By Mark Pinkert
Studios and actors have campaigned for Oscars in the past, but never as fervently and persistently as they do these days. Competition is the new norm, and it’s mostly credited to Harvey Weinstein, who politicized Oscar season in the 1990s while working as the head of Miramax Films. Weinstein was rumored to have used coercion, subterfuge, and even bribery to get his films into Oscar contention–the verity of these rumors is debatable; what is known, though, is that he spent exorbitant amounts of money and was somehow able to will Shakespeare in Love, for instance, past Life is Beautiful and Saving Private Ryanin the 1998 Best Picture race.
In order to stay competitive, other distributors had to follow suit and, as a result, Oscar season has become an expensive festival of cocktail parties, dinners, screenings, honorary awards, ad campaigns, and the like. “Buzz” is the word, and it even seems that less emphasis has been placed on the work between “action” and “cut.” This is true for actors especially, who are commissioned by studios to travel the country and serve as the primary promoters of the film.