Notes on a scandal: How Oscar controversy is part of its culture

Controversy is as much a part of the Oscars as the red carpet, and this year is no exception. 

While nobody has — so far — taken a literal slap in the face, there are already metaphorical slaps keeping the awards community abuzz, according to Michael Schulman.

Schulman is a staff writer for the New Yorker and the author of Oscar Wars: A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat and Tears.

He told The Sunday Magazine about the role of politics and general nastiness in the Academy Awards, from the tactics of disgraced former film producer (and convicted sex offender) Harvey Weinstein, to another possible controversy brewing ahead of this year’s awards. Here’s part of what he had to say.

Shakespeare in Love vs. Private Ryan

The 1999 best picture race between Saving Private Ryan and Shakespeare in Love has gone down in history as the ugliest best picture fight in Oscar history, and much of that really It has to do with Harvey Weinstein in the ’90s.

Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob ran Miramax, which was a New York-based studio that really got big with movies like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and Clerks — all these kinds of grittier indie movies at the beginning of the ’90s.

Winners of the Oscar for Best Picture, Shakespeare in Love, pose for photographers on March 21, 1999 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles during the 71st Annual Academy Awards. From left: David Parfitt, Dianna Gigliotti, Harvey Weinstein, Edward Zwick, and Marc Morman. (Hector Mata/AFP via Getty Images)

From the beginning, Weinstein wanted to break out of what he called the “arthouse ghetto.” So he was always extremely aggressive about marketing. And part of what he did was to really go after Academy Awards as a way of getting attention for these movies.

But what happened next was that Weinstein took all of the tactics he had developed for Oscar campaigning and just pushed them to the max. So this meant completely flooding the trade magazines like Variety and Hollywood Reporter with “For your consideration” ads, blanketing Los Angeles radio stations with commercials with the score for Shakespeare in Love.

Putting Gwyneth Paltrow, the star of the movie, getting her every sort of press that he could — just throwing parties…. And he had hired a team of consultants to work on the campaign, which was really not done then.

And all of this exploded when [Steven Spielberg’s production company] DreamWorks heard a rumour that Harvey Weinstein was going around telling people, particularly journalists, that Saving Private Ryan was only really good for the first 25 minutes, and then after that it was basically a standard World War II movie.

Michael Schulman, author and staff writer for the New Yorker.
Michael Schulman is an author and staff writer for the New Yorker. (Courtesy of Michael Schulman)

Negative campaigning for the Oscars was completely forbidden. And so when DreamWorks heard about this, they were horrified and they started complaining to the press about how Miramax had really crossed a line.

And then suddenly, it became this public fight between these two studios: Miramax and DreamWorks. And so, by Oscar night, there was so much enmity between these companies. 

And then Steven Spielberg wins best director.

Everyone sort of assumes that Saving Private Ryan is still going to win despite all of this. But the winner was Shakespeare in Love. And Harvey Weinstein had himself taken a producing credit on the movie, which meant that he himself got up for the first time on that Oscar stage.

To Leslie raises questions about 2023 nominations

This year, the big controversial thing that happened is that there is this movie To Leslie, which is a tiny little movie about a woman who wins the lottery and then wastes all the money…. This movie opened in the fall, it made about as much money as it cost to buy a car; it was really tiny. 

And yet, in January, during the nomination window for the Oscars, suddenly, you had all of these A-list actors posting on social media, on behalf of the star Andrea Riseborough, who is an English actress, [saying] she’s the star of the movie, [and] she gives a very powerful performance.

But really, she was not in the discussion for a best actress nomination [before then].

A still of Andrea Riseborough in a scene from "To Leslie."
Andrea Riseborough received a Best Actress nomination for her performance in the film To Leslie after an army of celebrities endorsed her, sparking a conversation about how money, race, status and connections can influence awards campaigns. (Momentum Pictures via The Associated Press)

But then all of a sudden, you had people like Kate Winslet, Jennifer Aniston, Edward Norton and Sarah Paulson all backing her, and many of them went on social media and used the exact same language.

They all said, “This is a small movie with a giant heart.” And so people, of course, immediately picked up on this. And it was kind of this joke, like everyone had been cutting and pasting from some obvious script.

The incredible thing is that it worked. Andrea Riseborough actually did get a best actress nomination for this movie that very few people had seen.

People were so stunned that the social media push had worked that the Academy announced that they were going to review the nominations in general, to make sure that no one had violated any of their guidelines. Everyone understood this to mean the Andrea Riseborough campaign.

What they ultimately decided was that no one had broken the rules, and they weren’t going to rescind her campaign or anything, but that they were going to look more closely at their guidelines.

I’m sure they will put some restrictions on how social media is used. But there were a couple of things that were really interesting about this kind of mini-scandal. One is the question, is this going to be a paradigm shift for how Oscar campaigns work?

A Black woman standing at a podium speaks into a microphone.
Danielle Deadwyler accepts the breakthrough performance by an actress award for Till at the 34th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala on Jan. 5, 2023, in Palm Springs, Calif. Deadwyler said in an interview that misogynoir and racism played a part in her Oscar snub. (Chris Pizzello/The Associated Press)

Is everyone now going to want an Andrea Riseborough campaign where it’s not about spending big money and placing a lot of ads, but just having a network of people who are influential posts on social media? Will the Andrea Riseborough model start to supersede the Harvey Weinstein model?

And the other question was much more fraught, which was that Andrea Riseborough was nominated and two Black actresses — Viola Davis for the Woman King and Daniel Detweiler for Till — were not nominated, even though they had been really considered strong contenders.

So the question was, you know, did Andrea Riseborough essentially take a slot that would have gone to a Black woman?

It was really bad optics, especially since the Academy has struggled for the past couple years to level [the] playing field and be more inclusive. It felt like a step backward, possibly for the Academy’s efforts to be more racially inclusive.

Source link

Denial of responsibility! insideheadline is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.