They want you to like them

Posted by · 10:12 pm · January 16th, 2012

With the Golden Globes a memory and the announcement of this year”s Oscar nominations on January 24 just on the horizon, perhaps it’s time to take a bit of the piss out of awards season. The validity of certain awards shows and organizations aside, it is an incredible professional accomplishment to be included in the hunt at all. It speaks to a level of success that most only dream of in a profoundly competitive industry. At the same time, perspective is often in order.

I have worked in entertainment for my entire adult life and have as great a passion for film today as I did in the throes of dreamy youth. No one”s feeding babies here, however. Even in an arena as large as the one the artists under discussion here dwell in, it”s important to have at least some measure of humor and ability to self-deprecate to season the inevitable neurosis that comes with working in a creative field

Anna Paquin demonstrated a remarkable sense of honesty about the more vainglorious aspects of an actor”s process during our recent discussion on Kenneth Lonergan’s “Margaret.” The actress delivers one of the most nuanced and rich performances of her career, and yet she confesses that she is unable to see the forest of her stunning portrayal for the trees of what she deems to be her awkward mannerisms.

“I was watching it recently with curiosity and that abject loathing that comes every time I see something I”ve done on screen,” she told me (an aside I didn’t include in the original piece). “I think any actor, if they”re honest, can pick apart any given moment that ends up on screen and be like, ‘Ah, I really wish that I”d done that, or that they”d used the take where I did that or that I didn”t make that facial expression.” It”s part of the vapid narcissism of my job. You completely lose yourself in some character and do something that is wildly unflattering on screen and feel totally fine about it until you watch it.”

Celebrity is a strange and (for most of us) incomprehensible way to experience reality. It, in some respects, locks a person into a by-default childish state (this is particularly true for actors who are treated as cherished toddlers on most film sets). It also carries with it, I would imagine, some measure of paranoia and a distinct amount of (earned or unearned) influence.

But we must imagine that many actors and filmmakers, even several of the greats, do covet the feel of golden statues in their hands and the warm lights and eyes on their faces as they accept them. They’re people. Sally Field’s famous “you like me, right now, you like me!” cry is the id of it all coming to the fore.

For an example of two great performers’ dalliance with honors, take a look at the video below, which features Carol Kane channeling Carol Channing and Mario Cantone channeling Lauren Bacall as they read excerpts of the two legendary actress’s respective autobiographies that concern the build up to and emotional impact of a Tony Award nomination and win. Loving and comedic homage is paid to the vanity and insanity that is inherently part and parcel of the life of an actor and awards season.

For year-round entertainment news and commentary follow @JRothC on Twitter.

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