And the winner is... old-time sexism?
It's the time of rustling envelopes, awkward presentations and a deranged gush of thanks or gracelessness. Awards season reaches its Oscar apogee this weekend, while British theatre continues to scatter statuettes over the profession, leading up to the Olivier Awards ceremony on 8 March.
As we know, awards are random acts of randomosity and little weight should be attached to who's in and who's out (though should the monkey ever find himself nominated for, say, best speccy no-mates it will be a different story). But surely we can agree on the categories? Writing, directing, designing, yes? My personal favourites are the Clarence Derwent Awards which recognise supporting roles, at which the British excel (in the US, they are awarded to promising young actors) - as Anthony Lane observes, 'Character acting is, of course, one of the four things that the British still do supremely well, the others being soldiering, tailoring, and getting drunk in public.'
But why in 2009 are acting awards still divided by gender? What is it that male and female performers do that is so very different from each other? Aren't Judi Dench and Ian McKellen engaged in a similar process on stage and in rehearsal? Is it sensible or valuable to discuss actors separately according to their gender? How does that help us assess a performance?
Now, I'm naive but not wholly idiotic. I realise there are other factors at work here. In both theatre and film, actors tend to grab more headlines than their creative colleagues. They provide glamour and celebrity and idiosyncratic red-carpet attire. On the podium they blub and blurt. Who wouldn't want to double the acting categories and thus the attendant news coverage?
But we can always devise new acting categories in order to guarantee thespian involvement. Many recognise comedy as well as drama, single out musical theatre and Shakespeare. Let's add prizes for best sweaty naturalism, period prancing or conceptual dedication. But surely it's time we dropped the division by gender. After all, wouldn't you like to love to see Streep and Rourke go head-to-head? A Brangelina smackdown? See, feminism can be fun...
What is the Monkey missing here? Should we continue to separate the sexes at awards time? And if you could bestow just one acting Oscar or Olivier, who would you pick? Kate Winslet or Sean Penn? Penelope Wilton or Derek Jacobi?
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