Following a meeting with its board of governors on Tuesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said today that it won’t revoke British actress Andrea Riseborough’s surprise Oscar nomination as Best Actress for her low-budget indie feature “To Leslie” in the wake of concerns that her grassroots Academy Awards campaign may have violated academy rules. But in upholding the nom, it noted in a statement sent to media today by film academy CEO Bill Kramer that the review discovered “social media and outreach campaigning tactics that caused concern” and that “these tactics are being addressed with the responsible parties directly.”
The backlash to Riseborough’s nomination largely surrounded the unorthodox fashion in which a group of Hollywood A-list performers enthusiastically stumped on social media and at unofficial gatherings for the actress’s candidacy of their own accord. They included Gwynyth Paltrow, Amy Adams, Judd Apatow, Ellen Barkin, Jane Fonda, 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. 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.”
There was also grumbling that Riseborough’s Oscar ascension came at the expense of several other worthy performances that have otherwise been celebrated throughout awards season, chiefly those of Danielle Deadwyler in “Till” and Viola Davis in “The Woman King.”
But over the past few days, a backlash to the backlash took root, with comedian Marc Maron taking to his popular “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast on Monday to defend Riseborough and smack down the academy for conducting its review at all. Maron, who has a substantial supporting role opposite Riseborough in “To Leslie,” said in part, “Apparently, the Academy of Motion Picture Science or whatever the fuck it is has decided to investigate Andrea Riseborough’s grassroots campaign to get her the Oscar nomination, because I guess it so threatens their system to where they’re completely bought out by corporate interests in the form of studios.”
“To Leslie” barely registered on anyone’s radar prior to the current furor, taking in a scant $27,000 in box office during its limited run. It also had no campaign budget to speak of. The film’s director Michael Morris and his actress wife Mary McCormack took it upon themselves to reach out to friends in the business and the momentum built, leading to Riseborough’s implausible (but well-deserved) nomination.
Without mentioning Riseborough by name, the academy had announced its “review of the campaign procedures around this year’s nominees” last Friday and met to hash it out today. It questioned “whether changes to the guidelines may be needed in a new era of social media and digital communication.” The conclusion it reached today seemed to confirm the view that greater scrutiny will be necessary in the future but that it wouldn’t be fair or prudent to enforce it retroactively.
Here is CEO Kramer’s statement in full:
“Based on concerns that surfaced last week around the ‘To Leslie’ awards campaign, the Academy began a review into the film’s campaigning tactics. The Academy has determined the activity in question does not rise to the level that the film’s nomination should be rescinded. However, we did discover social media and outreach campaigning tactics that caused concern. These tactics are being addressed with the responsible parties directly.
“The purpose of the Academy’s campaign regulations is to ensure a fair and ethical awards process – these are core values of the Academy. Given this review, it is apparent that components of the regulations must be clarified to help create a better framework for respectful, inclusive and unbiased campaigning. These changes will be made after this awards cycle and will be shared with our membership. The Academy strives to create an environment where votes are based solely on the artistic and technical merits of the eligible films and achievements.”
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