Written by Sarah

This is a final part of a four part series.

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The subtlest and grossest aspect of the Oscar campaign is personal appearances and the sort of f*ckery stars on the campaign trail engage in to secure their Oscars. Most recently we’ve seen the putrid display of sugar and glitter that Natalie Portman (from now on referred to as Natalie Never, as in Never Again Will I Be A Fan) threw at us from the Golden Globes stage when she won for Black Swan—just an example of the shenanigans they’ll resort to while trying to win an Oscar.

This is the weirdest part of campaigning and case by case, what looks like campaigning to one person might not do so to another. A general rule of thumb, though, is if an actor—this usually pertains to actors as they’re the most visible people on Oscar night to the general public—who is normally reserved, shy or otherwise reticent suddenly starts talking/acting in a way inconsistent with their normally accepted public behavior. For instance, Natalie Never upchucking rainbows at the Golden Globes.

Another one, a disappointing one, is Michelle Williams suddenly opening up about the death of Heath Ledger. I hate to be this cynical, I don’t want to be this cynical, and I fully expect to receive a lot of emails from people annoyed with me for picking on a de facto widow, but the simple fact is Williams is on the bubble during a highly competitive year and everything is suspect. She held her silence for so long on this topic yet when she’s in a competitive race she’ll talk about it—whether she cried foul afterward or not, she did actually utter those words. Ugh.

On the other side you have Christian Bale who stated in an Esquire interview last November that he wouldn’t campaign for the Oscar. Of course Bale didn’t really mean that—he’s been supporting The Fighter at screenings and events and he’s done a bit on the press circuit. What Bale meant was that his personal life is not on the table. He’ll do all the rest but this aspect is not up for discussion. I’m calling Bale’s strategy: “I said I’m not campaigning but I’m totally campaigning”. Don’t buy Bale’s spiel—he is definitely engaged in a campaign, he’s just not going to open up his well-guarded personal life to secure his Oscar.

Bale can get away with his anti-campaign because he has seniority on his side—he’s a built a solid reputation as one of his generation’s top actors and his inevitable win for The Fighter feels like the culmination of a decade of stellar work. Also, his issue with winning an Oscar doesn’t lie with the acting branch of the Academy or in his public perception but in his reputation among everyone else in the Academy, namely the techies. In the wake of The Rant, these are the people he has to show that he is a team player, that he isn’t a jerk and that he is willing to do his part to support the film. Which may explain his uncharacteristically gushy acceptance speech at the Golden Globes.

In the Best Actress race we do have an example of a real non-campaign—Annette Bening. She started the season last September as an early favorite for The Kids Are All Right, but her odds have lengthened steadily as her competition has increased, particularly from Natalie Never, and her silence and lack of presence has left the door open for those others to overtake the race. Like Bale, Bening seems to have decided not to display her personal life in order to win an Oscar. Nicole Kidman didn’t get that memo as she, like Williams, has opened up about a topic not often discussed—her elder children. Like Williams, Kidman chooses now to address a topic of a considerably personal nature.

You may think I’m just paranoid and/or mean and am making mountains of molehills and all of these things are coincidence. But really, after seeing Natalie Never throw a virtual lifetime of “above commercial games” self-marketing under the bus at the Golden Globes, I hope you’re at least a little cynical about the lengths people will go to while campaigning. From September till Oscar night, every interview and personal appearance is suspect. Because if they’re in the race and their mouth is open, they’re campaigning. Even if it’s just to tell you that they’re not really campaigning.

Photos from Wenn.com