The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is busy enlisting past Oscar winners to get out the vote. Halle Berry, a 2001 Best Actress winner for Monster’s Ball, and Anna Paquin, the 1993 Best Supporting Actress winner for The Piano, are among those being used in emails sent by the Academy to boost turnout. Saturday they added an email from two time music winner for Mary Poppins, Richard M. Sherman.
And speaking of emails, members have also been bombarded with voting reminders from President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and CEO Dawn Hudson. Boone Issacs isn’t leaving it at that. Voters are also getting robocalls from the Academy president urging them to cast their ballot and warning that because Monday is a holiday, those who chose paper ballots should have mailed them by Friday. Actually, today is fine too since the post office should be able to get those ballots to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Academy accounting firm, by 5 PM PT Tuesday. You can also walk in your paper ballot to their downtown LA offices before the deadline, but what a hassle.
This intense get-out-the-vote effort is reminiscent of political campaigns, something the Oscar race is resembling more often now. My guess is, it has been intensified because Academy officials are noticing, like I have, that a significant number had not yet voted before the end of the week.
Likely, that’s because there are so many films to get through for the diligent voter including all the shorts, documentary features and foreign films that are part of the nicely produced DVD box set the Academy sent to members a couple of weeks ago. In fact, I have yet to talk to one voter who actually turned in their ballot by Friday, although I know there are plenty who vote right away. One member told me last night he planned to do it later that night, right after the show we were seeing.
The successful transition to online voting has eased the urgency of getting a ballot in right away. Voters know they can wait comfortably until Tuesday if they chose the online option. Surprisingly, I know a few awards consultants who make a living running these races who are still voting via paper ballot. There is no question the studios and distributors are sensing there are still a lot of votes to be had. And three days is an eternity in a campaign. Just peruse all the advertising out there. The LA Times’ Calendar section today, usually rather barren on Saturday, had major full-page color ads (down from double-truck ads yesterday) for three films many think have the best shot for Best Picture: Birdman, Boyhood and American Sniper. Only the latter continues to do the kind of business that might warrant that kind of ad at this point in its run. Boyhood has been out since July and is on DVD, but is spending like it opened Friday. Actually the two big films that did open this weekend to big numbers, Fifty Shades Of Grey and Kingsman: The Secret Service, were AWOL in that Calendar section (though Grey had a wraparound in the first section).
Netflix, trying to steal the documentary Oscar from rival Citizenfour, had a huge Saturday double-truck ad for Virunga, rather desperately quoting a pundit’s prediction that it “could surprise.” Not to be outdone, HBO has a full page touting Citizenfour’s TV debut on February 23, the day after the Oscars. It certainly helps to run that now when so many votes are still out. Poor Last Days In Vietnam, the Rory Kennedy-directed docu from PBS’ American Experience hardly has any money to spend to be competitive. And between Netflix, HBO and PBS, isn’t this docu category starting to look like an Emmy campaign?
At any rate, the urgency to vote is everywhere. One member phoned me excitedly to tell me about that Berry email. “I got very excited because there was an email that came in from Halle Berry. I immediately opened it!” he said. Of course if you look closely the return email is firstname.lastname@example.org. But you can dream especially when she is telling you “Take a deep breath. And vote” (a reference to her Oscar acceptance speech). See those Berry and Paquin emails below. And vote. And don’t forget to “breathe.” Just a week to go.