In a forcefully written, well-researched piece about “How Two Oscar Op-Eds Rocked the Academy Years Ago and Still Impact Campaigning Today,” Hollywood Reporter Oscar columnist Scott Feinberg argues that negative campaigning (whispered or otherwise) has no place, but personal endorsement campaigning is way too common to put a lid on.
“Why shouldn’t an Academy member be able to publicly express his or her affection for a film or performance like anyone else can?,” Feinberg asks. “And why shouldn’t a studio be permitted to quote them if they wish to?
“While endorsements might sometimes be used to call attention to big movies that already have a large following, they might also be used to call attention to little movies that do not, like Biutiful, a low-budget Spanish movie for which Javier Bardem wound up scoring a Best Actor Oscar nomination, in no small part because Julia Roberts promoted it to her friends.
“Does the Academy take issue with the behavior of members such as writer/director Paul Mazursky, a five-time Oscar nominee and member of their Board of Governors since 2006, who has been sharing his opinions about films and filmmakers as a film critic for Vanity Fair since November?
“Or Oscar-winning director James Cameron, the master of the 3D format, who recorded a video with Hugo director Martin Scorsese, apparently with the sole goal of publicly championing Scorsese’s entr√©e into the medium (;It was absolutely the best 3D photography that I’ve seen’)?
“Or Oscar-nominted actress Oprah Winfrey, who offered a big shout-out to The Help as she accepted the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in front of all of the Academy brass at November’s Academy Governors Awards?
“Or the many who tweet their reactions to movies? Or the actors who participate in the annual ‘Actors on Actors’ feature that appears in Variety‘s SAG preview edition, for which the trade paper ‘invites thesps to applaud their colleagues’?”
One minor complaint: One of Feinberg’s “two oscar Op-Eds that rocked the Academy” is the infamous 2003 Robert Wise letter that praised Gangs of New York. It was written in part to refute the other legendary Op-Ed piece, an anti-Gangs, anti-Scorsese editorial written by screenwriter William Goldman. Feinberg reports that it was actually a “publicist” who wrote the letter for Wise. Feinberg chose not to name the author, but everyone knows it was Murray Weissman. I don’t want to pick at any scabs, but if you’re going to re-review the situation behind Wise’s Gangs letter you might as well state the facts.
Sidenote: Here’s a piece I did in late ’02 that compared the the infal theatrical release version of Gangs of New York with a 20-minute-longer version that came off Marty and Thelma Schoonmaker‘s Avid that dated back to October ’01 or thereabouts.