Bright and early on the morning of January 24, 2023, when Riz Ahmed and Alison Williams nominate the Academy Award nominees for Best Actress, the results are, more or less, as expected. Cate Blanchett tar. Michelle Williams Fablemans. Ana de Armas for blond – The academy loves A Depicting a real person. Michelle Yeoh L Everything everywhere at once. Andrea Riseborough, for… to Leslie?
Most people who’d heard of the movie knew about it because of a weird grassroots campaign that seemed to come out of nowhere a week or two ago, when… Everyone from Charlize Theron to Howard Stern He seemed to have started posting on Twitter about the movie, a small indie film that opened in October in a handful of theaters to critical acclaim but relatively little fanfare. Suddenly, if you followed a lot of celebrities, the praise for Riseborough’s performance was everywhere.
On the morning of the Oscar nominations, it turns out that was enough to get Riseborough on the board. Some observers complained, pointing out that former slot favorite – Danielle Didwiller V until Viola Davis V The King’s Woman – Looks like he got hit by the big wave of support.
We have no way of knowing if this is true, but it doesn’t seem impossible, given that both Deadwyler and Davis have Widespread the support at several guild and critics awards over the past few months. However, the Academy announced that it would launch an investigation into Riseborough’s campaign tactics to see if they violated the Oscars rules. On January 31st They announced that Riseborough would retain her nomination but that “tactics” were to be “dealt directly with the responsible parties”.
And these hints at shady tactics are a bit surprising, if you know anything about how Oscar winners are made.
Let’s go back. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—that is, the industry group made up entirely of people in the industry (but no journalists or critics)—gives the Oscars, and the group is made up of distinct “branches.” There is a cinematographers branch, a writers branch, a directors branch, and so on. Each branch votes on nominations in its major, ultimately selecting five candidates. The exception is Best Picture, which has 10 nominee slots and is voted on by all members, who number around 10,000. After the nominees are announced, everyone gets to vote in each category.
The idea here is noble: you know your craft, so you are best suited to pick the five options from which the broader membership will choose winners. Simple, right?
Except the Oscars weren’t a simple day, for many reasons. The American film industry is mostly based in Los Angeles, which is the company’s city. This means that everyone knows everyone—not only do they know, but they get married and divorced and drink and be seen at bake sales and appointments and fires and heard gossip about them. There are many exceptions of course, but it’s a bit like choosing the winners from among your very large family. No wonder the whole thing can feel like a popularity contest.
Another wrinkle is that the prospect of selecting the “best” art is downright absurd. Certainly some things are better than others. But taste is inherently personal – You may hate what I like — and when you work on the technical level of most films, judgments of “best” boil down to taste. The endless awards season has its reasons for being there; Recognition of one’s work It can go a long way towards establishing a career. But to imagine that a group can vote to choose the best thing is absurd and very funny.
But the main problem with picking the Oscars is simply that it’s not a literal competition at all. It is a political contest. I don’t mean that they are “political,” though the long, long history of Hollywood is that of Washington and Hollywood meddling in each other’s business. (Anyone who says movies were better when they were “less politicized” some Hollywood may have gotten in their heads without similarity to me fact One.)
What I mean is, campaigning for an Oscar is just like campaigning for president — except it happens every year, and admittedly less is at stake, though that may not be felt by the candidates. this is exactly right When I wrote about it several years agoI found that the political advisors were just as knowledgeable about the process as the prize strategists (and more open about it, too).
However, there is one big difference. When you’re campaigning for president, all bets are off. You can be relentlessly knocking on doors, calling, texting and emailing voters, and outright asking for their vote. In American politics, it’s perfectly fine for a candidate to walk up to someone on the street, hand them a flyer, and say, “I’m Alyssa Wilkinson, I’m running for president, and I’m asking for your vote.”
But there is an odd quip in the academy about such bold campaign displays — if anyone notices. It didn’t seem like Andrea Riseborough was personally knocking on doors, however to Leslie Director Michael Morris’s wife, actress Mary McCormack, She reportedly beat the bush on her behalf. Variety mentioned it I have emailed friends At the Academy, it tells them to “post every day between now and January 17th” — the last day of voting for the Oscar nominations. It was a low-budget campaign for a low-budget movie, but it may have violated the Academy’s order not to campaign directly. Reportedly, she also held a small meeting in her house (Something the Academy does not allow, in certain criteria, without an accompanying examination.)
Which is ironic, as many have pointed out – like the Riseborough star Marc Maron and actress Christina Ricci — is that while not many movies have such an overt campaign (or, at least, not one that we know about), there are plenty going on. As I wrote:
The bottom line is that no matter what narrative your film has, you need to make sure that Academy members will see your film, connect with its story, and remember that it’s time to vote. The more opportunities there are to do this, the better. And so during the Oscar season, there are screenings with cocktails and Q&A. There is dinner. and breakfasts, lunches, teas, and cocktail parties hosted by celebrities and influencers.
Stars and Oscar nominees appear at meet-and-greets and make surprise appearances at shows. They appear on the podcast And Take video tours And Make the rounds at late night comedy showsand a lot.
(Perhaps most ironically, the modern-day model of multimillion-dollar campaigns and Sometimes she uses dirty tactics It was created, more or less on its own, by Harvey Weinstein.)
Ultimately, the question is whether a movie that clearly violates campaign rules should be sanctioned, allowing the Academy to maintain the polite fantasy that more expensive campaigns with less overt (but still obvious) tactics should be allowed to continue.
And all of this points to what seems to me to be a larger problem. The US presidential election system has been hopelessly mediocre and increasingly hysterical. The cycle of hype and fear begins years before the actual election, as if it were an epic live sports showdown rather than a sober civic ritual aimed at achieving justice and fairness.
The Oscars are, in fact, a live showdown, and if you think it’s about justice and fairness, you might want to buy that bridge you got in Brooklyn. But the Oscars cycle has a negative impact on movies regardless. As I wrote, the endless hype cycle of “Will you win an Oscar?” The grilling, informal campaign begins about a month after the Academy Awards and continues throughout the year. By the fall festival cycle in September, the ‘top leaderboard’ is well established, making it hard to break through any surprises. The question of whether a movie is “Oscar-worthy” can include the movie itself, which makes it difficult to talk about it as a work of art. It’s all about her award potential, and the movies get swept up in the maelstrom.
If the Academy were to take control of all campaign activity—not just grassroots campaigns that are too obvious for their taste—it might not solve that problem. But it could also level the playing field, allowing more movies to enter the conversations and even for more people to watch. It probably won’t result in a less attractive award-winning film company – but isn’t it worth a try?