Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

With Six Months to Go, Studios Are Already Hot on Oscar's Trail

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

With Six Months to Go, Studios Are Already Hot on Oscar's Trail

Article excerpt

HOLLYWOOD -- Call it the Shakespeare in Love syndrome. Barely six months after the romantic comedy captured seven Academy Awards and triggered an uproar inside the film community over the campaign waged on its behalf by Miramax, the new Oscar season is already gearing up in Hollywood -- one that looks to be harder fought than ever.

Just as presidential politics seem mired in a never-ending campaign that stretches from one election cycle to the next, the movie-awards season has also taken on the trappings of a long-running political contest, one replete with outside consultants, marketing schemes, mass mailings and finely tuned publicity and advertising campaigns. The lessons of last year's carefully planned Shakespeare in Love triumph haven't been lost on Hollywood.

And that has left some studio executives appalled.

"I am not comfortable turning this process into a campaign," said Terry Press, marketing chief at DreamWorks, whose studio felt the sting of defeat when Steven Spielberg's World War II combat drama Saving Private Ryan lost best picture honors to Shakespeare.

"I think it has really gotten out of hand," Press said. "The whole question of studios pushing films for the Academy Awards is distasteful to me because it implies that it's a political process vs. a quality process. It doesn't mean that all of us have to go along with it."

Studios may not like it, but they're quickly getting with the Oscar program.

This year, for instance, Paramount has brought in a former publicist at Universal Pictures and PolyGram Films, Bruce Feldman, to assist the studio in its Oscar campaign for Angela's Ashes, director Alan Parker's adaptation of Frank McCourt's Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir.

And at Sony, which has such films in the wings as Neil Jordan's The End of the Affair, Luc Besson's The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, and James Mangold's Girl Interrupted, awards consultant Michael Battaglia has already set up shop. …

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