Awards Season Answer Guy talks Fassbender, academy squeamishness

Michael Fassbender is all smiles at the Toronto Film Festival with "12 Years a Slave" director Steve McQueen.
(Warren Toda / EPA)

We get letters. OK ... emails, mostly. Some tweets. And, yes, still the occasional missive with an actual stamp, typically affixed with a lovely shade of bile that sears through the envelope.

Beginning today, we’ll use this space to occasionally answer these awards-season inquiries under the banner of Awards Season Answer Guy. If you have a question of your own about the Oscar races, email it to or, through Twitter, @glennwhipp.

Now, on to the queries:

PHOTOS” Scenes from ’12 Years a Slave’

Q: I read that Michael Fassbender won’t be campaigning this year for his turn in “12 Years a Slave.” That bums me out. Do you think he still has a chance to win a nomination?

A: I assume you’re referring to the November GQ magazine cover story, in which Fassbender said of awards-season campaigning: “It’s just a grind. And I’m not a politician. I’m an actor.”


Realize, first, that Fassbender said this in an interview that he gave to promote “12 Years a Slave,” and, presumably, his role as the film’s nutso-crazy-evil plantation owner. This is but one of dozens upon dozens upon dozens of interviews that the brilliant German-born actor has given since the movie premiered in late August at the Telluride Film Festival.

It’s the dance that actors and filmmakers do this time of year when most Oscar contenders debut. Everyone’s bopping back and forth between Los Angeles and New York, logging in appearances on TV talk shows and giving media interviews and going to parties and receptions and screening Q&As; to talk about their movies and, yes, themselves.

WATCH: Envelope Screening Series — ’12 Years a Slave’

Since Fassbender will be shooting two films -- a western, “Slow West,” that will shoot next month in New Zealand and then a new take on “Macbeth” with Marion Cotillard -- he won’t be around to work the circuit in the coming months. That’s why he has been everywhere the past several weeks, including film festivals in Telluride, Toronto and New York, chatting up Jon Stewart and David Letterman and giving interviews left and right to barnstorm for his Oscar chances talk up the film.

So, fear not. The man has already done “the grind” and logged his time. Fassbender can now leave for New Zealand with the knowledge that he has done his part promoting “12 Years” and, to a much lesser extent, his role in Ridley Scott’s upcoming pulpy thriller “The Counselor.”

Of course, awards season is like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. It’s entirely possible that Fassbender will return to these parts in January for a handful of awards ceremonies. And while he’s around, he might even grant another interview or three (or 12).

PHOTOS: Movie Sneaks 2013

Q: I read your report on the spotty attendance for “12 Years a Slave’s” first screening for academy members. Isn’t it voters’ responsibility to see all the contenders? I can understand someone skipping, say, “Baggage Claim.” But even if you’re squeamish, you have to give a movie like “12 Years” a look, right?

A: An informed electorate is the keystone to any democracy. But, may I ask: How long did you spend perusing and researching the candidates and issues on your ballot before voting in the 2012 election? (You did vote, right?)

Look, as long as there are elections, there will be low-information voters, as well as more conscientious balloters. I belong to the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and when we vote between the finalists in a particular category, it’s generally understood that if you haven’t seen the movies or performances in question, you abstain. And members do.

But LAFCA has just 59 members. The academy has more than 6,000 voters and, as with any group that size, you have a great deal of variance in the way they go about the business of filling out their ballots. I reported on a handful of walkouts during last weekend’s “12 Years” academy screening and the number may have been higher, at least according to another academy member who sat in a different location.

You can’t force anyone to watch. At the same time, there’s a peer pressure present among academy members, a desire to, as one voter put it, be “in the know.” You can’t skip (or, in the case of the walkouts, flee) “12 Years a Slave” and be part of the ongoing Oscar season conversation.

Besides, how can voters properly appreciate all those upcoming Fassbender interviews without seeing the movie?


‘12 Years a Slave’ builds mojo at Toronto Film Festival

Academy members find themselves in ‘Gravity’s’ pull too

Academy receives first does of ’12 Years a Slave’s’ ‘tough medicine’

Follow @GlennWhipp


VIDEO: Upcoming fall films

ENVELOPE: The latest awards buzz

PHOTOS: Greatest box office flops