A storm, a strong one, is knocking over the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts, and Sciences, one of the most (if not the most) relevant cinematic organizations on the planet.
As with any storm, the consequences it brings when it ends are much more dangerous that the storm itself. And the Academy is learning this the hard way.
But what has happened? Let’s go with the order.
Last week, on January 24, the Academy, the organization that assigns the Oscars, presented the 2023 nominations. However, among the many highly anticipated names and titles that got a little bit closer to the prestigious golden statue, there was a name that shocked the audience as no other.
In an unexpected plot twist, British actress Andrea Riseborough got a nomination for Best Leading Actress, thanks to her performance in To Leslie. The news came out of the blue, surprising both members of the industry and the public.
However, the general shock was not related to Riseborough’s performance itself, which was astonishing, but to the total lack of previous nominations or awards for that same role.
As cinema lovers now, being nominated for or winning an Academy Award is not usually a surprise. Normally, Oscar winners can be predicted by looking at previous award ceremonies, like BAFTA, SAG Awards, and Golden Globes. By doing this, you will notice that those candidates who bring home trophies are always the same, independently from the award.
As for To Leslie, the lack of previous nominations and victories did not surprise. After all, this is an indie movie and these type of independent productions are much less known compared to those films produced by studios like Universal, Netflix, or Warner Bros., for instance.
In fact, To Leslie only made $27,000 (£21,800) at the box office, but with this Oscar nomination it found itself competing against some of the most popular films of 2022, like Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water. Obviously, in this context, Riseborough’s unusual nomination raised doubts and questions about how she achieved it and campaigned for it.
The Academy is a powerful institution that also has stringent rules, especially when it comes to campaigning for nominations.
Generally, potential Oscar nominees have expensive campaigns behind them, usually funded by their film studio. However, this does not seem to be the case with To Leslie and its budget.
On the other hand, Riseborough’s performance has been noticeably supported by highly influential personalities, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Edward Norton, and Courteney Cox.
Currently, what is worrying the Academy is an Instagram post that the British actress shared on her profile, quoting critic Richard Roeper: "As much as I admired Blanchett's work in Tár, my favorite performance by a woman this year was delivered by the chameleonlike Andrea Riseborough”.
Obviously, even if successively deleted, the post did not go unnoticed by the Academy, which strongly condemns any attempt of a nominee to put a negative light on another competing film or artist. Additionally, the fact that Riseborough stated the name of a competitor (Cate Blanchett) in her post has worsened the situation even more.
After being reached by several emails and calls in connection with the actress’s nomination, The Academy Board of Governors has announced that a formal internal investigation will take place to ensure the fairness of the nomination process. Hopefully, the study's outcome will reveal if the rules had been broken on purpose or by mistake.
Even if previous nominees had been disqualified before for similar reasons, they were all nominated in far less essential categories compared to Riseborough, who is running for Best Actress. Therefore, many believe that She is unlikely to be disqualified, independently from the investigation result.
As always, only time will tell, but this week the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts, and Sciences should announce the verdict. Once again, this phenomenon negatively put the Academy under the spotlight, damaging its image and popularity even more.
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