Error w/ 'Fruitvale' Oscar Voter Screeners - Potential Problems For Actresses or Smart Campaign Ploy?

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by Tambay A. Obenson
October 15, 2013 12:31 PM
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The short version of the story goes... 

Studios are currently sending out Oscar screeners for their Oscar contenders, to Academy members, in an effort to not only ensure that their films are all seen, but also to remind Academy voters which Oscar categories the studios want their films and the talent involved in the making of those films (in front of and behind the camera) to be considered, which some voters reference when completing their nomination ballots.

Voter screeners for Fruitvale Station were shipped out last week by The Weinstein Company with a major error on them: they encouraged Academy voters to consider Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz in the lead actress category. The problem there is that the studio actually meant for the actresses to be considered in the the supporting actress category, the category in which they are actually being pushed.

The studio eventually caught the error, but not before the voter screeners had already been mailed out to Academy members. And last week Thursday, Weinstein Co. sent a follow-up e-mail to Academy members that read:

"Dear Academy Member, It has come to our attention that there was a misprint on the packaging of the DVD screener of FRUITVALE STATION. The actresses Melonie Diaz and Octavia Spencer are to be considered in the category of Best Actress In A Supporting Role. If you have not received your screener yet, you will receive it shortly. If you have any questions or issues, please contact our Awards Office..."

News of this error and subsequent correction broke yesterday, via The Hollywood Reporter, and has since generated some conversation about whether this will have any impact on Oscar voting where Spencer and Diaz are concerned - specifically, the concern expressed by some is that, with a supporting actress Oscar race that's really wide open right now, with several strong contenders, meaning each and every single vote counts maybe more-so than any other category, might even a few voters be confused by the Weinstein Co error, and maybe unconsciously nominate Spencer and Diaz in the lead actress category (for which neither really stands a chance), instead of the supporting category (Weinstein Co's preference)? And if that were to happen, could this negatively affect the number of votes each actress gets in the supporting actress category, since some of those votes will be incorrectly marked in the lead actress category?

Anything's possible, of course! 

But another potential scenario, as I shared with my S&A comrades yesterday, is whether this is maybe a Weinstein Co. ploy to draw special attention to Spencer and Diaz, putting their names and considerations back into the news, and the Oscar conversation (after all, the press has been all over this story in the last 24 hours), to Academy voters, who may have forgotten about both actresses, since the film they appear in, and that's under consideration, was released in the middle of the summer.

Like I said, anything's possible!

The supporting actress category competition includes the likes of Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years A Slave), who's maybe the frontrunner right now, given all the hype around the film and her performance; There's Oprah Winfrey in Lee Daniels' The Butler'sNaomie Harris in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom; Margo Martindale and Julia Roberts in August: Osage CountyLea Seydoux in Blue Is the Warmest Color; Sally Hawkins in Blue JasmineScarlett Johansson in HerMelissa Leo in PrisonersJune Squibb in Nebraska and Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.

And given that I've seen 5 of the films mentioned above (including Fruitvale Station), I will say that, while I'm certainly a fan of both Spencer and Diaz (who I was first introduced to about a decade ago, in a little indie darling of a film called Raising Victor Vargas), I don't expect either to be nominated in the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award category. The characters they play in Fruitvale Station just aren't given as much to do, to allow the actresses who play them to really shine, as, let's say, Lupita Nyong'o in 12 Years A Slave, for example, who has a number of pivotal, heart-wrenching scenes in that drama, that will likely be remembered more that some of her competitors.

But once again, anything is possible.

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1 Comment

  • TC Kirkham | October 15, 2013 5:41 PMReply

    I was under the impression that Meryl Streep asked to be in Supporting for August Osage County rather than lead, and that Julia Roberts is going to go for lead - has that changed since I read it somewhere about a month ago? It's ludicrous, of course - Streep is a lead, but then again, I consider Oprah Winfrey's role in The Butler a lead as well...and as always, the studios place their stars where they have the best chance, which isn't always where they should be...

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