One of the most controversial Oscars wins ever

The next year, DreamWorks went full throttle with their campaign for American Beauty and pulled off the win. They did it again in 2001 with Gladiator. Remnants of Weinstein’s methods could be seen everywhere. Negative stories about films would appear during awards sessions – often with suspicions that they were planted. In 2002, various accusations, including ones of antisemitism were levelled at John Nash – the mathematician whose story was brought to the screen in Best Picture nominee A Beautiful Mind – in the run-up to the awards. Nevertheless, the film still took home the big prize.

Other campaigning methods continued to prove controversial. When Gangs of New York was nominated for best picture, an opinion piece appeared in the press endorsing the film, apparently written by Robert Wise, the director of The Sound of Music and a former Academy president. Except, it turned out it had actually been ghostwritten by someone in the publicity department at Miramax. As a result, the Academy banned “any advertising that includes quotes or comments by academy members“.

Last year, there was controversy when Andrea Riseborough landed a surprise Oscar nomination for her role in To Leslie, which some attributed to a last-minute flurry of public endorsements and gushing social media posts about her performance from fellow actors, including Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet. Michelle Yeoh also raised eyebrows when she shared a screenshot of a Vogue story suggesting she was a more worthy winner than Cate Blanchett — violating rules that forbid references to competitors. Once again, the Academy tightened up its regulations.

But how much sway can a campaign really have? The Academy is made up of industry professionals who you would hope care enough about films not to be swayed by a few extra adverts or a handshake from an A-list actor. Was Saving Private Ryan really “robbed”? Or were more voters just charmed by a romantic comedy than a war epic that year? “A campaign cannot win an Oscar for a movie that nobody likes,” says Schulman. Where it is important is making sure your movie is in the conversation — and stays there. This is especially vital at the nominations stage, where voters are choosing from potentially hundreds of movies and performances. “You have to fight for this oxygen and campaign smartly,” Schulman adds.

Carefully timed press can remind voters of a film or performance’s merits. For instance, though Barbie was released last summer, America Ferrera popped up for another round of press at the start of this year — a week before the nomination voting period began — much of it focusing on her famous monologue in the film. When the nominations were announced later in January, she had a best supporting actress nod.

Sometimes, the methods for getting a film attention are a little more unorthodox — such as Anatomy of a Fall flying its breakout canine star Messi around the world for appearances at events (another move out of the Weinstein playbook — Uggie the dog was a vital part of the awards campaign for Miramax’s best picture winner The Artist in 2012).

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