Trisha's Take: How to attempt to buy an Oscar in 400,000 easy steps

Every year, the U.S. film entertainment industry dislocates its shoulder by giving itself (and our foreign friends whom we think are cool enough) the largest pat on the back in the form of the Academy Awards show. Viewed by almost 36 million people last year, the Oscars aim to honor the best in film in front of the camera, behind it, and even within it.

The awards are a venerable institution in Hollywood as have been attempts to influence either the selection of the nominees and/or the voting on the awards themselves. The winner of this year’s Best Controversy Heading into the 82nd Academy Awards ceremony is Variety publisher Brian Gott and director John Newton for Iron Cross.

Back in November 2009, Pete Hammond wrote in his blog for the L.A. Times a story about how British writer/director Joshua Newton was working non-stop around the clock to finish work on his movie Iron Cross so that it would be eligible for a 2009 nomination for lead actor Roy Schieder’s last performance before his death from multiple myeloma cancer the year before.

The blog entry itself was a nice piece of fluffy work, but not really anything special until this particular paragraph:

To that end [Newton] has gotten his investors to agree to a “substantial” buy (about $400,000) in the Hollywood trade paper Variety with ads of one sort or another running every day until Oscar voters have turned in their ballots in late January. The campaign started in mid-November with daily yellow-and-white teaser strips sporting phrases like “Would my dad turn this murderer over to the authorities?” and “Anger clouds the heart and threatens the choices we make” leading up to this week’s expensive Weekly Variety full color cover ad of Scheider and a one-page open letter to academy and HFPA members, the same one that ran in Monday’s daily paper with a DVD copy of the film’s trailer attached.

Thanks to some investigative journalism from the folks at, apparently that $400,000 advertising campaign also included yanking down a negative review of the movie from freelancer Robert Koehler because it didn’t mesh with the overall tone of the advertising campaign. writer John Cook even printed an email he got from an anonymous source attributed to Newton which speaks about the advertising campaign and his disappointment in Koehler’s work as a critic:

I have checked Koehler’s [critiques] out. For instance, look at this list of reviews for the hit comedy Rat Race:

You’ll note the very high percentages awarded by the top critics – reaching 100% by the San Francisco Chronicle. Koehler, who trashes many movies, gave it only 20%, stating “A lineup of comic actors running on empty long before the dust settles”. Clearly a man without a sense of humour. Which probably explains why he hated Iron Cross.

Best part of all is that Newton is now claiming that the Variety ad sales team is ultimately responsible for the mess because they promised that for his cost of $400,000, he and his private investors would get a top notch For Your Consideration campaign, but instead were sold a shoddy bill of sale upon the publication of the review. And thanks to the power of Google cache and citizen journalists, the entire review can still be seen here.

So congratulations, Misters Gott and Newton, and thank you for reminding us once again about the integrity surrounding the Academy Awards.

Posted on March 7, 2010 at 12:32 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
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