Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oscar race: The Hurt Locker's Continuing Journey to Oscar Triumph

Not to toot my own horn but....

At the beginning of the month, just four days after the Oscar nominees were announced, I declared that The Hurt Locker was going to win both Best Director and Best Picture.  Lately, everyone else seems to be jumping on the bandwagon now that it has won most of the big prizes this month, including ACE, WGA, DGA, PGA, and this past weekend’s BAFTA Awards.  Some writers eventually caught on to my observation that the new preferential voting process would benefit The Hurt Locker, such as Hendrik Hertzberg’s New Yorker article fully a week-and-a-half after mine.  I hear that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I guess I can take some satisfaction seeing others finally catching up.

The only thing that could derail them now isn’t the brilliance of one of the Weinsteins, but the foolishness of one of The Hurt Locker’s producers, Nicholas Chartier.  He sent out an idiotic email last Friday that is in contravention of the new rules of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), introduced in 2004 to prevent the badmouthing and negative campaigning that were so often part of the Oscar race.  Academy regulations state that "ads, mailings, Web sites or any other forms of communication that attempt to promote a particular film or achievement by casting a negative or derogatory light on a competing film or achievement are not permitted. In particular, any tactic that singles out “the competition” by name or title is expressly forbidden."  Although he didn’t mention a rival by name, it’s clear he’s speaking of Avatar by referring to “a $500M film.”

Here’s the text of his email, typos included:
I hope all is well with you. I just wanted to write you and say I hope you liked Hurt Locker and if you did and want us to win, please tell Pierce and your friends who vote for the Oscars, tell actors, directors, crew members, art directors, special effects people, if everyone tells one or two of their friends, we will win and not a $500M film, we need independent movies to win like the movies you and I do, so if you believe The Hurt Locker is the best movie of 2010, help us!
I'm sure you know plenty of people you've worked with who are academy members whethere a publicist, a writer, a sound engineer, please take 5 minutes and contact them. Please call one or two persons, everything will help!

best regards,

Nicolas Chartier Voltage Pictures
When he sent out this email blast there was understandable outrage, especially since some of the recipients worked on other Best Picture nominees, including Up in the Air writing nominee Sheldon Turner, and a producer on Inglourious Basterds.  He was forced to contact all of the people who received the original email and apologize.  Here is the text of the apology:
My email to you was out of line and not in the spirit of the celebration of cinema that this acknowledgement is. I was even more wrong, both personally and professionally, to ask for your help in encouraging others to vote for the film and to comment on another movie. As  passionate as I am about the film  we made, this was an extremely inappropriate email to send, and something that the Academy strongly disapproves of in the rules.

My naivete, ignorance of the rules and plain stupidity as a first time nominee  is not an excuse for this behavior and I strongly regret it. Being nominated for an Academy Award is the ultimate honor and I should have taken the time to read the rules.

I am emailing  each person this very same statement asking  to retract my previous email and requesting that you please disregard it.

I truly apologize to anyone I have offended.

Sincerely yours,

best regards,

Nicolas Chartier
Voltage Pictures, LLC
In his defense, it is true that he is a first-time producer and so can be excused somewhat for his cluelessness.  But the Academy was generous in allowing him to be a producer nominee in the first place (he is the film’s fourth producer, and typically the Academy only allows three), so there may be further consequences.  He may be punished personally by not receiving tickets to the Oscar ceremony, or the more severe (though improbable) step of being blocked from joining the Academy. AMPAS could theoretically go as far as removing the film from contention, but that is extremely unlikely. They are reserving their decision until after the deadline for voting at 5pm on March the 2, to prevent influencing members’ voting intentions.

If you haven’t done so already, have your say on how you would rank the 10 nominees.  Leave your ranking in the comments section and you could win a prize.  It doesn't matter if you haven't seen them all.  Just let me know what you think.

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