The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is officially taking a closer look at the Oscar campaigns for this year’s nominees after a growing backlash surrounding the viral grassroots organizing that earned “To Leslie” star Andrea Riseborough a surprise Best Actress nomination.
While it has so far appeared as if the campaign team behind the Momentum Pictures release, which stars the British actress as a strung-out lottery winner trying to rebuild her life, did not break any campaign guidelines themselves, some of the tactics they used, like directly emailing Academy members suggesting they help lobby for the film, are frowned upon.
There is also the perception that Riseborough’s entrance into the category comes at the cost of two Black actresses from highly-acclaimed films directed by Black women being shut out of the Oscar race: Viola Davis (“The Woman King”) and Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”). Both actresses and their films ran more traditional Oscar campaigns over recent months.
“It is the Academy’s goal to ensure that the Awards competition is conducted in a fair and ethical manner, and we are committed to ensuring an inclusive awards process,” said the Academy in an official statement, giving a nod to its ongoing diversity efforts in wake of the #OscarsSoWhite scandal that plagued its 2015 and 2016 acting nominations.
Alluding to the nature of how specific parties evangelized for “To Leslie” via platforms like Instagram, as first reported by Puck News, the Academy statement said, “We are conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year’s nominees, to ensure that no guidelines were violated, and to inform us whether changes to the guidelines may be needed in a new era of social media and digital communication.”
For now, the only possible violation of Academy rules comes from actress Frances Fisher, who posted an Instagram suggesting other voters put Riseborough in top position on their Best Actress ballots, as Davis and Deadwyler “are a lock” alongside Michelle Yeoh and Cate Blachett, who did eventually get nominated for their work in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “TÁR,” respectively.
One could make the argument that the move breaks the rule banning anyone associated with an eligible film singling out “the competition” by name or title in a campaign post is expressly forbidden. The question, however, is to what degree is Fisher associated with the “To Leslie” awards campaign.
Ultimately, it does not look like the inquiry will elicit a dramatic change to the Best Actress nominees, like forcing Oscar voters into a recount, but the successful Riseborough nomination campaign does serve as a reminder to the Academy to review how their rules apply to social media posts. An Instagram from Academy President Janet Yang praising Yeoh’s performance in the A24 hit also caused a recent stir among voters, until the leader quickly deleted it, so this kind of issue had been top of mind even before this year’s Oscars nominations were announced.
With an Academy Board of Governors meeting set for Tuesday, the organization ends its statement on an optimistic note by saying, “We have confidence in the integrity of our nomination and voting procedures, and support genuine grassroots campaigns for outstanding performances.”
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