's plan for a lead actor campaign for its 11 year old boy star Tom Holland (who plays the child of Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts). With both Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and Holland's camps planning lead campaigns, might it be time to reinstate the Juvenile Oscar?

Frankly, I don't much like it when children win acting prizes (I know Kris considers this objection "nonsense" but the world would be dull if we all agreed), for a variety of reasons. It's not because they aren't sometimes worthy but because they...

a) ...are usually fraudulently campaigned
b) ...often have an unfair advantage based on general cuteness (nothing wrong with voting with your heart so long as your head is allowed a word in edgewise)
c) ...accidentaly reveal Hollywood's ugly sexism since time and again the Academy has shown that they don't mind snubbing unOscared mature actresses for "thank heaven for little girls" moments but would never ever dream of giving an Oscar to a little boy when there are men who have paid their dues waiting -- don't believe me? Just look at how few little boys have won acting Oscars (i.e. never competitively) compared to little girls.
d) ...are unschooled in acting so it's hard to know how much of their performance we must credit to the director and how much they found on their own in the role.

I think the occassional juvenile Oscar for performances that are just too wonderful to ignore might be the way to go.

How are you feeling about the rule changes and the presence of child thespians in this year's race?

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Reader Comments (23)

i'm personally glad to see they're finally fixing the song category after this year's fiasco.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereduardo

I disagree with you about child acting being undeserving of awards. Especially on point "d", since we know that often non-actors come through and give exceptional performances (Gabby Sidibe, Jennifer Hudson, Haing S. Ngor etc.). These adults were just as unschooled in acting. I think a great performance is something amazing that comes from within, regardless of age.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

the Academy should consider a newcomer/breakthough category, just like many other awards...even if I imagine that it could be messy while campaigning...

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMirko

Squasher88- But doesn't your point bring up the old debate of how much credit should go to the performance vs. how much should go to the director for being able to guide a "non-actor" to an effective portrayal? I mean, I'm not one of these people who thinks the performer shouldn't receive ANY of the credit, but surely there's a reason why so many of the performances that fit into this category end up being essentially the one-hit wonders of the film acting world.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

P.S. I realize I was merely reiterating Nathaniel's point that you were responding to, and I worded it poorly in such a way that suggested I was bringing it up for the first time in this thread. Perhaps I should have started by saying: "Doesn't that only prove Nathaniel's point?" i.e. in the respect that the adult "non-actors" tend to be one-hit wonder performers. Sorry for the confusion.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

On the other hand, trained actors tend to come with their own set of ticks and mannerisms that they acquired from training too much, so it's refreshing sometimes to watch a fresh, untrained performer doing something. I remember Nathaniel praising Abigail Breslin a few years ago for her performance in Little Miss Sunshine saying "I never caught her Acting, she's a natural (I may be paraphrasing)". Don't trained actors have a tendence to Act (note the capital A)? Don't they have a tendency to go over-the-top? And, even with trained actors, doesn't the director always have a say in how a performance is going to go? Doesn't the director always guide the actor to some extent? I think the question of how much is the performer and how much is the director can be applied to any performance, so it shouldn't be something used against child actors. No movie exists without a director guiding it and no performance exists without a director guiding it (unless the actor is directing himself, but that actor is still directing everyone else).

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

I'm still dreaming of the day they split up Costume Design into Contemporary and Period/Fantasy.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfacehead

In regards to child actors being nominated for Oscars, I think it's treated just as fairly or unfairly as it is for adult actors in the fact that sometimes great performaces are nominated and sometimes they're not. It is very, very difficult for any actor to get one of the coveted five slots in the male or female cataogries. So the fact is that a child actor really has to give a truly exceptional performance to even get in the game and to be honest, they're aren't a lot that will have a real shot.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony

Film performances are made in the editing room. Examples of actors being verbally berated on set and reduced to ruin often receive raves for their work when the director has a rep as a madman.

Natural subtle behind the eyes quiet nuance performances are welcome from foreign actresses in foreign made features, but Americans are brash forward loud and animated.

This debate on what makes a film performance compelling is bottomless.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

I don't know if it's quite fair to generalize American actors as being loud and animated. The Academy likes loud, showy performances with capital-A Acting, but I don't see much evidence that it's strictly an American thing. One could easily argue that in 2007, Daniel Day-Lewis's Oscar-winning performance in There Will Be Blood was by far the loudest, showiest, least subtle performance of the nominees, and he was the only non-American nominated that year. It's simply an Academy thing, not an American thing, I think. (See also: Sean Penn winning in 2003 over Bill Murray, and countless other examples.)

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

It is pretty rare that I think that a child performance warrants nominations alongside adult actors, but honestly I would give Quevenzhane Wallis my house after her performance in <I>Beasts</I>.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTB

I'm totally the opposite of TB regarding the Wallis child in "Beasts" -- I saw nothing remotely praise-worthy in that performance, aside from hitting her marks, that makes her deserving of an Oscar nomination. Especially when there are genuinely fantastic performances -- such as Rachel Weisz in "The Deep Blue Sea" and Michelle Williams in "Take This Waltz" -- that are apparently getting no Oscar buzz whatsoever. Extremely disappointing.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph


I'm wasn't thinking of the Academy in my observation. The general audience, American actors often refer to showy roles as memorable. I'm not against this approach to acting, I resent so much energy spent to discredit it when real life is filled with people as animated loud and over the top as the performances that stick to the public.

David O Russell is the best American human behavior actor's director alive.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

On the other hand, trained actors tend to come with their own set of ticks and mannerisms that they acquired from training too much, so it's refreshing sometimes to watch a fresh, untrained performer doing something

I disagree, I don't think there's such a thing as too much training, unless you're referring to rehearsals. There are many professions that need constant training and updating, and one of those which need it more clearly is acting. They have to keep their muscle working. Good trained actors should be capable of hiding the strings. To me there's nothing more rewarding than a performance by a professional, trained actor who can really make it look "natural", untrained if you want. I'd go even further and say that it's only through a lot of training and really intensive work how adult, professional actors can convey that "natural" thing which is so precious.

Americans are brash forward loud and animated.

I don't know if it's something American or not, but I'd differentiate them as performances where the character is built from outside or the opposite, when the character is built from inside. And a perfect (for me,) example of this, is the two girls with the dragon tattoo.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

speaking of original songs: is adele still making the song for Skyfall? imagine that... oscar winner Adele

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereduardo

Although I haven't seen the film, I really don't want Quevenzhane Wallis to be nominated. From the trailer and press sipets I've seen, it seems like they just lucked out with casting. She was being herself and not acting at all.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeigh

For me, there's a big difference between "untrained" adult actors and child actors. Children hardly know themselves in many ways, the childlike innocence is generally a lack of worldly knowledge. How can a child fully embody another completely different character with such little self awareness. In many ways, this makes it easier to play a version of themselves (which they usually do). I find the younger the actor, the more I credit the director/casting director with the resulting performance. For the whole "Beasts" debate, which I know will continue to come up throughout awards season, I think 5 is just too young to give an Oscar worthy performance. The young actress has said she was just doing herself and exactly what the director was telling her. Quite the screen presence, very natural, and cute as a button, but in my opinion, a nomination would be a mistake at this point.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

@Edwin I don't see any problem with one-hit wonders winning awards. The Oscars are for single performances, not entire careers. Also, as others have pointed out, the director always has some amount of manipulation in the process. Doesn't matter if its Meryl Streep or Quvenzhane Wallis. I firmly believe in the worthiness of child performances. It's not like its a regular occurrence anyway, so when an outstanding one comes along, it deserves its due credit.

August 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

I used to be of the opinion that the cute factor would always be a problem, and with nominations for work like Abigail Breslin's turn in Little Miss Sunshine (not trying to pick on her - loved the film and she was good in it), I was concerned about worthiness. But then I think about performances like Osment in The Sixth Sense or Wallis in Beasts, and I have to reconsider. After all, Vivien Leigh's turn in Gone With the Wind is my favorite Actress win of all time, but I think Judy Garland could have/should have given her a run for her money. To this day, Garland's honorary Oscar is considered inferior. People consider her turn in A Star is Born as "her chance to win," implying she'd never won before.

My point: It's not fair to send stellar child performances to the Oscar basement. Let them compete. If people are bitter about losing to a kid, they can join the ranks of bitter Oscar losers.

September 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Leigh, her performance is different from her actual self. That reminds me when Gabby Sidibe was accused of playing herself in Precious. WTF

September 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Sometime last year there was a debate here about child actors. One possibility that was being analyzed was a Juvenile acting category, but many TFE followers found it even "politically incorrect", so to speak. I like Nathaniel's proposal now. A category that existed in the past would be reinstated. A special award when there is a truly acclaimed performance would make sense. Of course, there'd be the mechanics to worry about. The Academy would have to take real care when deciding who would propose / choose the winner. We'll have to wait.
These are the 12 actors who received Best Juvenile Performance Oscars:
Shirley Temple, Deanna Durbin, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Peggy Ann Garner, Claude Jarman Jr, Ivan Jandl, Bobby Driscoll, Jon Whiteley, Vincent Winter and Hayley Mills.

September 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

I disagree with your reticence about child actors, mainly because every great performance is made by writing, direction, cinematography and editing just as much as it is by the actor themselves.

And I say this as an actor myself.

September 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBJT

So with those Oscars producers, I could easily see the host being Queen Latifah. I wouldn't mind that happening at all.

September 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVen
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