Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Defense of Kristen Stewart's BAFTA Rising Star Award...About Three Months Later

I wrote this piece for a project that never got off the ground soon after the BAFTA Awards this year. I was tempted to just toss it out for its irrelevancy, but I think I say some things in here that need to be said. As a lifelong Kristen Stewart lover, I am a bit tired of having to defend her every time I open my mouth when there are so many other actors in her position that seem to get a free pass. Anyways, just ignore the fact this is old news and focus on my defense.

Kristen Stewart’s (admittedly unsurprising) win at the BAFTAs last weekend a couple months ago caused a major ruckus among “serious” film buffs, bloggers and critics. Well, I am here (also unsurprisingly) to stand up for Ms. Stewart and her win, a well-deserved one at that. First of all, let’s get one major thing out of the way: the Orange Rising Star Award is a major load of bollocks. In all honestly, if you’re going to get so upset about an award that basically amounts to the same thing as a People’s Choice Award, congratulations, you are officially the saddest person on the planet. I, for one, have better things to save my irrational hatred for (for instance, American Idol results or the Oscars).

Secondly, looking at Stewart’s competition in the category, as stiff as it was, she still deserved the damn award. No offense to Tahar Rahim, who I’m sure is wonderful in A Prophet, but in all seriousness, what does this award matter to him? As a French Arab, he has about a 5% chance of ever being in a film that receives international distribution again (let alone one with the acclaim of A Prophet). He may be fantastic in the film, but a breakthrough artist award seems a bit silly. I like Jesse Eisenberg. I adore his awkward shtick, plus he gets on my nerves less than Michael Cera does these days. But, honestly, an award for it seems too much at the moment. Give him a couple of films and let’s see if he is able to expand upon his persona in any significant way. You all know that Nicholas Hoult is my new boo. I’m truly thrilled that he is finally getting international exposure after being on the brink for oh-so-long. With that being said, however, A Single Man is seriously the least interesting performance I’ve seen from him. He is not bad in the role; rather, the role requires very little of him besides to get naked (oh how glorious that is!) and to be a lusty object of affection for both Colin Firth’s George and Tom Ford himself. If he was nominated in 2007 when series one of Skins was on the air, then I could see giving him the award for that staggering, volatile performance. And now we come to Carey Mulligan, everyone’s favorite “It Girl’ for 2009. I’ve gotten a lot of flack for not being absolutely smitten with her and her performance in An Education. I keep insisting that, yes, I do think she’s rather good in An Education and can see a bright future for her. What I don’t think, however, is that she Revolutionized Screen Acting As We Know It as many of her supporters seem to think. My God, she’s not Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. Mulligan offers a nice, pleasant, occasionally grating, performance but nothing more. Besides, wasn’t her Best Actress win enough of a compensation for not winning this silly award? Oh no. She must win every award under the sun because she is the greatest British actor around since Sir Laurence Olivier.

So what about Kristen Stewart? How about I start off with my usual list of reasons why I love her: She’s refreshingly awkward and unpolished. She couldn’t craft a sound byte to save her life. Her “Stewart-isms” are soothing for me. Her performances, Twilight aside, are risky and unexpected. Unlike most 19-year old actresses slumming it in cheap high school romantic comedies and horror movies, she revels in dark, moody works that allow her to wallow in wordless distress. I could probably go on and on, but I will stop right there. I find it ridiculous that, over and over again, I find myself defending her from Stewart-haters who can’t seem to get over the fact that she stars in Twilight, which, by golly, is consistently pretty bad but also made a shit-ton of money. As if she’s the first actress to act in a shitty, high-grossing film series solely for a nice paycheck and career exposure. “But,” I’m sure you’re arguing, “she won this award for those movies!” Yes, she did; I can’t argue with that. But, Shia LaBeouf also won this very same award two years ago after the mega success of a little film called Transformers, and no one seemed to give a shit then. Why? Because he’s a “serious” actor who is “serious” about his craft. Yeah. Everything he’s done since then--Indiana Jones, Eagle Eye, Transformers 2--has been solely for the advancement of the art form. If you’re going to discredit an actor solely on what they won for, at least do it consistently (But Shia constantly gets a free pass from everyone, for God knows whatever reason. If Kristen Stewart had done half the shit he has, she would have been crucified by now. But I digress). But, if anyone had bothered watching New Moon before they started bitching about anything and everything about it, they might have noticed that Stewart was noticeably better this go-around, much breezier and smoother than she was in the first installment. She’s not earth-shattering by any means, but, then again, she’s hardly a commercial actress meant for blockbusters. In a way, I imagine she’ll have a career much like Nicole Kidman’s once this Twilight business ends: every couple of years she’ll pop out a commercial film that will most likely not do very well at the box office, but in between she’ll flourish with risky, dark, uncommercial indies. With the potential for this, how can you not support Stewart and her Rising Star Award? She appears to be going places, but even if she crashes and burns, it will be damn interesting watching her doing it.

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