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Oscars 2023: Andrea Riseborough's Surprise Nomination Has Made People Angry – Explained

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Andrea Riseborough in To Leslie

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The Oscars are navigating choppy waters yet again, this time over the Best Actress nomination to Andrea Riseborough for her performance in the acclaimed but largely unwatched film To Leslie. Ms Riseborough’s performance as a troubled single mother who wins the lottery and then squanders it has been feted not just by film critics but also by a formidable contingent of celebrities. Just days before the Oscar nominations were announced, Gwyneth Paltrow shared a post after watching the film. “I am stunned by all of the performances. Andrea should win every award there is and all the ones that haven’t been invented yet,” Gwyneth wrote in the caption accompanying a picture of her with Team To Leslie, among them Andrea Riseborough.

Despite Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Andrea should win every award there is” shout-out, the actress had so far not even been nominated for the award shows already held, leave alone win – the Golden Globes took place at the beginning of January, the Critics Choice Awards four days after Gwyneth’s post.

On January 24, Andrea Riseborough was announced as one of the five Best Actress nominees with Cate Blanchett (Tar), Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All At Once), Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans) and Ana de Armas (Blonde). Questions were raised shortly after and the Academy, which presents the Oscars, announced that it would review this year’s campaign procedures although To Leslie or Andrea were not specifically mentioned.

The core of the controversy lies in Andrea having received the nomination despite the absence of the high-budget, high-visibility campaigns usually mounted by Oscar hopefuls. The campaign for Andrea was a celebrity-backed series of shout-outs in the form of screenings, conversations and moderated discussions involving A-listers like Amy Adams, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston and Edward Norton. Several other actors posted shout-outs, many of them seemingly copy-paste jobs.

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There are two parts to the outrage over Andrea Riseborough’s nomination in a film that very few seem to have watched. The first is the possibility of campaign rules having been breached – this forms the focus of The Academy’s investigation. “It is the Academy’s goal to ensure that the Awards competition is conducted in a fair and ethical manner, and we are committed to ensuring an inclusive awards process. We are conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year’s nominees, to ensure that no guidelines were violated, and to inform us whether changes to the guidelines may be needed in a new era of social media and digital communication. We have confidence in the integrity of our nomination and voting procedures, and support genuine grassroots campaigns for outstanding performances,” read a statement released by the Academy and reported in international media.

Variety reports that as per sources the Academy has been flooded with calls and e-mails over Andrea Riseborough’s surprise nomination though no official complaint has been filed. While most Oscar campaigns hinge around encouraging voters in the Academy watch their film, To Leslie’s celebrity push may have breached rules on two counts. The first is if Academy members have been directly contacted to bring Andrea’s performance to their notice; the second rule is one that forbids campaigns from names or singles out competing films or performances.

Critics of the nomination for Andrea Riseborough say that the second rule has already been breached at least twice. A now-deleted post shared on the To Leslie Instagram account quoted film critic Richard Roeper as writing in Chicago Sun-Times: “As much as I admired Blanchett’s work in ‘Tár,’ my favorite performance by a woman this year was delivered by the chameleonlike Andrea Riseborough.” Mr Roeper did not breach any rules by naming the two actresses in a single sentence, the To Leslie campaign may have by choosing this quote to highlight.

Also under the scanner is actress Frances Fisher, who shared more than one Instagram post urging the Academy to nominate Andrea Riseborough while also naming other actors in the running. You can read her posts here and here.

The second part of the controversy is the charge of racism with the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag being resurrected on social media. Andrea Riseborough’s nomination is being seen by some as having come at the expense of performances by Black actress like Viola Davis (The Woman King) and Danielle Deadwyler (Till). Till director Chinonye Chukwu wrote on Instagram: “We live in a world and work in industries that are so aggressively committed to upholding whiteness and perpetuating an unabashed misogyny towards Black women.”

Film critic Robert Daniels wrote in LA Times: “Although it’s easy to point a finger at Riseborough for taking a slot from Black women, broken systems persist when we focus our ire on individuals … what does it say that the Black women who did everything the institution asks of them – luxury dinners, private Academy screenings, meet-and-greets, splashy television spots and magazine profiles – are ignored when someone who did everything outside of the system is rewarded?”

Actress Christina Ricci challenged this notion of artistic merit depending on visibility for validation in a now-deleted Instagram post, reports Deadline. “Seems hilarious that the ‘surprise nomination’ (meaning tons of money wasn’t spent to position this actress) of a legitimately brilliant performance is being met with an investigation,” she wrote. “So it’s only the films and actors that can afford the campaigns that deserve recognition? Feels elitist and exclusive and frankly very backward to me.”

The Academy’s findings from its investigation are awaited. According to The Hollywood Reporter, however, Andrea Riseborough’s nomination is unlikely to be overturned.

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