America is currently enmeshed in two campaigns: one for the presidential election and the other for the winners of the 2012 Oscars. And with every campaign comes controversy.With actors releasing desperate, and often inappropriate, self-promotional ads (like Melissa Leo, pictured) and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences enforcing intricate commercial rules, much of the Oscar drama has nothing to do with presenter flops and acceptance-speech F-bombs.
The Oscars show only contains 30 minutes of ads, with each half-minute spot going for $1.7 million, and so the academy has a very strict set of rules for advertisers. For example, actors who are nominated for awards can’t appear in certain commercial breaks for fear of creating the appearance of impartiality (even though the academy has voted for the winners long before the broadcast).
This slideshow looks at the Academy Awards’ ridiculous history of controversial ads.
In 1961, actor Chill Wills was up for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Alamo. Chills' publicist Bow-Wow (yes, actually called Bow-Wow) took out an extreme Oscars ad blitz for his client like Hollywood had never seen.
One of his ads listed every member of the academy in alphabetical order, reading: 'Win, lose or draw, you're all my cousins and I love you all.'
Groucho Marx responded with another ad: 'Dear Mr. Chill Wills: I am delighted to be your cousin but I voted for Sal Mineo.' (Mineo had starred in Exodus).
Unable to take a hint, Bow-Wow put out another ad featuring the entire Alamo cast that read, 'We of the 'Alamo' cast are praying harder -- than the real Texans prayed for their lives in the Alamo -- for Chill Wills to win the Oscar as best supporting actor. Cousin Chill's acting was great. Your Alamo cousins.'
While Variety didn't' run that ad, they did run a response from director John Wayne saying that the cast and crew had absolutely no knowledge that the ad had been created, but that he was sure that Wills' 'intentions are not as bad as his taste.'
In 1985,The colour Purple best supporting actress nominee took out an ad that read:
Dear God, My name is Margaret Avery. I knows dat I been blessed by Alice Walker, Steven Spielberg, and Quincy Jones, who gave me the part of 'Shug' Avery in The colour Purple. Now I is up for one of the nominations fo' Best Supporting Actress alongst with some fine, talented ladies that I is proud to be in the company of. Well, God, I guess the time has come fo' the Academy's voters to decide whether I is one of the Best Supporting Actresses this year or not! Either way, thank you, LORD, for the opportunity. Your little daughter, Margaret Avery
She told People Magazine that the ad cost her 'a kitchen stove,' $1,160.
Avery lost to Anjelica Huston for Prizzi's honour.
In 1986, Coca-Cola planned to run an ad during the Oscars that featured the song 'Ghostbusters,' which had been nominated for Best Original Song that evening.
To keep things fair (even though members of the academy had already submitted their votes), the academy told Coke that it would only be allowed to run the spot if they created four other commercials featuring 'Let's Hear It For The Boy,' I Just Called to Say I Love You,' 'Footloose,' and 'Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)'--the four other nominees.
Considering that director Elia Kazan was complicit in the House Committee on Un-American Activities' campaign to blacklist members of the film industry who had associated with Communists--Kazan named eight colleagues--it's hardly a surprise that not all of Hollywood was excited to see Elia Kazan win the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.
Norma Barzman, a blacklisted writer, raised money for an anti-Kazan ad to run in Daily Variety.
Screenwriter Bernard Gordon, who wrote the original Thin Red Line, also printed ads with the slogan, 'Don't whitewash the blacklist.'
On the night, about half the audience declined to stand during his ovation.
In 2003, a for-your-consideration fiasco led to Oscar campaign ad reforms.
Former academy president Robert Wise was credited for penning an op-ed in the Los Angeles Daily News and the Long Beach Press-Telegram extolling the merits of Martin Scorsese's 'Gangs of New York,' which was up for 10 Oscars. Miramax then ran an ad for the movie with the headline: 'Two time Academy Award winner Robert Wise declares Scorsese deserves the Oscar for Gangs of New York.'
While members of the academy were outraged by vote pandering, the pitchforks really came out when it became known that a Miramax publicist and not Wise actually wrote the op-ed. According to the LA Times, 'an undisclosed number' of academy members asked for their ballots back so that they could alter their votes, presumably to discount Gangs of New York.
This led to Academy President Frank Pierson's ban on ''any form of advertising that includes quotes or comments by Academy members.' The consequences? Any violation 'could result in a film losing its eligibility for Awards consideration,' and the violator could 'be subject to suspension of membership or expulsion from the Academy.'
Hyundai had seven commercials ready to air during the 2010 Oscars when they got word from the academy that they were inappropriate to broadcast.
Had Hyundai adopted the GoDaddy model of advertising? No. It turns out that the seven ads featured voice-overs by Jeff Bridges, who was also nominated for best actor in 'Crazy Heart.' (He won the Oscar).
As the Academy has a crazy rules forbidding actors from appearing in ads shown near their nominations, or when presenting an award, Hyundai had to do a last-minute fix and enlisted seven other actors to narrate the ads.
Deadline Hollywood asserted that actress Melissa Leo went 'rogue' in her self-promotion campaign to nab the 2011 Oscar for best supporting actress for The Fighter. Rather than trust Paramount's marketing department to get the job done, Leo paid for her own glamor shot to fill the pages of Hollywood trade publications.
Leo told Deadline that after being spurned from magazine covers, which featured other, younger female nominees, she decided to shoot the ads to combat Hollywood's ageism. (Speaking of ageism, Leo played Mark Wahlberg's mother in The Fighter even though he is only 11 years her junior).
Critics said that the faux-fur ads would hurt Leo's Oscar chances just as self-promotional ads had for Chill Wills for Alamo and Margaret Avery for The colour Purple. but the vivacious 50-year-old took home the prize.
She also dropped an F-bomb during her acceptance speech.
This year, The Weinstein company sent a for-your-consideration email to Hollywood Reporter subscribers, many of whom belong to the academy. It featured critic Thelma Adam's quote, 'It's been 20-NINE YEARS SINCE MERYL STREEP WON AN OSCAR and she certainly deserves to win for her performance in 'The Iron Lady'!'
Seems pretty benign, right? Well, according to The Wrap, the email 'stirred up anger among Academy members and rival campaigners' since the academy doesn't allow emails that 'extol the merits of a film, an achievement or an individual,' reference past awards, or provide links to other sites.
TWC found a loophole--the email was sent via a third party, Prometheus Global Media (THR's parent company).
TWC COO David Glasser said, 'This is the biggest non-story of the year.'
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