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What exactly is an Oscar campaign? Explained in its most thorough definition.

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  • Gone_Guy
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    #193551

    I was having a conversation with someone the other day saying that Lily Tomlin’s “Grandma” had the same team behind it as Cate Blanchett’s “Blue Jasmine” and Julianne Moore’s “Still Alice.” I said, “With that campaign, plus her due factor, she might go all the way.” Later in the conversation I mentioned how thrilled I was for Julianne Moore to finally be an Oscar winner and that “I wish she had at least been nominated in Supporting for ‘Maps to the Stars,’ but the studio said it couldn’t afford an awards campaign.” That is when my friend asked, “What exactly is an Oscar campaign?”

    Are you ever asked something and all you can muster up is, “Well… It’s like… Ok, I know, but I don’t know how to break it down for you.” So, lets break it down in this thread. 

    What exactly is an Oscar campaign? Furthermore, what is an awards campaign? Hear me out.

    My knee-jerk response to “Maps…” not being able to afford a campaign is, I’m assuming, all of the talk shows and press junkets. Celebrities are not paid (as far as I know) to do those, but I am assuming the studio/distributor is paying first class airfare and hotel accomodations for the celeb and his/her family? Not to mention their makeup team, meals, etc.

    Mo’Nique received a ton of criticism for “not campaigning” for “Precious,” so aware of it that she even mentioned it in her speech: “Thanks to the Academy for making it about the performance, and not the politics.” Is this to be interpreted as, “I didn’t need to go on Letterman, Leno, and Oprah to win this. The performance did it by itself.” Later that night, the opening words of Sandra Bullock’s speech were, “Did I really earn this or did I just wear y’all down?” I interpret that as, “I’m exhausted. My publicist has had me everywhere. At this point, I don’t know if I won for my performance or because you couldn’t get away from me.” (Please, lets not turn this thread into a debate over Sandra’s winning performance. That’s not what it’s about; rather, she seemed to be aware of her campaigning, as much as Mo’Nique was aware of her non-campaign.)

    Ironically, that was the last year Barbara Walters did her Oscar special. She only interviewed two people: Sandra Bullock and Mo’Nique. Isn’t that a form of campaigning? Or, does it not count since the votes had already been counted once it aired?

    Speaking of publicists and whatnot, do celebrities pay their teams or is it the studios/distributors? For example, Kate Winslet was EVERYWHERE when “The Reader” and “Revolutionary Road” released (how ironic there was a recent thread of, “What hapened to Kate Winslet?”). We all get it; she wanted that Oscar gold. Did she hire a team to make sure she was everywhere? Or was that the studios?

    Then there are the “campaigns” frowned upon. Three examples come to mind:

    – Anne Hathaway. Was it the campaign itself? Or was it the over-eagerness in her speeches leading up to the Oscars? (I don’t mind this and never have; I love that she wasn’t afraid to show her enthusiasm, not to mention she was the best in her category. Well, actually, Helen Hunt was, but Hunt was in the wrong category.) She still hasn’t recovered from this beating from the press.

    – Melissa Leo. “Consider.” In Fur. We know what I’m talking about. (Look it up, newbies.) She’s more famous for her cringeworthy Oscar speech and moment (taking off with Kirk Douglas’s cane) than her actual performance. If it had been put in the paper by the studio, and not her, would it had been less bad?

    – Diane Ladd. Something about a spaghetti dinner hosted by she and her perfect daughter, Laura Dern (no really; she’s perfect), for “Rambling Rose.” Then we remember Ladd’s ad last year in the LA Times I believe, which was, “Vote with your heart” in honor of Laura Dern in “Wild” (hey, at least she got the nom).

    These are all forms of campaigning but seem very negative in hindsight. It worked for Leo and Hathaway. Yet both Ladd and Dern are still without Oscar. We’ll see what happens this year, as Ladd has Oscar-vehicle, “Joy,” and Dern has Oscar-vehicle, “99 Homes.”

    Do due-factors contribute to an Oscar campaign, or is that something else entirely? To bring it back to what I mentioned above, Lily Tomlin could get her second Oscar nomination, 40 years after her first. That right there screams sentiment.

    With the Golden Globes, Oscar voting is still taking place. Is that why the boards are always saying, “They have to get this speech right.” There are two actresses I’ve seen mentioned on here often that “blew” their Oscar chances thanks to their blase/boring Globe speeches: Michelle Pfeiffer for “The Fabulous Baker Boys” and Annette Bening for “Being Julia.” That makes me wonder… Is winning a Globe about an opportunity to genuinely thank the people you want to thank, or is it about further campaigning for that Oscar? When Michael Keaton won his Globe, this board lit up with posts saying, “Wow. He’s coming for that Oscar hard after that speech.” Um, what?

    Going outside of the Oscars…

    Is there a such thing as an Emmy campaign? 

    What about the Tonys?

    From what I have obsevered, the Tonys seem VERY influentional on the staying power of a show. When Chita Rivera and “The Visit” didn’t win anything at the Tonys, it was gone a week later. Some shows don’t make a splash on Tony nomination morning and in no time, they’re gone. Very rarely, does a show survive, but it happens; the most recent example is “If/Then,” which got a couple of Tony noms but not many, and had average to negative reviews. Yet, it was Idina Menzel’s first show since “Wicked” and it was packed out. (Note: I have not seen “If/Then” but will when it comes to Atlanta on tour. It’s just an objective example.) Do the Tonys have this much influence over what stays/goes on Broadway? Can a campaign save that without a big name like Idina Menzel?

    This has been one loaded question after another so just quote and answer which ones you feel like. I’ve never been asked, “What exactly is an Oscar campaign,” and next time, I’ll be more prepared.  

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    Mladen Vukcevic
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    #193553

    As a newbie, the one campaign I have watched carefully (as carefully and closely you can do it from half across the world) was Cate Blanchett’s campaign for “Blue Jasmine”. As inevitable part of the season, campaigning is something you approach to in different ways. And Cate’s team made all that effort look “effortless” (at least to me). During the awards season, this woman had amazing acceptance speeches, she looked flawlessly and she was everything audience (and supposedly, industry) loves her for. She also had that luck that resurrection of Woody Allen scandal was quickly overthrown in the news by the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman (I can only imagine how her team welcomed this news, regardless of friendship between two stars). I don’t want to sound too cynical (I am huge Blanchett fan), but she once again did the smart thing. She stayed out of the scandal and focused on death of her friend. She was filmed bringing Hoffman’s children toys, she was on his wake, she dedicated BAFTA to him (also evading mentioning Woody). I mean, entire thing was moving like a well-oiled machine. Everything was perfectly rehearsed and staged. Her Oscar speech was, though great, was anything but spur of the moment (kudos to her for not bringing paper with her) and Ellen also scheduled her as her guest on post-Oscar show. Even the “Monuments Men” which crashed with critics and audience, served her as a chance for her fellow costars to tell how great she is. And we talk about Clooney, Damon, Dujardin etc. So, perhaps that is a textbook case of how to have a nice, relatively clean and acceptable campaign.

    As for “Carol”, we will see it… I mean, the wheels are already spinning and she has Harvey on her side, with already being announced to be awarded by MOMA and BFI. The role is signifcantly different than Jasmine, so perhaps Harvey and his team will be able to sell this to Academy. 

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    manakamana
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    #193554

    I think campaigning comprises of mostly press, though also a lot of attending events including parties, screenings and Q&As throughout the awards season. It can be through different festivals (especially if your publicist can afford one of the “Hollywood Film Awards” or whatever they’re called, or at least a night dedicated to you) and, increasingly, friends in the industry vouching for you either in the press or on the campaign circuit (like Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman hosting Theory of Everything screenings last year). 

    Although in the grand scheme of things, it’s probably only a small slice of what gets you in the awards conversation. I’d say about 95% of it is luck, including social timing, momentum, box office, reviews, and whether or not your distributor has the resources and prioritizes you enough to shell out the money that making and sending out screeners costs. The campaigning can probably only inch you ahead if you’re in that realm and on the cusp of either a nomination or a possible contender to win, but that’s a narrative you’re boxed into pretty early on these days with endless prognosticating thinkpieces and conversations online. For instance, judging from The Theory of Everything‘s widespread love across the board from all corners of the industry, it seems obvious to me that Redmayne would have won whether he had taken Mo’Nique’s attitude or not. Incidentally, Mo’Nique is another good example of that — she had the conversation on lock down straight out of Sundance, reviews, strong love for the film among critics and at the box office and not that many people could disparage her performance with a straight face. She could have filmed herself picking up dog poop and eating it Divine-style and she still would have won. Unless it’s something really extreme, like Gary Oldman bashing Steven Spielberg or Russell Crowe throwing a phone at a person’s head, I don’t think there’s much one can do to shift their chances any which way in the “campaigning” process.

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    FilmGuy619
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    #193555

    I agree about it being about press and putting yourself out there. Take a look at Natalie Portman. She was everywhere. She attended roundtables, talk shows, awards ceremonies, etc., talking about how she did her own dancing and pulling the “I’m engaged and I’m pregnant” card. Even my aunt was like “It’s all Natalie Portman this, Natalie Portman that.” Her film was also doing nicely at the box office and she had another film that opened at #1 at the time (No Strings Attached). Plus, she had a lot of momentum by winning every precursor. 

    There is also Jennifer Lawrence. Like Portman, she was also everywhere. Not just during the awards circuit, but everywhere that year in general because she also had The Hunger Games. She also has a very PR-savvy personality that not only wins the public over, but possibly won voters over. Also, Silver Linings Playbook was a success at the box office. While Jessica Chastain had early momentum, I think what lowered her chances was not just the controversy over her film, but she was also busy with a Broadway play, which made her less visible than Lawrence was.  

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    Gone_Guy
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    #193556

    Thanks for the comments, guys! 

    So my question is… When a film – such as “Maps to the Stars” – says, “We don’t have enough money for an awards campaign,” to what are they referring? Because Julianne Moore was already promoting “Still Alice.” Couldn’t she plug both? Or is that a campaign no-no? Because I know Jessica Chastain was told she couldn’t campaign for any film except “Interstellar,” and many feel this is what cost her a so-close-yet-barely-missed nom for “A Most Violent Year.”

    This year, Jennifer Lawrence will have “Joy” come out on Christmas, but we all know “THG: Mockingjay II” will have just spent about a month dominating the box office. 

    Another question I have about “campaigns” is, how does one campaign if the film is already out on DVD? For example, “Erin Brockovich and “Crash.” Last year, it would have been “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Are early theatrical releases what make people say, “This will be forgotten by the time Oscar season comes around”?  

    Fascinating info about awards season politics.

    I’m pretty sure the first thing being said in Cate Blanchett’s awards season team is, “Ok, this is what we have to combat, ‘She just won a second. She can’t win a third so soon. Look how long it took Meryl.”  

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    Mladen Vukcevic
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    #193557

    I’m pretty sure the first thing being said in Cate Blanchett’s awards season team is, “Ok, this is what we have to combat, ‘She just won a second. She can’t win a third so soon. Look how long it took Meryl.”  

    I have been wondering about the strategy. This most certainly is not something that is easily solved for all of them. I imagine they will try to sell this like a brilliant opposite to Jasmine. Carol is supposed to be quiet, nuanced, layered role, something so different to Jasmine. Perhaps that will be the selling point: “Look, she can be brilliant in so many ways.” One thing that can also work is selling Blanchett/Rooney as a package like it has been done with McConaughey/Leto in 2014.

    But, I believe, narratives can be against Blanchett this year. She was just cast for another Oscar catnip, not mentioning she will be starring in several other projects that might result with the Oscar nom or win, so Academy voters might think it would be better to wait more. If “Suffragette” starts rolling and Oscarless Mulligan gives a decent performance, than she can be a frontrunner. Then, we have Lawrence, who will probably be the same as in other O’Russell’s flicks like SLP/AH and we know voters loved those. And at the end, perhaps the dark horse in this race is Maggie Smith. If they start campaigning for her, with the end of “Downton Abbey” and no projects currently attached to her name, with the role that has Blanchett’s narrative from 2014 (from theater to movie screen), Academy voters might feel that it would be appropriate ending of such rich career. 

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    RobertPius
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    #193558

    Campaiging is really getting more obvious. I think it used to be confined to the ads in the trades and mailers. Nowadays it is everywhere. I live in an LA suburb and there are posters on the street, billboards, and even signs in the local mall. 

    (all For Your Consideration type stuff. There is a huge billboard in kind of an obscure part of the city advertising Kevin Spacey and Michael Kelly. I guess a lot of Academy members must live atound there.)  

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    RobertPius
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    #193559

    – Melissa Leo. “Consider.” In Fur. We know what I’m talking about. (Look it up, newbies.) She’s more famous for her cringeworthy Oscar speech and moment (taking off with Kirk Douglas’s cane) than her actual performance. If it had been put in the paper by the studio, and not her, would it had been less bad? 

    That was an odd situation. She was the hands down front runner and didn’t really need to advertise. If anything the ad almost hurt her chances. The thing that confused people was that Leo seemed to be complaining not so much about the awards but that she wasn’t getting magazine covers and talk show invitations. She seemed to be crying ageism but people felt she seemed delusional. She was getting a career resurgence, incredible praise and an Oscar but she seemed to be more interested in appearing on the cover of Glamour.  

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