Man Made Movies is gunning for an Oscar nod for Sam Rockwell in Moon and has put up an online petition. With support from Slash Film and Jo Blo, they are reporting upwards of 1,000 signatures so far. They’re hoping for 1,000,000. The biggest problem here is that there aren’t enough much-needed reviews to back this up.
Unfortunately, these types of things, with the best of intentions, do not often result in Oscar nominations. This is as good a time as any to talk about Oscar voter psychology, which I think I’ve become quite good at over the years (read as: I have no idea what I’m talking about). Oscar voter psychology is not any different from general psychology of all people. But here are some things you should know if you’re hoping to sway votes.
1. Never strong-arm them into voting for someone or something. It doesn’t work at all. Matter of fact, it has the reverse effect nine times out of ten. The one time it does work, usually has to do with the person truly deserving to be nominated, in which case, they would have been noticed and nominated anyway. Psychology reasoning for this: people hate to be told what to do in general. No one wants to be thought of as stupid or out of touch. If someone suggests such a thing, a voter (or person’s) likely response is, to quote Anton Chigurh, “You don’t know what you’re talking about, do you.”
2. Make them think it’s their idea. Present all of the reasons a film or person is worthy without ever falling into the trap of saying “nominate them now because they deserve it!” A typical response to that would be, Chigurh again. You guessed it. Remember, they are the ones with all of the power. That means they can choose to wield it at any time, especially when others are insinuating that they don’t know what they’re doing.
3. Reverse psychology – it works quite well.¬† The old “this is the best film of the year but no way will the Academy nominate it. It is the best film to come along in ten years but it’s too small, too dark, the genre isn’t right, no way will the Academy go for it.” That works ten times better than “of course they’ll nominate it. There is no way they can’t nominate it.”
4. Fans don’t get films or people nominated, if anything, publicists do. A good publicist can work magic. But usually if it is a crowded category, as Best Actor usually is, it’s tougher to squeeze in, what with all of those deserving candidates. Here are the best categories to work magic in, ie, it’s possible to jigger the results: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Original Sound, Editing and occasionally Cinematography. By jigger the results, I mean that those categories aren’t always filled with the most proficient people/films, only the most popular – if they like the movie enough, those categories can reflect broad support.
5. There is no harm in trying but if you overplay your hand you hurt the contender’s chances. By the time the Oscars roll around, and all of the awards shows have spoken, everything and everyone feels stale. It’s a delicate line to walk — too much exposure can lead to an anti-climax. Not enough exposure and they’re left in the dust. The bottom line: it actually has to be not just a good performance, but an astonishing one. And if it isn’t, the person better be a popular star in Hollywood (like Clooney or Eastwood, etc.)
So there you have it. A quick and dirty, and quite lame attempt at deconstructing voter mentality. We will be keeping an eye on the Sam Rockwell Oscar Watch to see if it plays out. I haven’t seen his performance but I can tell you with a fair amount of certainty that if he is truly deserving, and better than the other Actor frontrunners, he will get in.
What do you think of grassroots Oscar campaigns? Success or fail?
Finally, let’s talk briefly about the Best Actor race. It is kind of impossible to talk about it since so many films have yet to be released with actors who may get noticed — Robert Downey, Jr., Morgan Freeman, Mark Wahlberg, etc. Still, we have Jeremy Renner (himself in a bit of a grass roots campaign by sites like this one and others), we have Matt Damon, we have Michael Stuhlbarg for A Serious Man, and we have Colin Firth for A Single Man. We should have Ben Wishaw for Bright Star but I’m not sure that is going to happen; his was among the most powerful performances I’ve seen this year. There is, of course, George Clooney and Viggo Mortensen.
It is more than possible for Sam Rockwell to get in there. But every year there are actors who give great performances but are in films no one ever sees. Remember Jeff Goldblum in Adam Resurrected? Frank Langella in Starting Out in the Evening? Jim Carrey in ….pick any movie. Oscar heat is Oscar heat, and sometimes there is nothing anyone, even the best publicist or most devoted fan can do about it.
Joe Morgenstern at the Wall Street Journal:
I won’t pretend to understand the movie’s deep meaning–if it has one–but I can say three things for sure: Mr. Rockwell gives a brilliant performance, the physical production is impressive and Moon made me think. Four things: It made me smile.
The actor proves capable of embodying all sorts of contradictory impulses as his character becomes tragically self-aware. But he can’t overcome a plot that goes slack at precisely the moment it should be soaring, or a corporate-villainy premise that practically begs not to be looked at too closely.
AO Scott on Moon:
The film’s ideas are interesting, but don’t feel entirely worked out, and Mr. Rockwell’s intriguingly strange performance (or performances) is left suspended, without the context that would give Sam’s plight its full emotional and philosophical impact. The smallness of this movie is decidedly a virtue, but also, in the end, something of a limitation.