Out in the cold

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SHOWBIZ - HAU BOON LAI star2@thes­tar.com.my

EVEN a vet­eran like Jeff Bridges was over­come with emo­tion over his first Os­car win, for best ac­tor in the 2009 movie Crazy Heart, show­ing the im­por­tance a per­former at­taches to the recog­ni­tion from the in­dus­try for his work.

But apart from the pres­tige, awards such as an Os­car or an Emmy also open doors for work for most win­ners as well as a rise in act­ing fee, adding to their mar­ketabil­ity. The award cer­e­mony it­self is of­ten a money-spin­ner thanks to its large au­di­ence base as fans get to see all the movers and shak­ers un­der one roof.

Each award cer­e­mony brings with it reams of newsprint and plenty of air­time, but other than the fo­cus on the wins and the losses, the cov­er­age of­ten zooms celebri­ties don’t just fail to be nom­i­nated for awards – they get snubbed. in on those who should have made it but didn’t, and the most over-used word in ar­ti­cles of this genre is “snub”.

Read­ing such sto­ries in­vari­ably brings to mind this short but mem­o­rable anec­dote, told years ago by a friend in Chi­nese, that goes some­thing like this: A man was giv­ing a party at the week­end for his new col­leagues, but not ev­ery­one he in­vited turned up. Think­ing of the at­trac­tive ex­ec­u­tive who wasn’t among the guests who came, he sighed and lamented to those who were there: “Those who should have come didn’t turn up.”

Feel­ing most offended by his seem­ingly less-than-wel­com­ing words, half of those in his au­di­ence de­cided to leave. The host, watch­ing the more lively mem­bers from his of­fice walk out, then blurted out: “Those who shouldn’t have left are gone.”

With that, the re­main­ing half of his guests also upped and left, leav­ing the poor man with a ton of food and drinks, no one to play the mu­sic to, and a whole lot of de­flated egos to as­suage come Mon­day.

Call­ing the fail­ure to be nom­i­nated for awards a snub to a celebrity is akin to say­ing that the ones who do get the nod are not quite wor­thy or that those who should have been in the short­list are not.

Take the re­cently-con­cluded 63rd edi­tion of the Emmy Awards, an an­nual event that hon­ours the best in tele­vi­sion. Or does it? Writ­ers who do not share this opinion ex­pressed their in­dig­na­tion when the nom­i­na­tions came out on the morn­ing of July 14. What ... no Lea Michele and Matthew Mor­ris­son in the list? Isn’t it time for Anna Paquin to be re­warded for her bril­liant turn as a tele­pathic bar­maid in True Blood?

And who left out the ex­cel­lent cast mem­bers that lifted Fringe, The Walk­ing Dead, The Killing and Sons Of An­ar­chy to both pop­u­lar and crit­i­cal ac­claim? Don’t mem­bers of the Academy of Tele­vi­sion Arts and Sciences ac­tu­ally have to watch tele­vi­sion be­fore they make their nom­i­na­tions?

It makes for good copy, and drama, if noth­ing else. Those who make the list are hardly go­ing to cock a snook at an Emmy nom­i­na­tion – it can be quite painful to read about or lis­ten to their claims of mod­esty. It will be too soon if I have to hear an­other ac­tor claim to be a win­ner al­ready just by be­ing nom­i­nated or by be­ing in the au­gust com­pany of fel­low nom­i­nees with greater star power.

So the quotable quotes of­ten come from those who fail to be nom­i­nated, aided and abet­ted by writ­ers who, for the sake of spic­ing up the cov­er­age of the repet­i­tive event, trum­pet the in­jus­tice of it all, mak­ing it oh-so-easy for the in­flated egos to say their piece.

The Academy Awards, which cel­e­brates the achieve­ments of those in film, is also a hot­bed of missed chances and in­sti­tu­tional prej­u­dice, if one is to be­lieve the hype sur­round­ing the who-it­should-have-been each year on nom­i­na­tion day.

The man of the mo­ment in the an­nals of get­ting snubbed is sup­posed to be Chris Nolan, whose good work over the years has re­sulted in zero nom­i­na­tion for the man as a di­rec­tor.

The mind-bend­ing Me­mento, the Bat­man fran­chise re­boot and his lat­est, the dream block­buster In­cep­tion, have all re­ceived crit­i­cal ac­claim as well as achieved box-of­fice suc­cess, yet he is nowhere to be found when it comes to hon­our­ing the best in di­rect­ing in the years his films are el­i­gi­ble for the awards.

Nolan, the story con­tin­ues, re­places Martin Scors­ese as the new poster boy for snubs. Scors­ese’s first Os­car-wor­thy film was way back in 1976, with Taxi Driver, and he had even earned sev­eral nom­i­na­tions over the years, but never won, un­til 30 years later in 2006, with The De­parted, a re­make of the Hong Kong movie In­fer­nal Af­fairs.

While Scors­ese and Nolan are no doubt good di­rec­tors, I be­lieve it is go­ing too far to say that they have been snubbed. They make good movies, but so do many other di­rec­tors. The King’s Speech, In­cep­tion’s con­tem­po­rary which won Tom Hooper the Academy Award for Best Di­rec­tor, is no slouch in the good-movie depart­ment.

I would also ar­gue that en­ter­tain­ment writ­ers who de­scribed Harry Pot­ter lead Daniel Rad­cliffe’s ex­clu­sion from the nom­i­nee list for a Tony Award for Best Ac­tor in his suc­cess­ful mu­si­cal How To Suc­ceed In Busi­ness With­out Re­ally Try­ing as a snub were wrong. Rad­cliffe was up against stage ac­tors who have been hon­ing their craft for years.

A snub, to me, would be when the late Mar­lon Brando re­fused to ac­cept his Os­car for Best Ac­tor for The God­fa­ther in 1973, dis­patch­ing Amer­i­can In­dian Sacheen Lit­tle­feather, clothed in tra­di­tional dress, to take the podium on his be­half to re­ject the Os­car in protest against the neg­a­tive de­pic­tion of Amer­i­can In­di­ans on screen.

Snub sto­ries ap­peal es­pe­cially to fans who think the world of their idols and can­not un­der­stand why oth­ers can’t see their stars the way they do. There is also an el­e­ment of the ten­dency for peo­ple to sup­port the un­der­dog, although it beats me how peo­ple earn­ing mil­lions would fall un­der such a cat­e­gory.

It ought to be a crime to stroke the egos of un-nom­i­nated celebri­ties by mak­ing them be­lieve that they failed to gar­ner any nom­i­na­tions be­cause they were snubbed and not be­cause in a crowded field, some would just have to lose. n In this col­umn, writer Hau Boon Lai pon­ders the lives, loves and lib­er­ties of celebri­ties.

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