In accurate business fashion, for the first couple days following the publication of Melissa Leo’s controversial “For Your Consideration” ads, the internet was ablaze with talk of how inappropriate and awkward they were, asking what she was thinking and pondering whether or not it was going to hurt her chances. But in ever truer industry fashion, a couple days after that, the backlash to the backlash had begun, the internet then ablaze with individuals being offended by the notion that these ads would affect her possible Oscar win, defending Leo, saying, *if* you’re going to judge her at least try to get a sense of who she really is initial.
I’ve really been struggling with all of this myself. When I initially saw the ads, my reaction was one of pure and unbridled “WTF.” Why on EARTH would the front-runner for the Academy Award find it essential to take an ad out for herself, let alone an ad that’s absolutely nothing more than a glamor shot. If this is about the performance? Why is not the ad … about the performance?
Then a few days later, following reading several defenses, I changed my tune. Everyone else has studios or publicists taking out ads for them; she had to take matters into her own hands. She isn’t desperate, just excited — who cares how she campaigns, plus, enjoyable reality! She really seems like a fairly amazing person.
Well now that the initial fervor has somewhat died down, I’ve finally settled on how I truly really feel about the matter and whether or not it’ll affect her predicted win.
Academy members *should* only vote based on performance, this is true. It’s what we all hope for. But if we are going to think in this principle, we need to really think it. All of us. Which would mean no ads according to anything other than touting the performance. How can we ignore the ads and claim awards are about the performance, when that doesn’t even seem to be what Leo believes? I adore her, however it does sort of seem like she wants us to believe that this is about *her*, not the character of Alice Ward, that she’s been in this industry for years, that she’s an old pro, that she’s due — absolutely nothing about her campaign or previous speeches have implied otherwise. So the entire argument appears extremely uneven. I’m all for focusing only on the performance, however it requirements to apply all around. This would also mean, as a lot as I’ve loved the pieces I’ve read on the matter, that there shouldn’t be articles explaining why she is a great individual. It shouldn’t matter.
To further complicate the scenario, Hailee Steinfeld was being primed to upset Leo prior to all this ruckus began. Her momentum had certainly begun. If anything, this mini controversy might have merely brought up the conversation slightly sooner. But in terms of predictions I’ve been reading and business insiders I’ve been talking to, the win was starting to swing in Steinfeld’s direction Before the ads came out. And the reason is the performance. Numerous people simply appreciate Steinfeld’s performance more. It’s been explained to me that Maddie does much more to support Cogburn’s journey than Alice did for Mickey’s, and that Alice is more of a enjoyable character role than an Oscar-worthy one. The greatest argument I’ve heard against Steinfield is that this is her first movie (…and?), the second greatest being that she is so important to the film simply because she is actually the lead and consequently shouldn’t win supporting. But the mere reality that whether she is lead or supporting is debatable; add to that the fact that kids have traditionally always ended up in the supporting categories, and that ought to squash this argument once and for all. Her placement is what it’s, do not blame Steinfeld for it. (For what it is worth, I think her monologue at the end proves that Cogburn is actually the “lead” — it might have been her story, however it was her story about *his* redemption. He will be the one that changes. She supports that change.)
Ultimately it comes down to this: I do not think Leo ought to have taken out those ads, but I do hope the Academy ignores them. And for that matter, any other ads. Performance should usually be regarded as initial, then role, then movie, then sentiment/history, then politics. Whilst those last two elements are sadly inevitable, they should *at least* be regarded as after what truly matters.
The worst part of this? If somebody does upset Leo, guess what individuals are going to point to for the reason? Not the performance. Not the role. Perhaps not even the movie. They will point purely to this controversy. And this is reason enough alone not to have taken the ad out. It makes the Supporting Actress race unnecessarily focused on politics and outside factors, pure and easy. If anything is to come from the ad, perhaps it is Academy members becoming forced to “think about the performance,” as individuals jumping to Leo’s defense have urged them to do, which will wind up hurting her come Oscar night — perhaps such a suggestion will make members second guess going with a supposed lock and really take an additional look at the other nominated performances.
I’d like to believe voters will forget about this entire situation before sending in their ballots, particularly because Melissa Leo was an absolute genius within the Fighter, and I’d be thrilled to see her take the win with no controversy. Unfortunately, in accurate industry fashion, no one forgets anything. Anticipate mention of these ads in every Oscar wrap-up article on the web should Leo win OR lose. Sigh.