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If you want a job done properly... well, don't get the public to do it for you. That's the lesson, at least, that BAFTA has learned today: in handing the public the task of electing their five Rising Star Award nominees, instead of leaving it to an industry jury as in years past, they've wound up with a slate that rivals last week's awards longlists in the embarrassment stakes.
That's not to rag on the nominees themselves -- a bright, promising bunch of young actors, most of whom fit the 'rising star' profile rather neatly. I've already sung the praises of Chris Hemsworth and Chris O'Dowd, two of 2011's most appealing breakthrough performers, in my First-Half FYC columns -- the latter's performance in "Bridesmaids" still ranks in my personal Best Supporting Actor ballot for 2011. Tom Hiddleston, meanwhile, has amply proven his worth in an exciting range of mainstream and arthouse projects, from "Thor" to "Midnight in Paris" to "The Deep Blue Sea." Kudos all round.
It's when you consider the names that have been left out -- and, to be more blunt about it, their gender -- that the picture becomes slightly more worrying. Eight names were on the jury-compiled longlist put forth to the public last month: of those eight, five were men, and it's those five that have all been promoted to the nominee list after the public vote. With dispiriting predictability, the ladies left on the sidelines are Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence and Felicity Jones.
Due respect to Eddie Redmayne and British actor-filmmaker-rapper Adam Deacon, both of whom cracked the nominee list, but few would agree that their career highs stack up against those of Oscar nominee Lawrence and (one supposes) soon-to-be Oscar nominee Chastain. Even if they did, however, excluding any female performers from an award dedicated to the future of cinema sends out a pretty queasy message.
Put it down to coincidence, or UK voters siding with non-American names (three nominees are Brits, one Irish, one Australian), but when three of the most celebrated new actresses of the past two years in film can't make the grade in a public vote (despite appearances in such high-profile films as "X-Men: First Class" and "The Help"), it could be read as a depressing signal of what women are up against in the industry.
That bias in itself can't be blamed on BAFTA, but they should know better than to hand the reins to the public at this stage: in a sense, a Rising Star Award is the least appropriate award to put to a popular vote, dependent as it is on apprentice work that most mainstream cinemagoers aren't aware of. BAFTA's eagerness to involve viewers directly in their awards process is commendable, but following their pandering, middlebrow longlists, their eagerness to please is interfering with their nobler artistic obligations.
Anyway, I feel my quota of BAFTA complaining this year is close to being used up, so I'll stop now. The award will be presented at the awards ceremony on February 12 -- my hunch is that O'Dowd's television profile in the UK will carry him to the win (as was the case for past winners James McAvoy and Noel Clarke), and from this lot of nominees, I'd be quite okay with that.
The BAFTA Rising Star nominees are:
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