2ND UPDATE: I love awards season because my email and voicemail get filled with negative campaigning about all the Academy Awards hopefuls. (Such holiday cheer is out here!) Over the years, I’ve reported on the studio badmouthing of heavyweight Saving Private Ryan to better the Oscar chances of lightweight Shakespeare In Love. And the planting of “He’s an anti-Semite and adulterer” allegations against the schizophrenic Princeton professor who was the sympathetic subject of biopic A Beautiful Mind. And more recently, the efforts to scuttle Blood Diamond and Slumdog Millionaire‘s chances because of unfounded charges the filmmakers callously exploited locals.
So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this race is already turning nasty, nasty, nasty…
First, there’s some truth and some not in the Hollywood buzz that was emailed to me within minutes of today’s Golden Globes nominations by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Here’s one message I received from a rival campaigner: “Leo threw his good pal Tobey a party last week to which 40 HFPA went. They among others received some sort of fab parting gift, like a Blu-ray player. Thus the Tobey nom for a movie otherwise ignored.”
Yes, it’s true that Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire have known each other since they were 10 years old. Yes, they’re good pals even still. So Leo came back into town last week and told the Brothers fimmakers he was blown away by Maguire’s performance and wanted to throw an awards party for him. Yes, HFPA members were invited (but 15, not 40) along with a slew of Academy members like Sean Penn, Robert DeNiro, Gary Ross, Paul Rudd, Jon Favreau, and Shirley MacLaine. According to an attendee, “The most scandalous thing to happen at the party involving the HFPA was one of the more ancient members asking Shirley MacLaine if her legs were still in good shape — and Shirley taking her pants down to show the woman for herself. Revealing underpants in blue velvet/velour. No shit.” Relativity’s Ryan Kavanaugh, who underwrote the film, also paid for the party and the truffle bar and the gift bags which just happened to contain a Samsung BD-P1600 Blu-ray player.
Now, Hollywood knows well that HFPA has a long tradition of voting for whomever gives them the best swag. But that supposedly ended after the uproar when Sharon Stone gifted members with expensive Coach watches before she picked up a nomination for the little seen The Muse. I’m told that, the morning after Leo’s party for Tobey, the HFPA phoned Kavanaugh and said the Blu-ray goodie violated the group’s rules. So all 15 HFPA had to give back the DVD player.
Yes, it’s true that Tobey did indeed receive a nomination afterwards. But that was probably more because his acting was on point and because his publicist Kelly Bush lobbied relentlessly and would have gifted her kidneys to the HFPA to get it for him.
Then I keep hearing from studio execs what little money Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker and Clint Eastwood’s Invictus have made, and how that should prevent both films from winning Best Picture. This falls under the badmouthing category known as “Oscar voters don’t want to look out of touch with moviegoers”. Size does matter when it comes to box office, but that’s something Academy Motion Picture Arts & Sciences members ignore with ridiculous regularity. Sometimes it seems they purposely vote for the little known pics just to fuck with Hollywood’s head. For the record, Summit Entertainment’s drama hasn’t made much money since its release June 26th: domestic $12,671,105, foreign $3,436,487, worldwide $16,107,592. But it’s still very much an Oscar-worthy film. As is Invictus which opened soft last weekend with only $9M.
But then there’s Avatar, which is under attack from rivals for supposedly being the most expensive film in history and won’t ever make its money back. And who in Hollywood isn’t jealous of Jim Cameron and his seemingly unlimited resources and time to make that film his way. Then there’s the negative campaigning depicting Cameron as an asshole who needs to be taken down a few pegs. Same with Fox because of its arrogance. At least those are debatable gripes. Because the British press was leaked some nonsense that Avatar‘s 3-D makes moviegoers nauseated when the studio says it hasn’t heard one complaint. Yet it was a big Internet story over the weekend.
Then there’s Up In The Air and the criticism of Paramount for trying to “buy” Oscars for the film. That’s because of residual negativism from last year’s overspending on Benjamin Button.
There’s badmouthing of Precious director Lee Daniel for “shooting his mouth off” and “crazy talk” about racism during interviews. There’s also resentment over Tyler Perry associating himself with the movie because he fired writers and fought with the WGA. I’ve even heard that Lionsgate is concerned enough about the latter that they’ve asked him to keep a low-profile during awards season.
This year, the always delicate Jewish issue in Hollywood has taken a new and unexpected turn. Producers, agents, executives, and other major players will complain (privately, of course) that the movies An Education and A Serious Man depict Jews in a contemptible way. A recent article in The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles lashed into An Education saying the film’s depiction of its Jewish character is reminiscent of the parasitical Jew in the infamous Nazi anti-semitic propaganda film of the 1930’s, Der Ewige Juden (The Eternal Jew). Similarly, Hollywood is incensed privately by the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man and its Jewish stereotypes. Trust me, this will bubble up to the surface before too long if either film looks to be in serious contention for Best Picture.
Which brings me to Harvey Weinstein. Funny, in the good old days when he ran Miramax and ruled at Oscar time, he was perhaps the most adept Academy Awards badmouther around. But now that his financially embattled indieprod The Weinstein Co took home the most Golden Globe nominations of anyone, the worm has turned. Now Hollywood has started negative campaigning against him. Because there are a lot of pissed off co-producers who this morning didn’t see their names among the official HFPA list of nominees for Weinstein Co films. Omitted were Universal for Inglorious Basterds, and Relativity Media, Marc Platt Productions, and Lucamar Productions for Nine.
Immediately, my phone began ringing with studio publicists pointing an accusatory finger at Harvey for the strange oversight “because he wanted to hog all the credit for himself”. *UPDATE: I just received a call from Weinstein Co bigwigs acknowledging that the credit omittances on both films was their fault> They said they failed to scrutinize the forms filled out by a consultant. “It was an honest error. It was not Harvey trying to take the credit.”*
So the Oscar badmouthing has begun!