Academy voters are basically sheep — a herd. The shepherd just has to show control and point the way, and unless his/her suggestion is nonsensical and/or unwise almost all of the sheep will follow. The shepherd (i.e., Paramount marketing) has made it clear that True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld is a Best Supporting Actress contender. That’s because her fiercely intelligent performance can’t overpower a basic human tendency to regard 14 year-olds as entertaining but marginal figures. The only choice, obviously, is the Best Supporting Actress route. It doesn’t matter how large or central her role is — she’s 14.

To hell with the Keisha Castle Hughes precedent pointed out by Scott Feinberg. That was then, True Grit ain’t Whale Rider, etc.

Steinfeld having received Best Supporting Actress nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Screen Actors Guild Award settles it. Whatever the Hollywood Foreign Press kumquats did or didn’t do means nothing.

On top of which it would it would be wrong, wrong, wrong if Steinfeld (whose spirited and highly willful Mattie Ross, don’t get me wrong, is a complete delight) were to push aside Blue Valentine‘s Michelle Williams, as EW‘s Dave Karger has reported, because “some voters I’ve talked to are turned off by the film’s darkness.” (AMPAS Newsflash: films about the breakup of marriages are only dark if they’re doleful and depressing and covered in fake-behavior sauce, which Blue Valentine clearly is not.) And while I’ve disagreed with Sony Classics decision to push Another Year‘s Lesley Manville in supporting category, she still gave the performance that she gave, and anyone who’s still talking about sending her to the showers because “not everyone has even seen that late-year release”….c’mon! At this late date?

So Karger’s 1.3.11 EW piece is singing the wrong tune….sorry.

And Coming Soon‘s Ed Douglas (who was completely blind on the Lesley Manville issue, claiming that she had to be a Best Actress contender because the size and depth of the role demanded it) is wrong also. There’s no basis for category confusion with Steinfeld. The HFPA is composed of marginal whores and their opinion means nothing — they simply provide a popular TV show. But Douglas is right about one thing: “The lead actress category is already fairly jam-packed, [so] there’s a good chance Steinfeld will get snubbed [in that category] despite having a SAG nomination precursor.”

Feinberg notes that 15 first-timers have been nominated for Best Actress, but the only kid who made it was Whale Rider‘s Keisha Castle Hughes, and that performance was extra-extraordinary, I believe, due to Whale Rider touching people on much deeper and more primal level than True Grit, no offense.