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February 10, 2009

Oscar campaigning: Has it come to this?


It's hard out there for a fan.

Take the subject line of an e-mail we got recently with this plaintive phrase: "Has it come to this?"

Our young and idealistic commenter, who's worked in the indie film business for a few years, had watched a series of videos with your resident Gold Rusher and other awards journalists yammering about who's likely to win Little Gold Men on Feb. 22.

The hot air talk often circled back to the campaigning that happens on the way to the Oscars, and that's what really bothered the aspiring movie maker and entertainment buff.

To wit: "I was struck by how the conversation regarding what actor or film would win in their respective category focused mainly on factors outside of said performance in itself. I had a general understanding of 'the politics' that are involved in Oscar wins, and I'm aware of past wins that seemed to be a clear reflection of something aside from an individual performance (Nicole Kidman and Morgan Freeman come to mind in their 'wins' which seemed based on their respective careers vs. what they did in the films they were nominated for).

"So suffice to say I'm not entirely naive when it comes to why people win an Oscar for a film. But it was borderline depressing listening to your panel as you all discussed why an actor or film would or would not win. Have the Oscars always operated this way or has politics become a stronger influence in the passing years?"

NUP_133598_0136 It might be easy to dismiss our new friend, Carlo, for being a little sheltered when it comes to the bare-knuckled full-contact sport that is The Awards Hunt. Or to just blame Oscar tsunami Harvey Weinstein for everything and move on.

But we feel like Carlo has a point, and he's probably indicative of a lot of people out there who love entertainment but are grossed out when they get a peek into how the Oscar sausage is made (and we're not talking the Governor's Ball/Wolfgang Puck variety).

That last-minute surprise best picture nod for "The Reader?" See above: Weinstein. The surge of Viola Davis in the supporting actress race? Along with a brief but memorable performance, she's been tirelessly and charmingly working the circuit, gathering steam along the way. Same goes double for Mickey Rourke, who's nipping at Sean Penn's heels for best actor.

It's warfare, complete with battle plans and tactical executions that even awards veteran Meryl Streep finds distasteful. With this being the new reality, why do any of us wonder why average fans don't follow the awards race and won't bother to tune in to the broadcast?

For more of Carlo's musings, go here.


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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

Picture this

  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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