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banner Friday, 15 March, 2002, 12:53 GMT
Oscars campaign gets tough
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By the BBC's Peter Bowes
line

In recent years the Oscar campaign has become more like a battle for political office.

The major studios pour millions of dollars into marketing their films. Celebrities campaign relentlessly in the hope of attracting the attention of the 5,600 Oscar voters.

The prize is a gold-plated Oscar statuette but the long-term goal of the studios is to cash in at the box office.

"It's a business," said former Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr in an interview for Radio Five Live.

Oscar nominee Russell Crowe
Russell Crowe spoke out against promotional campaigns
Gooding co-starred with Tom Cruise in the 1996 film, Jerry Maguire, in which the catchphrase was: "Show me the money."

He says the slogan could easily be applied to Hollywood's ultimate prize. "It's a corporate commodity to a lot of people," he adds.

Disquiet

There is a widespread acknowledgement in Hollywood that awards, especially Oscars, serve the film industry well, by raising the profile of movies.

A higher profile translates into more ticket sales and fatter profits for the media giants, like AOL Time Warner and Disney, which own the studios.

But there is also a growing disquiet about the ferocious campaigns. Best actor hopeful Russell Crowe spoke out at the Oscar nominees' luncheon earlier this week.

Cuba Gooding Jr with Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire
Gooding (right) starred with Cruise in a film about the power of marketing

"We have to examine the amount of money we're spending on these campaigns," he said.

The star of A Beautiful Mind, which has been promoted heavily in the US during the run up to the Oscars, suggested the true meaning of the Academy Awards was being lost.

"As soon as it costs that much money that takes people to a different place," he said.

"This is supposed to be about the joy of film-making - it's supposed to be about celebration."

Many Hollywood insiders agree with Crowe.

"It's all about who is putting together the best strategy and may the best person win," says celebrity publicist Stacey Kumagai.

Cynicism about what is at the heart of the Oscar campaign is also reflected by Mike Lancaster who runs the internet-based, Stinkers bad movie awards.

"It has nothing to do with who has the best picture - it is who has the best marketing - how can you trick an academy member to vote for your product," he says.

"Jealous"

The Miramax studio, phenomenally successful in recent years in producing Oscar-winning movies, is often hailed in Hollywood as the most ruthless campaigner.

The studio, like others, is frequently accused of using underhand tactics to undermine films produced by rival studios.

Jennifer Connelly
Jennifer Connelly's movie A Beautiful Mind was said to have been a victim of negative tactics

During this year's Oscars race, reports circulated that Miramax was allegedly encouraging negative reviews of Universal's A Beautiful Mind.

One of Miramax's publicists, Jerry Pam, dismisses the studio's critics.

"The point is that they're very jealous because Miramax know how to read scripts and have made better pictures" says Mr Pam.

However, he acknowledges that the studio uses "novel and unique" methods to attract the attention of the Oscar voters.

Campaigning for the Oscars takes many forms. "It can get pretty vicious - especially when you start on the gossip end, says publicist Stacey Kumagai. "Some publicists will purposely work with others just to create the mysterious stir."

Disapproval

The Academy frowns on any attempt to manipulate the outcome of its coveted awards.

"We disapprove of it thoroughly," says executive director Bruce Davis.

But he adds: "Almost everybody within the academy agrees that it has virtually no effect."

Most nominated stars are happy to go with the flow. They know their movie will benefit at the box office.

Oscar nominee Jon Voight
Jon Voight: Remains optimistic

And they are living the dream that their name will be ripped from the golden envelope.

"I think the best man has a good chance of winning here," says best supporting actor nominee Jon Voight.

"I don't think it's so easy to sway the voters with all this attention in the press and stuff like that."

The Oscars ceremony will be broadcast live on BBC Two on Monday 25 March from 0045-0500 GMT and reported live on BBC News Online.

Links to more Oscars 2002 stories are at the foot of the page.


Links to more Oscars 2002 stories