Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Are the Academy Awards Now a PR Sham?; Scene & Heard

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Are the Academy Awards Now a PR Sham?; Scene & Heard

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK COLEMAN

IT was vintage Hollywood. Huddled together at a Beverly Hills mansion, party guests were discussing contenders for this year's Oscars.

Movie stars mixed with studio executives at the glittering soiree, thrown last week by a powerful production company.

On their way home, Academy members - whose votes determine the destination of the coveted statuettes - were handed goodie bags containing mementos including collector copies of film scripts, limited-edition DVDs and signed photos of star performers from the cream of this year's movie crop.

With the Oscar season in full flow, an elite section of the 5,700-strong board is being inundated with gifts and back-scratching on an unprecedented scale before it cast its final vote. "Actors, PR people and studio executives are doing everything they can to persuade us to vote for them," confesses one Academy member.

Academy guidelines state that members are only entitled to accept items that "actually assist the members in their efforts to assess the artistic and technical merits of a film". But some moguls are playing a dangerous game in their bids to attract attention, it is claimed.

Another way studios woo voters is to take out multi-page adverts in trade publications such as Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. No more so than Miramax Films, the film studio which is behind three of this year's Best Film contenders - Chicago, Gangs of New York and The Hours - and has notched up a total of 40 Oscar nominations this year.

For Miramax chief, Harvey Weinstein, the coming weeks will be a whirlwind of activity as he campaigns for his movies.

Desperate to win as many statuettes as possible, he will pour millions of dollars into glittering parties, flying people on his private jet and on an aggressive print-and-publicity crusade. …

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