Back to IndieWire

Growing Resentment Of Oscar Campaigns Recalls Mo’Nique’s Controversial ‘Precious’ Choice

Growing Resentment Of Oscar Campaigns Recalls Mo'Nique's Controversial 'Precious' Choice

It’s that time of the year again…

Even though she was practically crucified in the mainstream press for not playing the Oscar campaign game (an Oscar she eventually won anyway), Mo’Nique’s public decision may not seem so ridiculous as many felt it was at the time, 4 years ago. 

As was the conversation earlier this year, there’s been a growing resentment of the Oscar campaign process by more and more Hollywood artists, who are “fed up with the parade of glad-handing that has come to define the fall-to-winter awards season,” as put it – the countless events, appearances, interviews, and receptions that are apparently expected from those who hope to make the nominations short lists, as well as win the coveted statue.

To wit, most recently, during the current awards season, Michael Fassbender joined the chorus started earlier this year, stating firmly in a GQ interview that he won’t be campaigning for an Oscar nomination for his much-ballyhooed performance in 12 Years A Slave, for which he’s very likely going to be nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category. 

You might recall similar previous statements from others before him, made during the last awards season:

– David Cronenberg: “Every year I try to be as disconnected as possible… The people who are releasing the movie get excited, they want you to do more, and you understand it because the awards can maybe get more people to see the film… However, it is all bullshit, it is all annoying and it is all very problematical.”

– Joaquin Phoenix: “I think it’s total, utter bullshit, and I don’t want to be a part of it … It was one of the most uncomfortable periods of my life when ‘Walk the Line’ was going through all the awards stuff and all that. I never want to have that experience again.”

– Anthony Hopkins called the process “disgusting.”

– Matt Damon: “It’s ridiculous … We had Harvey Weinstein with us for ‘Good Will Hunting,’ and he’s the guy who really sees the matrix when it comes to this stuff and I think we did a cocktail party. That was it … It’s been really shocking to me to see what’s happened [since], and not all good.”

And there’s more… but you get the gist.

Maybe one obvious point to note is that these dissenters are all white and male. Could that be something worth considering in all this? The privilege to be able to make these kinds of statements publicly, and seemingly not be censured for doing so – at least, from where I’m sitting, not as much as Mo’Nique was in 2009/2010.

And with his recent revelation of his plans to not campaign for a nomination for his role in 12 Years A Slave, Fassbender (who said in an interview with GQ, “I’m not a politician, I’m an actor“) certainly doesn’t fear any sort of retribution from Academy voters.

And what does his 12 Years A Slave director, Steve McQueen think of his decision? His campaign is on screen. That’s Michael Fassbender’s Oscar campaign. He’s done his thing. That’s it,” McQueen has said in support.

I recall an article on the Monique “non-Oscar-campaigning” matter, on Vanity Fair’s website, written by Mark Olsen, with the title – “Oscars: The Mo’Nique Problem” – which should clue you in to what was contained within it.

I’ve yet to see any pieces titled “Oscars: The Michael Fassbender Problem,” nor did I see anything of the sort for any of the other above actors after they made their feelings about the campaign process known, and during years that they were up for nominations.

Journalist Jeffrey Wells (who writes the popular industry Hollywood Elsewhere blog) was a key figure in the anti-Mo’Nique campaign at the time. As I recall, he was quite relentless; it practically became personal to him, and one could only scratch one’s head in wonderment. Even if you’re one of those who wasn’t at all impressed with Mo’Nique’s performance in Precious, how much ink is necessary to spell out that displeasure? At some point, it becomes ridiculous, and your motivation will be questioned. So, Wells shouldn’t have been surprised when many called him a racist – something he took issue with.

In the Vanity Fair article, Wells was quoted several times, using some of his more caustic attacks on Mo’Nique. Specifically, here’s a sample:

As for Mo’Nique herself, she’s a genuine primitive… Or so I think. Did she pretend not to understand the financial benefits of an Oscar race during that talk-show chat or is she really that thick? I thought her [Golden Globe] acceptance speech felt acted and lacked class. I thought her ‘talk to my husband’ reply to Tom O’Neil was major chickenshit. And the hairy legs thing was just astounding. Has an Oscar contending actress ever been on the red carpet with visible Yeti hair on her calves?… Mo’Nique’s spotty campaign and the certainty of her winning the Oscar is proof that you don’t have to campaign as much as most publicists think you have to… IF you’re the only real standout in your category and IF you’ve got every critics group going ‘baaaah!’ and giving you a win almost every time at bat. Plus there was never a strong Mo’Nique alternative choice. I found her performance and personality genuinely unappealing. Which of course makes me a racist. Naturally. END.

Of course, many found his “genuine primitive” line very problematic, to start.

Further, from Mark Olsen’s article: “Mo’Nique seems to challenge, consciously or not, the very foundation of how a sleek, supplicating awards-season actress should look or behave.

As I said at the time, I’m a sucker for anyone challenging the status quo. And if anything, her presence and her approach actually invigorated a ritualistic awards season that may have been rather dull, not-so unlike previous seasons. And I’m sure there are those Hollywood players who were and still are secretly applauding her in private, even though they may have been lambasting her in public, or didn’t say anything at all.

The Vanity Fair article ended, stating, “Mo’Nique will go on to win the Oscar… but she’s ticked off a lot of people along the way – people who may have a chance to pay her back someday.

One could ask whether, the fact that she hasn’t appeared in anything else since Precious, and her BET talk-show was canceled, may be the “payback” the Vanity Fair article suggested. Has Mo’Nique been, effectively, blacklisted, even though she did win the Oscar?

In a post-Oscar interview, on whether her Academy Award win will give her career a bounce, and if she feels intimidated, she stated:

“I am the highest-paid woman in the history of this network [BET]. That was before the Oscar. I’m a New York Times bestseller. That was before the Oscar. If I take that one trophy and base my entire career on it, I think God would say, ‘Are you serious?’ They say it should change my career somehow. We’ll see… I get intimidated at the top of the rollercoaster before it comes down from the top and I feel myself coming up in my seat and want to make sure the bar is tight around my waist. But I’m not intimidated by anything in this business.”

She’s been chilling apparently, being a mom, and working hard to lose pounds (which she’s done), if her Twitter feed is any indication.

Although I should mention that Mo’nique previously purchased life rights to Hattie McDaniel, and once said she wanted Lee Daniels to direct her in it. That was years ago; whether it’s still something she wants to do, isn’t public.

But going back to the original point of this piece… the question is asked: How much campaigning is really necessary to win an Oscar? One answer given at GoldDerby:

Jockeying for position amidst a glut of possible contenders in the crowded fall months, it’s difficult to stand out, so the most important factor of any campaign is just to be seen. Academy members won’t nominate a film they don’t know about, so if your campaign is successful yours will be one of the films they make sure to watch before marking their ballots. Beyond that, to paraphrase Bonnie Raitt, you can’t make them love you if they don’t.

I’m sure, campaign or not, Fassbender will get a nomination for 12 Years A Slave. Whether he wins, is another matter. But I think mankind will be shocked if his name isn’t announced next month, when the nominees are revealed.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: News and tagged

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox