Aren’t you shocked, shocked, that there’s badmouthing during awards season? And don’t you love how some media are pretending this is the end of Hollywood as we know it? Today, Summit Entertainment issued the following statement: “An enthusiastic and naive young producer made a mistake. When we found out, we asked him to stop immediately and let the Academy know and he is making amends.” I hear Summit’s Rob Friedman is pissed this is now a cause celebre. (I bet he now wishes financier Nicolas Chartier had been shut out of a producing credit altogether. See ‘Hurt Locker’ Oscar Credits Controversy.) Already today rumors are flying that the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is holding an “emergency meeting” about how to discipline the pic’s filmmakers. Boo-hoo: all AMPAS ever does anyway is take away some Oscar tickets.
So what if on Feb 19th Chartier sent out that e-mail message asking for Hurt Locker votes and not that “$500M film”. When it appeared in my email, I laughed. Not only because the Voltage Pictures partner didn’t have the guts to even mention Avatar by name. But for months now I have been sent so many emails from so many studios and filmmakers and flacks and insiders badmouthing every rival nominee this Oscar season and talking up their own. How the hell am I to tell them apart? Or tattle on them all? This is the down and dirty system which AMPAS hath wrought and doth condone. And no one is surprised by it, least of all the Academy. In fact, this morning AMPAS’ Ryan Dekorte, the executive offices awards assistant, forwarded today’s New York Times‘ “Carpetbagger” blog account of the Chartier email to every Hollywood flack and Oscar campaigner. So now the Academy was badmouthing The Hurt Locker for badmouthing Avatar! A minute later, Dekorte sent out this apology, “Sorry y’all…hit the wrong button. Feel free to toss.” But, as those prosecutors on Law & Order always tell the judge, “You can’t unring the bell.”
Of course Chartier apologized for breaking the rules of Oscar campaigning which he claims he didn’t know. “My naivete, ignorance of the rules and plain stupidity as a first time nominee is not an excuse for this behavior and I strongly regret it,” according to the email I received. But I don’t see anybody else in this hotly contested Oscar race apologizing for all the trashtalk they’ve been sending out. Remember that Chartier has been odd man out from the start. Even though he put up the financing for the film, and even leveraged his house, the scuttlebutt was that relations between him and the other Hurt Locker producers grew frosty after Chartier tried to fire screenwriter Mark Boal. So Nicolas was banned from coming to the set in Jordan. Because it likes to keep the number of producers to just 3, AMPAS almost yanked Charter’s producing credit. But Greg Shapiro, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal each sent letters to both BAFTA and the Producers Guild to endorse the idea there were 4 legitimate contributing producers on the film. No good deed goes unpunished.
Tonight Friday, I’ll show how this is but the tip of the iceberg. I have a complete wrap-up on why this was the worst Oscar campaign season for media manipulation I can remember. And I’ll be naming names.