Oscar Talk: Lesley Manville in ‘Another Year’ for Supporting or Lead?

It was a busy morning for me and my Oscar prognostication duties as I already had plans to do a bit of Best Picture shuffling after seeing Love and Other Drugs last night, a screening that would also cause me to shift my Best Actress predictions. However, I also needed to clear up things regarding Lesley Manville’s performance in Mike Leigh’s Another Year as I’ve had her listed as a Supporting Actress contender since seeing the film back in May at Cannes only to learn today that’s just not the way it is… at least not right now.

Before going any further with my predictions I felt it was finally time to get a clear answer from Sony Classics and find out exactly how they were going to promote Manville’s Another Year performance. For the record, I was the only one that had her listed for Best Supporting Actor among Oscar pundits and as it turns out, I was the only one that was wrong.

In a phone call this morning with Sony Classics co-president Michael Barker I was told Sony Classics is currently pushing her as a lead actress. The argument is she has the largest amount of screen time in the film and Barker has said he’s asked around and lead is the general consensus based on whom he’s spoken with. However, it seems as if the door is far from closed.

I told him how much I loved the performance when I saw the film at Cannes earlier this year (read my review) and how Manville would be facing some stiff competition in the lead actress category, a category I didn’t necessarily think her character fit in the first place. By comparison, the Supporting Actress category is there for the taking and this isn’t a matter of pushing Manville for a Supporting nomination as opposed to lead because she stands a better chance to win in that category. This isn’t like the year when Meryl Streep was nominated as Best Actress for The Devil Wears Prada. This is a case of where Manville’s character is a round peg fitting into the round hole that is the supporting category, a category she would almost certainly win should the landscape remain the way it is now (I’m looking at you Melissa Leo).

However, I wasn’t going to simply spout my word alone. I reached out to the Oscar blogging community for comments. I explained the situation as I saw it, saying I see the leads of Another Year as Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen with the film told from Tom and Gerri’s perspective. Mary’s (Manville) story is just part of their lives, same as Ken (Peter Wight) and the rest of the supporting cast. The response I got was mixed and went a little something like this:

Kris Tapley from In Contention:

Yes, Michael has said for months that the performance will stay in lead and that she’s in more of the film, and I see the perspective. My personal perspective is closer to yours, that Broadbent and Sheen are the leads (though passive leads, but the action kind of revolves around them).

Regardless, I think it’s a non-issue. She’ll be nominated whatever the campaign may be, and it stands out as a lead piece of work when you think about how the Academy perceives these things.

Pete Hammond from Deadline:

Here’s the litmus test: Manville’s face is the last image you see in the film. She’s the star. Actors are doing the voting (at least for Oscar and SAG) and most know the difference. If SPC were to suddenly switch gears and try to go for supporting because it’s an easier category than lead this year they would run the serious risk of confusing the situation and splitting Manville’s votes between the two categories. They aren’t gonna do that though and she remains a strong Best Actress contender, right where she belongs.

Sasha Stone at Awards Daily:

Lesley Manville could be either and it wouldn’t matter. She has [as] much [of a] chance at a nomination in supporting, but I would follow her to the ends of the earth if I were a voter – so it wouldn’t matter to me. I think it’s more convenient for Oscar people to have in supporting so she is no longer making Best Actress such a hard category to predict.

Ed Douglas from Coming Soon:

She’s the lead as far as I’m concerned.

Katey Rich from Cinema Blend:

If Anthony Hopkins was the lead in Silence of the Lambs, Manville certainly is the lead here. She’s also the only character in the movie with an emotional arc, or at least as close to an arc as you get in a Mike Leigh film.

To move her to supporting would be category fraud, but then again, it would guarantee her a nomination and maybe a win. I like that Barker is sticking to his guns, though.

Laremy Legel from Film.com:

Lesley Manville should be nominated for Supporting Actress. The entire story arc is centered around the Jim Broadbent / Ruth Sheen relationship, and the group of friends that flits in and out of their lives.

To quote my own review, “The film’s other principals revolve around and re-enter their universe every few minutes: their son, Joe; Gerri’s friend Mary; Tom’s friend Ken.”

Mary (Manville) is Gerri’s (Sheen) friend, works with Gerri, and visits Gerri’s house. We never see Mary’s house, we only see her leave. The film’s leads, story-wise, and spiritually, are Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen. That’s the core of ANOTHER YEAR, and it’s a damn good core.

That said, I’d love to see Manville nominated (and win) in the Supporting category.

Glenn Kenny from Some Came Running:

From my aerie of almost complete disinterest, I get why pushing her for lead makes sense. Among other things, it’s an effective way to increase interest in the film (as witness this exchange) both among Oscar-watchers and, maybe more importantly, movie fans who otherwise might have given the new Leigh a pass.

Jeff Wells from Hollywood Elsewhere:

You said you just got off the phone with Michael Barker and “at the moment they are going with lead based primarily on the reasoning Manville is supposedly in the movie more than anyone else.” None of that means diddly-squat. What matters isn’t screen time or whether or not Manville does play the lead female role in Mike Leigh’s Another Year. What matters is what you can get away with in order to win an Oscar that will propel the film’s box-office and ancillary sales. That’s it, the whole game, end of story. And Sony Classics can EASILY get away with calling Manville a Best Supporting Actress in that film. EASILY. PIECE OF CAKE. And if they do this, the odds of their getting a win out of it will be very high. That’s the whole thing, the whole game. Ms. Manville, with whom I’ve spoken, very much wants to win as it will do good things for her career-wise. Barker knows what the Best Actress competition is likely to be, and it’s no duck walk this year. No disrespect to Ms. Manville — she’s very, VERY GOOD in Another Year — but she’ll be facing some very tough opponents, and the odds of her winning will not be high — let’s face it. If Sony Classics wants her to win an Oscar, there’s really only one thing to do.

I don’t necessarily agree with Katey Rich when she says Mary is the “only character” in the film with an emotional arc. Her character is certainly the most emotional, but Tom, Gerri, Ken, etc. go through a lot in this film. Additionally, does the arc of a character define who is and isn’t the lead in a film?

I told Barker I think there are films that don’t even necessarily have a lead, but if anything Tom and Gerri are the leads in this one, and as Kris Tapley said, they are merely passive leads. A lead character doesn’t have to be an emotional wreck or do something outlandish to be the lead of a film, they just have to carry the story, which is exactly what Tom and Gerri do. They have their opinions, they go about their lives and without them none of the other characters even come into the story… At least not this story.

I thought a quote from writer/director Mike Leigh from a video interview at the Telegraph summed it up well as he said, “It’s a film about work. It’s a film about caring. It’s a film that deals with an issue, which is when you are generous to somebody and they overstep the mark, where do you draw the line? When do you close the door? That’s one of the dilemmas in the film.” Interesting enough, all of these traits apply to Tom and Gerri specifically, and you can see exactly where each character fits into this equation.

Barker told me to make sure and see the film again before committing to my opinion on whether she deserves to be placed in lead or supporting. The film doesn’t hit theaters until late December, so it may be a while before I can do that considering I am a Seattle boy and not roaming the streets of Los Angeles or New York. Perhaps this debate will change that, but for now this is where we stand.

I have updated my Oscar predictions for the Lead and Supporting Actress categories right here based on this change and will be back tomorrow to discuss them further. Also, you can read my review of Another Year from the Cannes Film Festival right here.


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