Award season - what a prize mess

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The award-season shenanigans surrounding Kate Winslet's multiple nominations reveal a flaw at the heart of the system, says Kaleem Aftab

Red carpets, tearful acceptance speeches, ugly little trophies – yes, the Oscars are coming.

Kate Winslet has a best leading actress nomination for The Reader, but, hang on, isn't this the same performance for which she received a supporting acting gong this week from the Screen Actors Guild, and before that at the Golden Globes? Once again, the Oscars and its hangers-on, supposedly highlighting the best in film, demonstrate that they're a sop to studios and producers.

Everyone knows, not least Martin Scorsese, that five turns as the bridesmaid will make some Oscar voters feel that it's your time to win. The makers of The Reader and Revolutionary Road have together ensured that the 33-year-old British star Winslet sweeps the board this year – so much so that we arrive at the odd situation where different awards are classing Winslet's role in The Reader as either supporting or leading in order not to ruin her chances.

The confusion began at the Globes when she won the best supporting actress award for The Reader. Anyone who's seen the film knows that that is a leading role; she dominates the film, the plot revolves around her, and she has top billing. She plays throughout the movie, while her leading man morphs between David Kross and Ralph Fiennes. So how did it come to pass that Winslet was nominated in the supporting actress category?

Look back at the history of awards, and it seems that whenever a star is nominated twice in the same category in the same year, his or her vote is split and the prize is gazumped by a surprised third party. Such a fate befell Mrs Sam Mendes at the 2005 Baftas; Winslet was nominated for both Finding Neverland and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but the mask went to Imelda Staunton for Vera Drake.

Winslet is not the only anomaly on the gong lists this year. Why is Philip Seymour Hoffman up for a best supporting actor Oscar for Doubt, while his counterpart Meryl Streep is up for the best actress prize, when they have almost equal billing and screen time? And let's not get started on that other Streep film, Mamma Mia!, being nominated for Outstanding British Film at the Baftas. Those litigators claiming that Barack Obama couldn't take office because he was a British citizen at birth must have invented the rules for this category.

It's been reported that the studios of Winslet's respective films campaigned for her performances to be nominated in different categories. So the Reader team campaigned for her to win the best supporting actress gong, while Revolutionary Road was given a free run at the best actress prize.

The discrepancy in category highlights both the whimsical nature of awards and the shenanigans behind the scenes. Actors are thrown into categories that studios believe they're in with a chance of winning. The suspicion must be that the Doubt producers didn't have total confidence that Hoffman would get the best actor nod.

The studios have the power when it comes to nominations. They take out huge adverts in the trade press, put on screenings and orchestrate campaigns. Harvey Weinstein was adept at this in the 1990s, which is why Miramax films always seemed to win big when he was at the helm. Often, it's the film producers who decide what award their talent is up for, but different rules for the Oscars occasionally lead to discrepancies.

In the first eight years of the Oscars, there were no supporting actor awards. The change came after Franchot Tone's performance in Mutiny on the Bounty rivalled the film's leads, Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, in 1935. The next year the supporting category was created – but the Academy didn't stipulate hard rules as to what differentiated a supporting from a leading role.

But the Academy did include a caveat that actors, unlike directors, couldn't be nominated twice in the same category in the same year. So, while you could be up for best actor and best supporting actor, as has happened on three occasions – Fay Bainter in 1938 (White Banners and Jezebel), Jamie Foxx in 2004 (Ray and Collateral) and Cate Blanchett in 2007 (Elizabeth: The Golden Age and I'm Not There) – an actor could not be nominated twice as best actor.

Also, for the Oscars (unlike the Globes), it's the members rather than the studios who decide who qualifies in which category. So when they made the sensible decision to class Winslet's turn in The Reader as a leading role, either that or her turn in Revolutionary Road would be excluded from the final nomination list and so the ruse of her being nominated twice was ruined.

But does any of this really matter, when awards seasons are an excuse for back-slapping by movie producers and have little to do with genuine merit?



The Orange British Academy Film Awards take place on 9 February; the 81st Annual Academy Awards take place on 22 February

AWARD MIX-UPS

Kate Winslet
Supporting Actress, The Reader, Golden Globes
The Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild have classed her performance in 'The Reader' as a supporting role – seemingly to avoid a clash with her turn in 'Revolutionary Road' – while the Oscars and Baftas have, more correctly, viewed the performance as a leading role.

Philip Seymour Hoffman
Supporting Actor, Doubt, Oscars
Despite having as big a role as Meryl Streep, in the face of stiff competition for leading man gongs, Hoffman has been pushed as a supporting actor.

Mamma Mia!
Outstanding British Film, Baftas
The director and writer were Brits. But this film depended on Hollywood cash. And all the main selling points are international.

Persepolis
Film in a foreign language, Baftas
This animation was made in French but in the UK many screens showed it in a dubbed English version.

Ralph Fiennes
Best supporting actor, The Duchess, Golden Globes
Unlike his supporting role in 'The Reader', in 'The Duchess' Fiennes features throughout. It's another categorisation that seems to have awards in mind.

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific