Film Academy to examine campaign procedures in wake of Andrea Riseborough’s surprise Oscar nomination

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed Friday that it is in the process of “conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year’s nominees” in the wake of Andrea Riseborough’s surprise (some might say shocking) Oscar nomination for Best Actress for the microbudget feature “To Leslie” that was announced on Tuesday, achieved through a seemingly grassroots, self-funded social media campaign engineered by the fervent support of a group of prominent big-name actors and actresses.

Without directly naming Riseborough, a statement from the academy released on Friday noted, “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. 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. We have confidence in the integrity of our nomination and voting procedures, and support genuine grassroots campaigns for outstanding performances.”

Since Tuesday’s nominations announcement, there has been grumbling from rival Oscar campaigns that lobbying rules were violated in the drive to land Riseborough a nom for a film that grossed just $27,000 at the box office. Members of the Hollywood A-list turned out all over social media to sing the praises of the actress’s searing performance as an alcoholic who ultimately finds redemption.

No less than Gwynyth PaltrowAmy Adams, Judd Apatow, Ellen Barkin, Edward Norton, Jennifer Aniston, Charlize Theron, Sarah Paulson, Alan Cumming, Helen Hunt, Minnie Driver, Debra Winger, Patricia Clarkson, Mira Sorvino, Rosie O’Donnell, Joe Mantegna and Kate Winslet stumped for Roseborough’s Oscar candidacy, seemingly unprompted. Winslet said of her work in “To Leslie,” “I think this is the greatest female performance on-screen I have ever seen in my life” Some dismissed it as mere hyperbole. But it worked.

The question is whether the campaigning crossed any lines or broke any academy Oscar guidelines. One Instagram post by actress Frances Fisher dated January 14 mentioned Viola Davis, Michelle Yeoh, Danielle Deadwyler and Cate Blanchett as being “a lock” for nomination. It’s the reference to fellow potential nominees that could have violated academy rules, though any breach remains murky given that it didn’t come directly from Riseborough but from someone acting purportedly on her own with no direct tie to the actress or her movie. It also turned out that the Instagram post was incorrect, as Davis and Deadwyler failed to land nominations.

At the same time, no matter what is discovered in the academy review, few believe that Riseborough’s nomination will be deep-sixed, as that would open a whole other can of worms and likely result in her lead actress category having to go with just four nominees instead of five.

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