Why Your Favorite Film Didn't Win an Oscar !
Have you ever wondered why this film or that film won an Oscar? Is it because it was the best film in it’s category? Possibly, but it’s all down to the all too human judges of the Academy of Motion Pictures, who have limited time to see movies.
Their jobs are often to make or talk about movies and are thus incapable of seeing every film released in a given year. These judges are also capable of being influenced by hype, politics, public relations (how does this choice make us look, i.e. do we appear to be racist if we only nominate white people), and campaigns orchestrated by film studios in order to curry favor. To give an idea of the expense of these campaigns to typically cost between 3-10 million dollars in 2015.
So what exactly is a studio orchestrated Oscar campaign?
- Timing is important for these campaigns. “Oscar Films” are typically released later in the year, later November, to December in order that the films be fresh in the judges mind when they make their decisions on whom to vote for.
2. Advertising, this is related to actually getting judges to see your film. If someone does not know your film exists they probably will not see it. Additionally, if buzz has not been generated judges may not feel the need to see your film.
3. The perception of your film such as Black Panther being sold as a major advancement in African Americans in the Hollywood film system.
4. Personal campaigns where film studios invite Academy members to see your film in screens designed specifically to get the film see by said judges. These events can include wining and dinning as well as director Q&A’s.
5. Attack campaigning, where one film studio will attack other studios or actors. One example of these is Casey Affleck was looking like a strong candidate for “Manchester by The Sea” but then rumors began to circulate about an accusation of sexual harassment while filming “I’m Still Here.” Note: He has denied the accusations and settled out of court with two women for an undisclosed amount. Affleck did win Best Actor for the role regardless.
Within Hollywood circles the biggest known abuser of the Oscar campaign has been Harvey Weinstein of Miramax. The most well known of this is his campaign for “Shakespeare in Love” to win best picture over “Saving Private Ryan.”
1) Weinstein had donated to the Clinton’s in their political endeavors and as such he got first lady at the time, Hillary Clinton, to host the December 3rd world premiere of the film.
2) His late release of the film coupled with an expensive and near constant expensive blitz of advertisements lead to a greater awareness of the film for Judges and made it fresher in there minds then “Saving Private Ryan” which had come out in the summer.
3) Prior Oscar campaigns had generated much good will for Weinstein and as such he leveraged famous actors he had elevated to do whisper campaigns in promotion of the film.
4) Weinstein held dinners specifically for Oscar judges in a thinly veiled manner. The Academy had recently set up a rule against such behavior but Weinstein would get around this by holding the dinner to honor someone then invite a few non Academy members but mostly invite judges.
5) Weinstein used international connections to promote the film to Oscar judges abroad. He thought internationally while others thought more domestically.
6) Weinstein would not neglect a single judge. He would hold private screenings even for elderly judges that may go forgotten otherwise.
7) Weinstein resorted to saturation even leaving promotional material for “Shakespeare in Love” in Starbucks across the LA area in the hopes that judges would see.
Ultimately “Shakespeare in Love” was nominated for 13 Oscars and won 7 including best picture.
The point of Oscars is essentially to advertise films, raise the prestige of the winning studio, and then only incidentally affirm the film making talent. When rooting on your favorite film remember the Oscars are an advertisement, if you find enjoyment in watching it don’t let that fact blunt your happiness but please watch it as an informed viewer.
Author: Ryan Camarda
CC By licensees:
Oscars picture – By Prayitno, Licensed under CCBY 2.0
Casey Affleck Picture – By Damian Vo, Licensed under CCBY 2.0
Harvey Weinstein picture – By David Shankbone, Licensed under CCBY 3.0