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Oscar Scandal Season Heats Up...A Matter Of Life And Death

March 16th, 2003

Huge campaign ads purchased in newspapers, crafted mailers with catchy candidate pitches, black tie promotional soirées, mud slinging and word of mouth media blitzes enticing every magazine and newspaper hack with an audience to resonate a line for that one particular nominee… no… its isn’t time to for the presidential or congressional races,… it is time for the Oscars. On March 23rd, 2003, actors, actresses, directors, and various other movie craft persons will grace the stage of the Kodak Theater in Hollywood California, collect there gold statuette and ironically announce to the audience and world, that they were just happy to be nominated.

In what should be an evening where awards are bestowed to nominees based on merit and work, the true value of aggressive and costly ad campaigns really comes to light. Sometimes crossing the lines of shameless self-promotion, into outright voter tampering; a yearly issue facing Academy Award Executives that actually has required organizers to appoint persons in charge of monitoring the campaign activities and possible violations of studios.

This season, amid the regular ad campaigns and finger pointing, Ric Robertson, executive administrator of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has become aware of "several disturbing campaign acts," he said. "Among those are the private parties to which members are being invited, in order to press the flesh with various nominees."

"Since many of the members in question don't even know the hosts or anyone connected to these parties, we can only assume that they're being invited solely because of their status as voting members of the Academy. That is a clear violation of our guidelines."

And in continuing with a fast approaching Oscar date, other more certain violations have stirred commotion among Oscar voters, causing Miramax Films to pull its ads featuring an opinion column that called on them to give Martin Scorsese an Academy Award for directing Gangs of New York. A column written by the Oscar-winning director, and former president of the Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Robert Wise had been reprinted in advertisements that appeared in Hollywood trades, the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.

Academy President Frank Pierson: "It's an outright violation of academy rules. It's a corruption of the process."

In the past, the Academy has taken away tickets for violating Academy rules. A punishment considered severe to people in the industry. However, in an extreme case of Academy rule violations, a nominated movie can also be declared ineligible but to date, that has never happened.

As an interesting side bar, one possible reason for such intense nominee campaigning could be linked to a little known 2 year old study conducted by a Dr. Don Redelmeier, deSouza chair in clinical trauma research at U of T and Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Center. In the study he has found that Academy Award winners live almost four years longer than their less recognized peers.

The study, published in an early 2001 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine, examined the life expectancy of nominated and winning performers over the 73-year-history of the Academy Awards. The research was conducted by looking at nominated movies and comparing actors or actresses that had major roles in those same films. A total of 1,649 performers were grouped according to whether they won, were nominated and never won, or were never nominated. The study, which was funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research found that:

"Performers who won Academy Awards had a life span of 79.7 years, compared to 75.8 years for those who did not win. Survival for those who were nominated but did not win was about the same as for those who were never nominated. Actors with many nominations had no advantage over those with single nominations and there was no difference in survival between supporting and leading roles. However, winners had a 22 per cent reduction in mortality for each additional Oscar."

So there we have it folks. Oscar night is more then awards and accolades, more then sequin gowns and tuxedos, more then the red carpet and Joan Rivers… the Oscars are a matter of life… and… death…

George W. Horta III

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Filed under: Gangs of New York