Why the Hottest New Awards Campaign is Doing Nothing At All
The awards-season campaign push is officially on, with this year's Golden Globe nominees passing along their thanks and day-of recollections to various press -- while also hinting at their fortitude for the Oscar run ahead. Even Mo'Nique, the Supporting Actress favorite whom many (including Movieline) had previously thought was disinterested in and/or too expensive for the rigmarole, has started to sneak incrementally closer and closer to the spotlight. But frankly, I think Mo'Nique should stop right there. Not necessarily because she's already a lock for the Oscar, either, but because she's the prototype for how awards campaigns should be done in 2009 and beyond.
The Precious co-star has caught plenty of flak from Oscar pundits about her perceived ambivalence to winning in March. True, her clumsy pay-to-play campaigning standards weren't especially endearing, but people seemed even more distressed that an actress in this coveted position -- a comic actress at that, who may never be in this position again -- simply didn't seem to care. And when she attempted to explain the philosophy of the non-campaign campaign, she risked alienating herself even further. "[W]hen they say 'campaign,' I'm like, 'Well, wait a minute,'" she explained in her infamous Mo'Nique Show conversation with Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. "President Barack Obama had to campaign because he had something to prove: that he could do it. Well, the performance is on the screen! So at what point am I still trying to prove something?"
But hold on a second. What if we dare to take Mo'Nique at face value? In fact, what choice do we even have? I only ask because who the hell else would wait a day to call back the NYT to say she was hanging out in her bathroom with her husband when she was notified of her Globes nod? Surely not Stanley Tucci, who put in some grimmer-than-grim face time on the Today Show (before the nominations were even officially announced) to express his not-so-convincing happiness at getting a Supporting nod for The Lovely Bones. Surely not Tobey Maguire, who landed at the center of a Globes campaigning mini-scandal when his Brothers producer last week handed out gift Blu-ray players to voters attending a star-studded party in his name. (The players were returned; Maguire was nominated anyway.) Surely not Morgan Freeman, who was literally roused from an African safari to deliver some odd, self-congratulatory thank-you to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Thanks are one thing; sincerity is another. And nothing is less sincere than these and other dog-and-pony-show debasements that Mo'Nique has almost entirely circumvented since her performance first rocked Sundance nearly a year ago. After all, while every actor craves recognition from their peers in the Academy (or simply get the Oscar monkey off their backs, a la Kate Winslet last year), it's only a certain few who would have the faith -- the audacity, really -- to assume that recognition will find them on its own. As such, Mo'Nique's non-campaign campaign gives awards voters -- be they critics' organizations, skeevy international press, or working industry professionals -- the credit to make up their own minds.
It's pretty radical stuff. More radical, anyhow, than Charlize Theron, Halle Berry or Marion Cotillard winning Oscars after participating in multi-million-dollar campaigns that convinced voters they not only deserved an award, but really wanted one. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. The point is that we'll never know -- at least not the way we'll know that when Mo'Nique tells a Times reporter, "People are entitled to their opinion, mamma," she really means people are entitled to their opinion, mamma. Is it easy for her to say from the, um, front-runner catbird seat in her bathroom? Sure. But to paraphrase another brassy awards-season hopeful, if she's gonna die, she's gonna die comfortable.
· Mo'Nique on the Globes, Oscar Campaigning and Bathrooms [Carpetbagger]