Carnage borrows awards strategy from Modern Family

2011-10-31 10:06

Is it possible to have a movie without a single lead actor or actress?

Apparently it is. In Roman Polanski’s screen version of the hit play Carnage, Jodie Foster is supporting Christoph Waltz, who is supporting Kate Winslet, who is supporting John C. Reilly, who is supporting Jodie Foster.

Or something like that.

Sony Pictures Classics has decided that all four actors, who make up the entire cast of the film, belong in the supporting categories in this year’s Oscar race, and they are suggesting as much on their awards website.

In doing so, they’re taking a cue from the television series Modern Family, which has campaigned for its entire cast in the supporting rather than lead categories at the Emmys.

The move worked: last year five of the six main actors were nominated, and this year all six received nods, four in the supporting actor category and two in supporting actress.

And they won in both categories, too, with Ty Burell and Julie Bowen taking home statuettes.

Carnage is unlikely to have that kind of record – and to be fair, the categories in which Foster, Reilly, Waltz and Winslet belong are not really the decision of Sony Pictures Classics.

Oscar acting ballots specifically advise voters to decide for themselves whether a performance is lead or supporting, regardless of the category suggested in campaign materials.

Still, voters usually go along with the studios; the most recent case in which they didn’t was when Winslet won best actress for The Reader, whose campaign tagged her as a supporting actress candidate.

The tricky case of Carnage is one of several instances this year in which actors could theoretically fit into either lead or supporting category.

Sony Pictures Classics has another this year with the David Cronenberg film A Dangerous Method, in which Michael Fassbender plays Carl Jung and Viggo Mortensen is Sigmund Freud.

But the film is really about Jung and his student Sabina Spielrein, played by Keira Knightley – so even though her wild performance might have a better chance of attracting attention in the supporting category, Sony Classics is pushing her as best actress.

Mortensen is relegated to supporting actor, a fitting category for his role.

DreamWorks, meanwhile, is splitting its two most formidable acting contenders for The Help between two categories: They’re suggesting Viola Davis for best actress (along with Emma Stone) and Octavia Spencer for supporting actress (in addition to Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney and Sissy Spacek).

Although some had urged DreamWorks to push for Davis in the supporting actress category under the theory that Stone is the true lead, Davis now appears to be among the favourites in the best actress category, while Spencer is a formidable contender in supporting.

Last year, Sony Classics campaigned strenuously for Lesley Manville in the best actress category for Another Year, a decision that led to major debate in the blogosphere and did not result in a nomination.

Summit Entertainment, meanwhile, pushed Sean Penn in the supporting actor category for Fair Game, a film in which he and Naomi Watts appeared to be co-leads. He wasn’t nominated, either.

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