Glenn Close is a legend. Her career is now in its fifth decade and, along the way, she’s racked up an impressive list of accolades: 3 Emmys, 3 Tonys, and 3 Golden Globe Awards. She’s also been nominated for an Oscar eight times, but has yet to win the entertainment industry’s most prestigious award. Vanity Fair has described Close as “one of the great actresses of our time” and, in 2019, Time magazine included her as one of its 100 most influential people. With a resume like this, it’s safe to say that Glenn Close is an A-lister and living legend, despite having never won an Oscar.
That could all change this year. Close has been nominated for an Oscar for her role in Hillbilly Elegy, a film that garnered mixed reviews and has been described as “poverty porn” by some critics. Ironically, Close was also nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award (aka “Razzie”) for the same role. The Razzies are like the anti-Oscars, highlighting the worst performances and achievements in Hollywood. To be fair, Razzies are not meant to humiliate bad actors; instead, they’re meant to call out talented people who should have known better than to accept bad, problematic jobs.
This asks an interesting question: How can the same performance be considered both the best and worst of the year? The answer is surprisingly simple. Entertainment awards exist to make more money and are not always based on merit. Movies that win or are nominated for awards make more money, and so do the people attached to these projects. Once nominated, an actor brings prestige to future projects and can often command a higher salary due to their Oscar-nominated status. In the case of Close, who shares the record for “most Oscar nominations without a win” with actor Peter O’Toole, it seems clear that her divisive performance received a nomination because the Academy feels she deserves (and is owed) an Oscar for her large body of outstanding work.
I do not have a horse in this race and I do not have an opinion, but I also bristle at the thought of super privileged people feeling that other super privileged people are entitled to more privilege. On the one hand, anyone who has delivered eight award-worthy performances is deserving of recognition and respect; but, within a broken awards system, is giving an established and respected performer a top award the best use of a rare, prestigious, and career-making honor?
Remember Leonardo DiCaprio? A few years ago there was a lot of talk that he had been “snubbed” by the Academy and that he “deserved” and was “owed” an Oscar. Meanwhile, DiCaprio was already an in-demand and highly paid actor with his own private island and a penchant for dating supermodels. Winning an Oscar was just icing on the cake and did nothing to improve his already dazzling prospects.
That’s not to say that DiCaprio and Close are not amazing and talented performers—of course they are. For me, I generally want resources to go where they will do the most good. I doubt having an Oscar has significantly improved Leo’s life, and I doubt much will change for Glenn Close if she wins this year. Think about the Academy’s documented history of exclusion and consider what a nomination (and win) would mean for lesser known, less established actors and creators. One nomination, one win can create new, more diverse role models and “brands” that Hollywood can build upon to make entertainment more inclusive. To me, that is preferable to validating the egos of veteran performers who can afford to turn down work.
In many ways, this is a matter of integrity in a notoriously unethical industry. If Close wins, she will be forever linked to an average performance in a thoroughly average film. The award would not be an honor, but an obligation, paid at another actor’s expense. Would it be better to remain in the ranks of loved and respected actors who have never won an Oscar, or ascend with a false and hollow victory? It’s a Hollywood tale in the making, and the ending remains unknown.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.