Kristen Meinzer, Associate Producer
Kristen Meinzer is an associate producer for The Takeaway and co-host of The Takeaway's Movie Date podcast.
A lot of people seem to be in a big uproar over Oscar-nominee Melissa Leo’s audacity. As you may have heard, she’s been campaigning for an Oscar, and not in the usual ways. Yes, she’s doing interviews with Oprah and other national media outlets (including “The Takeaway”). And yes, she’s stopping and chatting with the press whenever she hits the red carpet. But in addition to the usual tactics, she’s also mounted her own campaign, paid for and orchestrated not by a PR company or a film company (as these campaigns usually are), but by herself.
And the response has not been pretty.
The Hollywood Reporter says they’ve heard from at least one Oscar voter, who said “She lost my vote.” And Movieline (in a jab at both Leo and Sally Fields) sniped "Melissa Leo Likes Herself, She Really Likes Herself."
It might seem obnoxious, but I can’t help but wonder if those who are criticizing Leo ever stopped to notice that…well…it’s all obnoxious. Whether it’s a distribution company or movie producers or a PR company or the stars themselves who are trying to rally up Oscar votes, it all points back to the same thing: the Oscar winners aren’t drastically different from high school prom royalty. It’s about who’s popular, and who can get people to vote for them.
Knowing this, I’m surprised that more Oscar nominees don’t try placing ads like Leo’s on the internet (which simply say “Consider…” over a gussied up photo of “The Fighter” star). Joan Crawford did it with success (for her portrayal of “Mildred Pierce”). And in her own way, Mo’Nique did as well. By publicly stating (repeatedly) that she wasn’t campaigning for an Oscar in 2010, the “Precious” star created her own anti-campaign style campaign.
And when she didn’t campaign in 2009 (for “Frozen River”), Melissa Leo got almost no notice at all.
Is the real offense that Leo’s acknowledging the problems of the system? Pointing out the machinery behind what should be pure magic? Asking for something that everyone already planned on giving her?
I love the Oscars, but those in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who are giving Leo a hard time should take a step back and try a little understanding. Sometimes, when someone’s treated like a mathlete for years, she can be forgiven for asking the popular kids to see her as more of a cheerleader.