Andrea Riseborough: Why a British star's Oscar nomination has generated controversy

Andrea Riseborough: Why a British star’s Oscar nomination has generated controversy

The Academy, which oversees the Oscars, has declared it will evaluate the nomination campaigns for 2023 “to verify that no rules were broken.” Why? Although they haven’t specifically specified any movie or performer, it seems to come down to one unexpected nomination.

Many people were rather surprised when British actress Andrea Riseborough’s name was announced as one of the five Oscar candidates for best actress this year.

She portrays a single mother who develops alcoholism after winning the lottery in the modest independent film To Leslie, and it’s not that her performance in it wasn’t deserving; rather, there wasn’t much awards-season excitement about her before the announcement.

As the pinnacle of awards season, the Oscars are Hollywood’s biggest night, but they aren’t the only ceremony held there.

Some of the events, like the Golden Globes, will undoubtedly be well-known to many, while others, like the SAG Awards, may not be as well-known. Of course, there are also the UK’s BAFTAs.

Even while each awards event has its unique voting members, the same names, with a few exceptions, frequently appear on the shortlists.

For instance, in 2022, the four acting awards were won by Will Smith, Jessica Chastain, Ariana DeBose, and Troy Kotsur in essentially every presentation, including the Oscars.

The Kindness Of Strangers, Made In Dagenham, and Birdman actress Riseborough, who also played in Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical in 2022, did not win any big award nominations this year, and neither did To Leslie.

However, Riseborough did gain the public support of a number of extremely well-known A-listers prior to the announcement of the Oscar nominees (more on this later).

Because movie companies spend so much time marketing during award season, the most expensive productions are more likely to get voters’ attention.

According to reports, the To Leslie campaign was self-funded and depended on word of mouth to get attention.

With questions being raised over whether Andrea Riseborough’s nomination was fair, the Oscars’ lack of diversity has once again come under fire. Her co-star and others have come to her defense in the course of the increasing controversy.

The Academy, which oversees the Oscars, has declared it will investigate award “campaign practices” to make sure no rules were broken this year, but excluding To Leslie from its announcement.

The subject will be covered during the group’s upcoming meeting later today.

What then is the Oscar campaign? What went wrong, in your opinion, with Andrea Riseborough’s celebrity backers? Is anything actually fair? Here is all the information you require.

Who is Angela Riseborough?

Andrea Riseborough: Why a British star's Oscar nomination has generated controversy

The 41-year-old actress is renowned for her performance in the Academy Award-winning Birdman as well as for portraying Margaret Thatcher in Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley and Wallis Simpson in WE.

She played Mrs. Wormwood, Matilda’s mother, in the 2022 production of Matilda, which also included Alisha Weir in the title role, Stephen Graham as Mr. Wormwood, and Emma Thompson as Ms. Trunchbull.

She also played Billie Jean King’s girlfriend Marilyn Barnett in the movie Battle Of The Sexes, which is based on their 1973 tennis match, and she had an appearance in a Black Mirror episode.

Following its introduction by Creed actor Tessa Thompson at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2019, Riseborough was the first British actress to openly embrace the #4PercentChallenge, which calls on members of the film industry to collaborate with female directors.

She is being recognized for her work in the low-budget movie To Leslie, which Variety, a US entertainment website, claims made roughly $27,000 (or about £22,000) at the box office.

Which celebrities backed her?

Andrea Riseborough: Why a British star's Oscar nomination has generated controversy
Cate Blanchett

Leslie broke through with the Academy in the run-up to the Oscar nominations, reportedly in no little part because of a push by some of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

In fact, Cate Blanchett, who is competing for the best actress Oscar with Riseborough, praised the United Kingdom in her Critics’ Choice speech, along with a number of other nations.

The number of amazing performances by women—not just in this room, but also by Andrea Riseborough, Tang Wei, Penelope Cruz, and a long list of others—made her say that the award for best actress was completely arbitrary. Blanchett went on to explain that she wanted to alter the way Oscars are given out and emphasize the “raft” of performances.

Kate Winslet, Amy Adams, Gwyneth Paltrow, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron, Jennifer Aniston, Zooey Deschanel, Frances Fisher, and Helen Hunt, among other well-known Hollywood figures, also gave Riseborough high marks for her portrayal.

Fisher, who is well-known for roles in movies like Titanic and Unforgiven, has been particularly outspoken against the actress’s performance on social media.

Why is any of this wrong?

There is nothing wrong with recommending a movie or complimenting a performance to Oscar voters.

However, if social media posts endorsing Andrea Riseborough include “competition” by name or title, they could have violated Academy regulations.

Fisher may be suspended from the Academy for a year if a formal complaint is made, according to sources.

There is no indication that Riseborough herself breached any laws.

The legitimacy of the support for her, however, is still in doubt. Were all of her admirers actually moved by her performance, or were they merely influential friends supporting a friend?

Why is there an Oscar campaign?

Andrea Riseborough: Why a British star's Oscar nomination has generated controversy

Studios may spend millions advertising their films before and throughout award season to ensure that voters are paying attention to them.

The goal is to create the impression that a movie is “Oscar-worthy.”

The actors will walk red carpets, conduct interviews, and network at screening events in addition to billboards going up throughout the neighborhood.

Susan Sarandon demanded “campaign finance reform” in 2016, claiming the Oscars campaign was “enormous.”

What has the Academy stated in the most recent debate?

In a statement issued on Friday, the Academy did not name mention Andrea Riseborough or To Leslie.

The statement added, “The Academy is dedicated to maintaining an inclusive awards process, and it is the Academy’s mission to guarantee that the awards competition is handled in a fair and ethical way.

“We are reviewing the campaign practices surrounding this year’s nominees to make sure no rules were broken and to see whether any adjustments to the rules are necessary for the new era of social media and digital communication.

We promote sincere grass-roots initiatives for exceptional achievements because we are confident in the fairness of our nomination and vote processes.

Why has this prompted criticism of the Oscars’ lack of diversity?

None of the candidates for best actress this year are black.

Strong contenders Viola Davis (The Woman King) and Danielle Deadwyler (Till) was passed over in favor of Riseborough and Blanchett (Tar), who are nominated for the prize alongside Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All At Once), Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans), and Ana de Armas (Blonde).

Chinonye Chukwu, the director of Till, made a statement on Instagram after the nominations were revealed, stating: “We live in a society and work in fields that are so adamantly dedicated to maintaining whiteness and fostering overt sexism toward Black women.

“Even so.

“I will always be grateful for the biggest lesson of my life: I have the capacity to create my own joy, and it is this pleasure that will continue to be one of my strongest forms of resistance, no matter what difficulties or barriers I face.”

Of course, Andrea Riseborough is not to blame for Davis and Deadwyler’s omission from the shortlist.

The nominations for de Armas and Williams have also been called into question when it comes to the analysis of the nominees; de Armas’ portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in the biopic Blonde has received negative reviews despite positive reviews of her performance, and Williams’ Mitzi Fabelman in The Fabelmans is viewed by some as a supporting role.

However, the issue of diversity is not limited to the acting categories; for the third consecutive year, no women have been nominated for best director. Chukwu would have been the first black woman to make the shortlist if she had been nominated.

As someone who may have been in the running herself, Women Talking director Sarah Polley had the opportunity to speak with Sky News on the lack of female filmmakers; the movie has been nominated for best picture, and Polley has been nominated for best-adapted screenplay.

In that area, she admitted, “the biggest sadness for me was that there was a missed chance to have the first black woman ever nominated for an Oscar in the directing category.”

“There were a lot of choices when I think of movies like Till or The Woman King or Saint Omer, so for me, that’s what I view as this squandered chance,” the author said.

Backing for Riseborough

Andrea Riseborough: Why a British star's Oscar nomination has generated controversy
Marc Maron

Following the announcement by the Academy, celebrities have defended Andrea Riseborough and To Leslie.

Her To Leslie co-star Marc Maron criticized the Academy’s probe on the newest episode of his WTF show.

He stated, “It appears that the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences or whatever the f*** it is has chosen to look into Andrea Riseborough’s grassroots effort to get her an Oscar nomination. “Because, I suppose, it poses such a danger to their system, studios representing corporate interests have entirely acquired them.

“Large corporate entertainment corporations invest millions of dollars in lengthy marketing campaigns, screenings, and advertising campaigns, yet Andrea was supported by her peers’ thanks to a grassroots movement that a few performers pushed through.

“The Academy responds, “Well, we need to look into this.” This is not how it should operate. Independent artists are not worthy of the Academy’s consideration until we understand how it operates in detail. Therefore, we will investigate this.”

Christina Ricci, an actress, purportedly supported Riseborough in an Instagram post that has since been removed. According to the star’s statement to US entertainment website Deadline: “So the only things that merit praise are the movies and the actors who can afford the advertising campaigns? It strikes me as being aristocratic, exclusive, and somewhat retrograde.”

What happens next?

The Academy will ultimately decide. Many people believe Riseborough’s nomination won’t be rescinded.

However, even if she stays in the race, the nomination may now appear contaminated. After the initial enthusiastic response to her nomination, voters may now perceive her as being too controversial to choose to win.

And for the studios: Why waste time on all the promotion when A-list endorsements may have a bigger impact?

Whether or not the rules have been breached, this tale has revealed the vast finances of award campaigns and how smart promotion, rather than merely a strong performance, can make a celebrity or a movie a winner.

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