After Andrea Riseborough was unexpectedly nominated for an Oscar for the small independent film “To Leslie,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said on Friday that it is “reviewing campaign procedures.”
The Academy said something about the campaign on Friday, but it didn’t say “to Leslie” in particular.
“It Is The Academy’s Goal To Make Sure That The Awards Competition Is Fair And Honest, And We Are Dedicated To Making Sure That The Awards Process Is Open To Everyone,” the statement says. “We Are Conducting A Review Of The Campaign Procedures Around This Year’s Nominees To Ensure That No Rules Were Broken And To Let Us Know If Rules Changes May Be Required In A New Era Of Social Media And Digital Communication.” “We trust that our nomination and voting processes are fair and honest, and we back real grassroots campaigns for great performances.”
The drama, which only made $27,000 at the box office, has been criticised because its supporters ran targeted campaigns for Riseborough.
Since Tuesday’s nominations, people in the industry have been arguing a lot about whether or not her campaign broke any of the rules and guidelines set by Ampas. Since Riseborough’s name was called, there have been rumours that she might not be able to run.
Multiple sources say that the Academy is getting together next Tuesday, and Riseborough will be on the agenda. Sources also say that people have called and emailed the Academy a lot about Riseborough’s inclusion, but no formal complaints have been made.
During the winter months, if you drove through West L.A., you would have seen many billboards for Oscar contenders like “All Quiet on the Western Front” on Netflix and “Top Gun: Maverick” on Paramount.
You wouldn’t have seen any for “To Leslie,” a drama from Momentum Pictures that won the Roseborough Award. a nomination over people like Viola Davis (“The Woman King”) and Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”).
But her grassroots campaign got the support of stars like Edward Norton, Jane Fonda, and Cate Blanchett, who all praised the actress’s work in public. “To Leslie” was directed by Michael Morris, and his wife, Mary McCormack, helped get a lot of A-listers to support Riseborough.
Variety got an email from Mccormick in which he told his friends how to talk about “To Leslie’s” leading lady on social media and in other ways.
Riseborough’s nomination is still the talk of the town, and there are a lot of questions that need to be answered in the next few days.
Did Riseborough’s Camp Violate Academy Rules?
There’s nothing wrong with telling Oscar voters about a movie’s good points to get them to watch it. But some rival campaigns say that “To Leslie” used “aggressive tactics” that went too far.
And movies and artists have been kicked out before for breaking the rules. Bruce Broughton, who was on the Academy’s Music Branch’s executive committee at the time, was nominated for Original Song for the title track of “Alone Yet Not Alone” in 2014.
After it was found out that he had emailed members of the Music Branch during the voting period to let them know about his submission, his nomination was taken away.
In Riseborough’s case, critics haven’t found a “smoking gun” that shows Riseborough directly asked Academy members for money. But some of the people who did work for her have been accused of breaking the rules. If that’s the case, does that make Riseborough, who is also one of “To Leslie’s” executive producers, responsible?
“titanic” Star Frances Fisher, a member of the academy, was one of Riseborough’s most vocal supporters. She shared multiple posts on social media about her performance. However, some of those posts could also violate the academy’s rules, particularly No. 11’s “references to other nominees,” which states that “any tactic that singles out the competition by name or title is expressly forbidden.”
“To My Fellow Actors In The Academy—According To Pete Hammond Writing For Deadline, Andrea Riseborough Can Secure An Oscar Nomination If 218 (Out Of 1,302) Actors In The Actors Branch Nominated Her In First Position For Best Actress,” Fisher wrote in a post on her personal Instagram account on January 14.
She goes on to say, “It looks like Viola Davis, Michelle Yeoh, Danielle Deadwyler, and Cate Blanchett will all get awards for their great work.”
It’s not “illegal” to praise a movie or performance you like, but Fisher seems to have made a mistake when he talked about Yeoh, Deadwyler, Blanchett, and Davis. But that would not implicate Riseborough directly unless there was some way that Fisher was directly involved with the film itself.
Part C of the rules says that if a formal complaint is filed, Fisher could be banned from the academy for a year. Read: “Academy Members Who Are Found To Have Violated This Regulation Will Be Subject To A One-Year Suspension Of Membership For First-Time Violations.”
Again, there haven’t been any official complaints about “to Leslie” yet.
This “Self-funded” Effort Was Funded By Who?
Oscar campaigns are expensive because they involve parties, consultants, and ads, all of which cost a lot. It looks like the “To Leslie” campaign was self-funded. But the movie did hire two PR firms, Narrative and Shelter, and event planners like Colleen Camp to help get the word out about it.
Who paid for those? Momentum Pictures? Riseborough? Some Outsider? People who are interested want to know.
What Does The Academy Mean By “Lobbying”?
Riseborough’s self-campaign started to take off in the weeks before the AMPS vote, with help from her manager Jason Weinberg, Narrative PR, and Shelter PR. Still, most awards experts thought the actor didn’t have much of a chance after other contenders got Ley nominations from the Golden Globes, the SAG, and other major awards that come before the Ley.
But her well-known friends may have won her over with their personal appeals. Riseborough has been in a lot of movies, including “Birdman,” “The Death of Stalin,” and “Battle of the Sexes.” This may have led to these connections.
A lot of Oscar nominees do Q&As with other actors or talent to get people interested in their movies. But the question is whether Riseborough’s friends’ support is the kind of lobbying that the Academy doesn’t let happen.
Could Riseborough’s Nomination Be Withdrawn?
It could happen, but it’s also very unlikely.
In the Academy’s 95 years, nine nominations have been taken back for different reasons. That includes Charlie Chaplin for “The Circus” in 1928 at the first ceremony and Greg Russell for “13 Hours” for best sound mixing at the most recent one (2016).
Even though there is no proof that Riseborough broke any Oscar rules, the team may have used loopholes to get her the attention they thought she deserved.
Riseborough’s friends figured out that only 218 of the 9,579 Ampas members had to write her name down for her to be nominated. And they took advantage of that math.
The Actors Branch had 1,302 members this year, which was the most of any Academy branch. If every member voted, which they don’t, a nominee would need 218 votes to get in. If there are fewer votes, the number of votes needed also goes down. But again, there’s nothing wrong with crunching numbers, and it would take hard evidence to disqualify Riseborough, which hasn’t come up yet.
What Impact Will This Have On Upcoming Award Campaigns?
If nothing is done, many big studios and strategists will use the same strategies during the next awards season. You might also see the Academy clarify some of its own rules to close some “loopholes.”
Riseborough isn’t the only candidate who has paid for her own campaign. In the 1987 small comedy Sally Kirkland famously wrote letters to voters and talked to any journalist who was around to promote herself.
Melissa Leo’s “consider” ads, which were bought to help her win for “The Fighter” (2010) and were meant to show her glamorous side in contrast to her work in that film as a blue-collar mother, walked right up to the edge of what was allowed.
Ann Dowd got about $13,000 from her coworkers and her own bank account to send DVDs of her work as a restaurant manager in “compliance” (2012) to Academy members, but she didn’t get a nomination for it.
“There will be a lot of hard conversations in the future,” a studio publicist who asked to remain anonymous told Variety. “Our bosses and clients will expect us to go get Ed Norton and think that’s all it will take.” The nomination of Andrea is not normal. It’s a wonder. “Many of us wouldn’t have jobs if it weren’t for this.”
Around the Oscars, a cottage industry has grown up that brings in a lot of money for strategists and advisors. Riseborough may have put that at risk, and she could be in trouble for going against the rules.
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