The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has spoken: It will not take any action to rescind To Leslie star Andrea Riseborough’s Best Actress Oscar nomination.
You can almost hear a collective Whew! coming from that movie’s producers.
It all started late last week, a few days after the nominations were announced on January 24. Riseborough’s quite unexpected star-making turn in the dramatic story of an alcoholic single mom in Texas came out in October to little fanfare. After all, it’s a small—no, make that tiny—indie that earned just $27,322 at the box office, which is absolutely minute compared to the vehicles her Best Actress competition rode in on: Viola Davis (The Woman King), Danielle Deadwyler (Till) or Olivia Colman (Empire of Light).
While Oscar nom voting was being conducted within the acting branch (some 1,200 thespians), Riseborough’s camp enlisted a gang of A-listers including Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Naomi Watts, Demi Moore and Edward Norton to host screenings of the film along with celebrity Q&A’s. They also made use social media to build a virtually unfunded grassroots Oscar campaign. Riseborough’s co-star Marc Maron interviewed her for his WTF podcast which has 55 million listeners. The practice in question: some posts from her camp contained mentions of her fellow Best Actress nominees—an Academy no-no. They consider that practice an “attack ad.”
Clearly there were some sour grapes, some backlash, by bigger studios—and bigger actors —which basically forced the Academy board to hold a private meeting to see if Riseborough’s camp crossed one of their many serious lines.
Then there was the pro-Riseborough pushback from equally notable celebs, who quite fairly pointed out that tons of money is always thrown at Oscar campaigns—in the Hollywood trades, the New York Times, etc. Christina Ricci took to social media to complain: “Seems hilarious that the ‘surprise nomination’ (meaning tons of money wasn’t spent to position this actress) of a legitimately brilliant performance is being met with an investigation. So it’s only the films and actors that can afford the campaigns that deserve recognition? Feels elitist and exclusive and frankly very backward to me.”
Marc Maron expressed similar sentiments on his popular podcast: “Several of those folks and others have questioned the Academy’s review of Riseborough’s nom during the past week. Apparently, the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences or whatever the fuck it is has decided to investigate Andrea Riseborough’s grassroots campaign to get her the Oscar nomination because I guess it so threatens their system to where they’re completely bought out by corporate interests in the form of studios.”
At the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting, Academy CEO Bill Kramer (interviewed in the February issue of Los Angeles) made the following statement:
“Based on concerns that surfaced last week around the To Leslie awards campaign, the Academy began a review into the film’s campaigning tactics. The Academy has determined the activity in question does not rise to the level that the film’s nomination should be rescinded. However, we did discover social media and outreach campaigning tactics that caused concern. These tactics are being addressed with the responsible parties directly. The purpose of the Academy’s campaign regulations is to ensure a fair and ethical awards process—these are core values of the Academy. Given this review, it is apparent that components of the regulations must be clarified to help create a better framework for respectful, inclusive, and unbiased campaigning. These changes will be made after this awards cycle and will be shared with our membership. The Academy strives to create an environment where votes are based solely on the artistic and technical merits of the eligible films and achievements.”
Now all Andrea Riseborough has to worry about is—her Oscar night dress.
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