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The controversy surrounding Andrea Riseborough's Oscar nomination


When Cate Blanchett won a best actress honor at this year's Critics Choice Awards, she mentioned other actresses she felt should have been recognized.


CATE BLANCHETT: Best actress - I mean, it is extremely arbitrary considering how many extraordinary performances there have been - Andrea Riseborough and Tang Wei.

SUMMERS: Turns out Blanchett was one of several movie stars who praised Andrea Riseborough, a well-regarded British actress who surprised Oscar watchers by landing her first nomination this year for best actress. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reviewed her grassroots publicity campaign. And in a statement, Academy CEO Bill Kramer said today it would not rescind her nomination, but, quote, "we did discover social media and outreach campaigning tactics that caused concern. These tactics are being addressed with the responsible parties directly." NPR TV critic Eric Deggans is here to explain. Hey, Eric.


SUMMERS: So, Eric, first of all, why was this an issue? Why did the Oscar Academy review this campaign?

DEGGANS: Well, I guess we should understand that Hollywood studios and industry people spend lots of money and effort creating these massive public campaigns to convince the voting members of the Academy that their films and their stars deserve an Oscar nomination. Now, instead of that kind of conventional campaign, Riseborough's performance in a small film called "To Leslie" was supported by famous actors who are her friends, like Gwyneth Paltrow, Edward Norton, Amy Adams, many others. Some held screenings of the film.

The Academy has rules about how potential nominees can campaign. So apparently, they'd look to make sure that none of those rules were violated this year. But the Academy's new statement doesn't say exactly what campaign tactics they saw that concerned them or what they said to the parties who were involved. Now, what's interesting is that some supporters of Riseborough saw this effort by well-known actors as a grassroots way to get around those expensive Oscar campaigns that smaller films just can't afford. Now, here is Marc Maron, the comic and podcaster who co-stars with Riseborough in "To Leslie" talking about this on his "WTF" podcast.


MARC MARON: It so threatens their system to where they're completely kind of bought out by corporate interests in the form of studios and millions of dollars put into months and months of advertising campaigns, publicity, you know, screenings.

SUMMERS: So, Eric, is this just a case of big Hollywood studios who are trying to maintain control of a process that they dominate?

DEGGANS: Well, there's a few ways of looking at this. I mean, when the Oscar nominations were announced, several Black women who were expected to be strong contenders were left out, including Danielle Deadwyler, who played Emmett Till's mother in the movie "Till," and Viola Davis, who was the lead in the film "The Woman King." And after Riseborough's nomination emerged, there was some concern that Academy voters maybe responded to Riseborough's A-list supporters but ignored Black women in movies with bigger audiences. And what's interesting to me is that some of Riseborough's supporters seem to have a tough time recognizing that a group of famous, wealthy actors championing one of their friends is its own kind of privilege. I mean, they certainly have a point about how smaller films are overlooked by the current system. But the question is, what's the best way to solve that?

SUMMERS: And so where do you think this all goes from here given that we now know that Riseborough's nomination is not going to be rescinded?

DEGGANS: Well, in a statement, Academy CEO Bill Kramer also says, quote, "it's apparent the components of the regulations must be clarified to help create a better framework for respectful, inclusive and unbiased campaigning," end quote. I hope the A-list actors inspired by Riseborough's nomination think twice because people who are disadvantaged in one way in show business can still be advantaged in another way.

SUMMERS: That was NPR TV critic Eric Deggans.


Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.

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