There's a scene in the brilliant 12 Years A Slave where Michael Fassbender acts opposite Brad Pitt. While Fassbender is perfect - natural, honest, true, in the moment - Pitt declares all his lines like he's doing a middle school play. Sitting in the theater I was in awe of how Fassbender acted circles around the superstar. Circles.
He's amazing in the rest of the movie as well. It's an almost perfect performance, and it's certainly deserving of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. And I bet Fassbender will happily accept that award if it's given to him. He just won't beg for it. Talking to GQ he says he won't be taking part in the Oscar season campaigning this year.
"You know, I get it. Everybody's got to do their job. So you try and help and facilitate as best you can. But I won't put myself through that kind of situation again," he said, referring to his stumping for a nomination for Shame. "It's just a grind. And I'm not a politician. I'm an actor."
Good on him. I'm not an Oscar blogger, but I've been peripherally in that scene a couple of times. I've attended the parties and the screenings where the actors and filmmakers are trotted out like ponies, made to do tricks and spend a couple of minutes kissing ass with journalists and Oscar voters. It's always a little bit embarrassing to watch these people cornered by a gaggle of Oscar bloggers with predatory smiles on their faces, waiting to be snubbed so they can write a 'take down' piece when they get home.
On some level I understand why actors and filmmakers need top press the flesh to promote their movies; you've made the thing and now you want it to be seen. But there's something skeevy about the amount of campaigning that goes on in the Oscar season; I'm ok with awards as ways of showing respect to artists, but the campaigning makes it so the awards are contests based on who shook the most hands. It's become an echo of our electoral politics, where people don't vote based on ideas or abilities but how much they would want to drink a beer with a candidate. Oscar voters should be deciding their ballots based on the work, not based on glowing blog posts and facetime at cocktail parties.
I wish the Academy would simply ban all forms of campaigning outside of advertisements. No more Q&A screenings, no more receptions, kissiing babies (actually in Oscarland it isn't kissing babies, it's kissing 80 year old women). Let the work stand as the work. In that situation I think Michael Fassbender has a real shot. If he's not campaigning, though? Well, then it becomes less about the work and more about the voters feeling neglected. Which is stupid.