Tom Cruise and the Ethics of the Oscars Campaign – Variety

Tom Cruise was welcomed as a hero in Hollywood the last week of February. The Oscar nominee for producing ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ had been largely absent from Los Angeles during the bonus campaign season, delayed filming of his latest epic ‘Mission: Impossible’, and the city was more than compensated for his absence when he finally hit low.

On Feb. 26, “Top Gun: Maverick” producer Jerry Bruckheimer opened his Beverly Hills home to power players and stars (many of whom voted for Oscars) where Cruise was the guest of honor. A few days later, former Paramount chief and show business stateswoman Sherry Lansing hosted an equally popular cocktail party to celebrate the star producer. It’s no surprise the industry wants to celebrate the man who, according to Steven Spielberg, “saved Hollywood’s ass” by bringing moviegoers back to theaters. But were the events legitimate in the eyes of the film academy, which enforces how and when Oscar candidates manage to woo the personalities who present them with gold trophies? The Academy’s bylaws state that after Oscar nominations are released, campaigns cannot “invite members to attend parties, dinners, luncheons, or other non-screening events that promote the nominated films.”

A senior source familiar with the events of the cruise wondered, “Why are people shooting this random Best Actress nominee without talking about it?” They are, of course, referring to the firestorm surrounding Andrea Riseborough, whose shock nomination for ‘To Leslie’ made international headlines and sparked an official investigation at the Academy into campaign practices in January.

Insiders close to the “Top Gun: Maverick” campaign say Cruise events are legitimate and well within the Academy’s code of conduct. The Bruckheimer event was billed as a celebration of the producer himself, after winning an honor from the Motion Picture Sound Editors Guild. Lansing’s event was specifically to celebrate Cruise’s honor this year by the Producers Guild of America. The guest list was filled with people who had worked with Cruise before, another source added, calling them “old friends.” The Academy’s bylaws state that “Members may be invited to pre-receptions or after-parties hosted by film companies at the time and place of any guild awards or other awards event recognized by the Academy. industry”.

According to one of several industry insiders who spoke with Variety for this piece.

“It borders on indignity,” another major film producer said of a climate that has been plagued by social media gaffes, schadenfreude and accusations (although, honestly, it may being contemporary Hollywood in a given year).

The Riseborough affair resulted in the Academy promising to take a closer look at social media endorsements, as many attributed his nomination to last-minute support from members and stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Demi Moore. Instagram again gave us an 11th-hour incident of Best Actress nominee Michelle Yeoh, who posted numerous screenshots of a Vogue story on Tuesday (the final day of Oscar voting) that praised his performance and specifically mentioned why fellow nominee Cate Blanchett shouldn’t win (another no-no is for a contestant to reference one of their contestants by name). Yeoh deleted the post and there were mixed reactions to his decision to post it in the first place.

“Social media has definitely made this year a bit sticky,” said a rewards consultant who works in-house at a major content company, speaking on condition of anonymity. This specific problem is two-fold: not only do well-followed Instagram and Twitter accounts provide new platforms to promote nominees, but social media can also provide a window into many events and campaign stops that were previously exclusive affairs and secondary.

Where there is no outrage or whisper, campaign issues have led to fatigue with the whole concept. Accepting the Best Actress award for “Tar” at this year’s Critics Choice Awards, Blanchett spoke of all the great female performances this year and said bluntly, “Stop with the TV horse racing of it all.

The art of the Oscars campaign has seeped into the broader consciousness. This year, two different nonfiction books delved into the issue: Michael Schulman’s “Oscar Wars: A History of Hollywood in Gold, Sweat, and Tears” and Bruce Davis’ “The Academy and The Award.”

In an interview with VarietySchulman played down the bitterness of this year’s campaign tactics.

“It’s not a bad thing at all,” he said. Likewise, three different campaign consultants who spoke anonymously agreed that this year’s race felt no different from others, admittedly believing their process received unusual media coverage. One such rewards consultant said the Academy’s rules are evolving because activists keep finding new ways to stretch them.

Plus, says Schulman, there have been worse years. Take 1999, he said, when now-disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein led “Shakespeare in Love” to a best picture win over “Saving Private Ryan.”

“It was like the Spanish Civil War,” Schulman said. “People still have PTSD about it.”

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