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It’s Nice to be Nice

Were you surprised when Sandra Bullock won the Best Actress award at the Oscars on Sunday night? I was. It seemed like Meryl Streep was a sure thing. I was at an Oscar party with friends and I wasn’t the only one who didn’t see that one coming.

I noticed another interesting thing at Sunday night’s ceremony. Actors who had worked with the Best Actor and Best Actress nominees came out on stage to speak about their experiences working with the contenders. Some of the speeches were heartfelt and warm and some sounded like the Oscar writers had struggled to find something nice to say about the person in question. The actors reading from the teleprompter at times seemed like they were straining to find some truth in what they were saying about actors who were supposedly not just their co-workers but their friends.

But Michelle Pfeiffer’s words about co-star Jeff Bridges (in The Fabulous Baker Boys) were so heartfelt and real that if she was reading from a teleprompter I couldn’t tell. She genuinely loved him as a friend and had great memories of their time working together. And, as many articles reported, he was a big favorite to win the Academy Award at least partly because everyone in Hollywood loves him. The same is true of Sandra Bullock, or Sandy, as everyone in the industry calls her. She has that relaxed down home charm that seems to be her true personality, it’s not just something she wears as a public persona.

I saw The Blind Side and while I thought she was great in it I don’t necessarily think she was the best actress in a film in 2009. But I can definitely get behind rewarding people for being nice.

Research has shown what we all know: that people would rather work with people they like and can get along with easily and they hire people they like a great deal more often than someone who may be more qualified for the job but whom they don’t like as much.

And if you’re not thinking that being nice is nice for all, witness James “King of the World” Cameron. When he won the Oscar for Titanic years ago people were a little put off by his announcement that he was “The King of the World”. I think that since that was a line from his award winning film and he’d just won a very prestigious award in front of the entire world that was not really such an egregious display of ego but was interpreted as such because of the way people knew him personally. It is apparently widely believed in Hollywood that James Cameron may well be the biggest jerk in a business full of egotistical and entitled jerks. That’s saying a lot. People seem to think he’s a talented filmmaker, even a genius in some cases, but they don’t seem to like him. And I think it might well have been borne out when he lost the Best Director and Best Film prizes to his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow.

I'm the King of the World!

Please note that I think that Kathryn Bigelow is a fantastic director and very deserving of the awards she won last night and not just because it was about time a woman was recognized as the Best Director, but because she really was great. But I think there might have been a bit of an effort to stick it to James, to take him down a peg by some people who may have sat over their ballots and thought to themselves, “Hmmm, Avatar is great, but James is a douche. Here ya go, Jim!” And then they voted for any of the other nominees.

It has long been my belief that we should all be nice to everyone because that’s how we’d all like to be treated, and nothing is really as hard to swallow as someone who’s not nice to us, especially if we feel like we’ve done nothing to deserve rudeness. Plus, being nice is just the right thing to do. And if we should get rewarded for doing what we should do anyway, then all the better.

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One comment on “It’s Nice to be Nice

  1. I haven’t seen Blind Side yet and I loved Avatar because it was such a well written love story/commentary on appreciating the importance of earthly riches to honour. I agree Zena that Sandy’s niceness may have been a factor in her win but also her steadfast dedication to balance the craft with a practical lifestyle. I think her fellow academy members value her. Cameron got the technical accolades as his film deserved but because he is not ‘nice’ as you said he didn’t take home the key prizes. Never thought of it that way and thanks for writing about how that can sway.

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