As much as one would like to be a member of the Oscar Academy – think of the hundreds of films that are made available online – the job of setting the rules around the most important award in the film world is becoming a nightmarish one.
How is the following process to be evaluated? Michelle Yeoh, one of the favorites for best female lead, posted nine screenshots of a Vogue article about the race between her and Cate Blanchett on Instagram just before the awards ceremony. The “Vogue” author points out, among other things, that Blanchett has already received two Oscars and does not need another – but Yeoh would be the first winner from Asia. This brought many commentators on the barricades, who emphasized that it is not about origin, but about the acting performance in special films.
There was the ill-fated identity debate again, but the Oscar Academy cared about something else: had Yeoh broken the rule that nominees can’t speak publicly about their competitors? Yeoh quickly deleted her post, but the process was out in the open.
And how should the academy deal with the fact that its members, in addition to Yeoh, Blanchett, Michelle Williams and Ana de Armas, nominated a fifth woman named Andrea Riseborough, whom no one had previously considered? Her film To Leslie is about a single mother who becomes homeless.
“To Leslie” hadn’t figured in the usual Oscars endorsement district – until two weeks before voting closed, celebs began speaking out in favor of Riseborough: Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jane Fonda, Mia Farrow (and with Edward Norton, a Man). It looked like a spontaneous guerrilla campaign, but was hardly conceivable without an appointment. All for the purpose of influencing the Academy’s 9,500 voters.
How do you want to regulate such actions in the age of social media? The academy is doing its best. For members entitled to vote, the following will apply in future: “You may not discuss your favorites or those of other members in any public forum.” It is also precisely specified who may hold a party for nominees and when, with what money. This set of rules will soon be a science in itself.
And above all, the academy has hopefully gotten legal advice beforehand: Actually, this is a restriction on freedom of expression – and whether it can be restricted so easily just because membership in the club you belong to allegedly requires it: That could still be the question.