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With Growing Resentment Of Oscar Campaigns, A Look Back At Mo'Nique's Controversial Choice

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by Tambay A. Obenson
January 4, 2013 1:27 PM
19 Comments
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Oscar

Suddenly, even though she was practically crucified in the mainstream press for not playing the Oscar campaign game (an Oscar she eventually won anyway), Mo'Nique's public decision may not seem so ridiculous as many felt it was at the time. 

As GoldDerby.com reports, there's a growing resentment of the Oscar campaign process by more and more Hollywood artists, who are "fed up with the parade of glad-handing that has come to define the fall-to-winter awards season" -  the countless events, appearances, interviews, and receptions that are apparently expected from those who hope to make the nominations short lists, as well as win the coveted statue.

To wit, most recently, during the current awards season:

- David Cronenberg: "Every year I try to be as disconnected as possible," he told Movieline. "The people who are releasing the movie get excited, they want you to do more, and you understand it because the awards can maybe get more people to see the film … However, it is all bullshit, it is all annoying and it is all very problematical."

- Joaquin Phoenix told Interview magazine, "I think it's total, utter bullshit, and I don't want to be a part of it … It was one of the most uncomfortable periods of my life when 'Walk the Line' was going through all the awards stuff and all that. I never want to have that experience again."

- Anthony Hopkins called the process "disgusting" when asked by the Huffington Post.

- Matt Damon in December about his latest film, "Promised Land," he was asked how awards campaigning has changed since he went through the process the first time 15 years ago for Good Will Hunting: "It's ridiculous … We had Harvey Weinstein with us for 'Good Will Hunting,' and he's the guy who really sees the matrix when it comes to this stuff and I think we did a cocktail party. That was it … It's been really shocking to me to see what's happened [since], and not all good."

And there's more... but you get the gist.

Although, maybe one obvious point to note is that these dissenters are all white and male. Could that be something worth considering in all this? The privilege to be able to make these kinds of statements publicly, and seemingly not be censured for doing so - at least, from where I'm sitting, not as much as Mo'Nique was in 2009/2010.

I recall an article on the matter, on Vanity Fair's website, written by Mark Olsen, with the title - Oscars: The Mo'Nique Problem - which should clue you in to what was contained within it.

Journalist Jeffrey Wells (who writes the popular industry Hollywood Elsewhere blog) was a key figure in the anti-Mo’Nique campaign at the time. As I recall, he was quite relentless; it practically became personal to him, and one could only scratch one's head in wonderment. Even if you're one of those who wasn't at all impressed with Mo'Nique's performance in Precious, how much ink is necessary to express your displeasure? At some point, it becomes ridiculous, and your motivation will be questioned. So, Wells shouldn't have been surprised when many called him a racist - something he took issue with.

In the Vanity Fair article, Wells was quoted several times, using some of his more caustic attacks on Mo'Nique. Specifically:

As for Mo’Nique herself, she’s a genuine primitive... Or so I think. Did she pretend not to understand the financial benefits of an Oscar race during that talk-show chat or is she really that thick? I thought her [Golden Globe] acceptance speech felt acted and lacked class. I thought her ‘talk to my husband’ reply to Tom O’Neil was major chickenshit. And the hairy legs thing was just astounding. Has an Oscar contending actress ever been on the red carpet with visible Yeti hair on her calves?... Mo’Nique’s spotty campaign and the certainty of her winning the Oscar is proof that you don’t have to campaign as much as most publicists think you have to... IF you’re the only real standout in your category and IF you’ve got every critics group going ‘baaaah!’ and giving you a win almost every time at bat. Plus there was never a strong Mo’Nique alternative choice. I found her performance and personality genuinely unappealing. Which of course makes me a racist. Naturally. END.

Of course, many found his "genuine primitive" line very problematic.

Further, Mark Olsen's article stated, at every turn, "Mo’Nique seems to challenge, consciously or not, the very foundation of how a sleek, supplicating awards-season actress should look or behave."

As I said at the time, I'm a sucker for anyone challenging the status quo. And if anything, her presence and her approach actually invigorated a ritualistic awards season that may have been rather dull, not-so unlike previous seasons. And I'm sure there are those Hollywood players who were and still are secretly applauding her in private, even though they may have been lambasting her in public, or didn't say anything at all.

The Vanity Fair article ended, stating, “Mo’Nique will go on to win the Oscar... but she’s ticked off a lot of people along the way - people who may have a chance to pay her back someday.

One could ask whether, the fact that she hasn't appeared in anything else since Precious, and her BET talk-show was canceled, may be the "payback" the Vanity Fair article suggested. Has Mo'Nique been, effectively, blacklisted, even though she did win the Oscar?

In a post-Oscar interview, on whether her Academy Award win will give her career a bounce, and if she feels intimidated, she stated:

“I am the highest-paid woman in the history of this network. That was before the Oscar. I’m a New York Times bestseller. That was before the Oscar. If I take that one trophy and base my entire career on it, I think God would say, ‘Are you serious?’ They say it should change my career somehow. We’ll see... I get intimidated at the top of the rollercoaster before it comes down from the top and I feel myself coming up in my seat and want to make sure the bar is tight around my waist. But I’m not intimidated by anything in this business.”

It's been awhile since we've written anything about her or projects she's attached to. The last public item I have on Mo'Nique is a December 2012 piece in the Amsterdam News in which the actress, who, as noted, has been conspicuously absent from the big screen since her Oscar win for her role in Precious, revealed what she’s been up to, while being decidedly vague when asked about any plans to get back to acting:

“I have truly been enjoying life and that’s what’s going on... It’s been enjoyable to have a period where I can watch my babies go off to school, make the field trips and that’s priceless. While I’m in the moment I will stay in it.”

So, she's chilling and being a mom, apparently.

Although I should mention that Mo'nique previously purchased life rights to Hattie McDaniel, and once said she wanted Lee Daniels to direct her in it. That was years ago; whether it's still something she wants to do, isn't public.

But going back to the GoldDerby.com report... the question is asked: How much campaigning is really necessary to win an Oscar? One answer given:

Jockeying for position amidst a glut of possible contenders in the crowded fall months, it's difficult to stand out, so the most important factor of any campaign is just to be seen. Academy members won't nominate a film they don't know about, so if your campaign is successful yours will be one of the films they make sure to watch before marking their ballots. Beyond that, to paraphrase Bonnie Raitt, you can't make them love you if they don't.

What do you guys think about all this, from the 4 gentlemen quoted about, to Mo'Nique, to the GoldDerby report?

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19 Comments

  • Joe Mahma | January 16, 2013 7:51 AMReply

    "caustic attacks on Mo'Nique?"

    Wahhhht?

  • Anti-believer | January 7, 2013 12:11 AMReply

    This author who wrote about Mo'nique originally sounds pissed off like someone back in high school. I found his complaints about nothing but the surface... literally. How teenage of you!

  • ALM | January 5, 2013 9:54 PMReply

    Monique is back doing stand up tours again, so she's working. As for this statement".... but she’s ticked off a lot of people along the way - people who may have a chance to pay her back someday.” <<<< Wells is something else. He acts as if Monique kidnapped his child or something. The level of self importance in Hollywood is ASTOUNDING. Since she didn't play "the game" the way he wanted her to, she should be "paid back"? How can you pay someone back who never did anything wrong? Will the karma train ever make a stop in the Los Angeles area?

  • James Brown - Say It Loud! | January 5, 2013 2:11 PMReply

    White Hollywood......f#&cked from start to finish.

  • dani | January 14, 2013 10:11 PM

    EXACTLY

  • willie dynamite | January 4, 2013 7:19 PMReply

    Any actor nominated knows what is involved once the nominations are announced. From the morning of the nominations announced to the night of the Oscars it is a DAILY promotional gig. There are multiple events, parties, interviews etc that go on every day leading up to the Oscars that you are expected to attend. The Academy likes to awards those that act as if they want the award, which is why it took so long for Sean Penn to win. It is extremely political. Monique's blatant defiance to the oscar shuffle definitely ruffled feathers of the stat quo and she did not relent, even during her acceptance speech.

  • Jasmine J. | January 4, 2013 5:42 PMReply

    I don't think the issue here is that they do not want to promote, but rather, they feel they are too "high and mighty" to go to the lesser-known events and award shows. Mo'nique had no issue sitting down with Oprah, or attending the Golden Globes and Oscars, but she threw a huge b**ch fit when it came time to promoting the film on the indie circuit. Heck, even superstar diva Mariah Carey attended the Toronto Film Festival and Palm Springs Int'l Film Festival in support of "Precious" ( events that Mo'nique did not attend, by the way).

  • Anwar | January 4, 2013 6:40 PM

    The Palm Springs Film Festival is NOT a part of the indie film circuit. It's barely a real film festival. It's basically a campaign stop with bought awards and gives one more chance for Oscar contenders to schmooze with the big shots. Publicists bought Mariah Carey an award there and she showed up drunk. No one takes that thing seriously. And TIFF? That was basically a "let's make this film an Oscar contender" stop too. And I mean she went to Sundance when the film had no prestige or press at all.

  • jacetoon | January 4, 2013 6:18 PM

    She had a full time job as a talk show host and allegedly there was an expectation that she pay for her own travel and clothing.

  • Tina | January 4, 2013 4:41 PMReply

    I think It is too easy to point to her post oscar career and put the blame squarely on her lack of self promotion. Absent any real knowledge of what roles she's actually being offered or what her particular plans are you can't with 100% certainty blame her lack of promotion on Oscars with her lack of high profile roles now. And the truth of the matter is that even before Precious Mo'Nique was not exactly burning up the big screen. She isn't the product of a drama or theatre degree like, say, Octavia Spenser -- someone with whom she would probably compete with for roles. She came out of stand-up and landed in tv shows and then got lucky with Precious. Not everyone can capitalize on an Oscar win (hello, Mira Sorvino) and I would say that a black actress of a certain age and of a certain look would have even less success. To draw a comparison, I would say that Melissa Leo was as controversial for her over promotion of her role in The Fighter as Mo'Nique was in her under-promotion and yet Leo is still getting roles. Also, Vanity Fair as a magazine is probably the opposite of progressive when doing anything positive to showcase the talents of any person of color especially women of color. So I take anything any person in that magazine says about any black woman with a grain of salt.

  • Jon | May 16, 2013 4:32 AM

    I don't get why people say she didn't promote herself for the Oscars. Sure she was very adamant about not "not playing the game" but every chance she got she talked about how she wasn't going to campaign. Isn't talking about not talking about something the same as talking about something? At the end of the day she made sure to stay on the Academy's radar. I think the reason people ragged on her is because she was, in essence, doing the same exact thing as EVERYONE else but then acting all high and mighty, like she was better than everybody. If she didn't want to jump through hoops for the Oscar she should've stayed home and kept her mouth shut but she didn't. Instead she insulted real actors, albeit indirectly, and questioned their artistic integrity. I'm not saying the Oscars aren't full of shit, they are, I'm just saying Monique isn't any better.

    To make things even worse there seemed to be an unspoken consensus amongst many black people that anyone that didn't like the film, on any level, was simply racist. So of course the Academy had to it give to her because if not people would've screamed bloody murder and bigotry and blah, blah, blah. (Think Spike Lee's usual bitching and moaning about Hollywood) And what business, because that is what Hollywood and the Oscars are, wants to deal with that kind of blow black?

    Personally I think Hollywood is racist, sexist, and all about politics, etc. That's why I'm glad Monique won. Now she can stare at that little golden statue and know that it was given to her by a bunch of old, bigoted assholes just to shut her and everyone else up. I'd be embarrassed to have that Oscar if I were her.

    By the way, and this is by no means a personal attack on you, but your comparison of Monique and Melissa Leo is ridiculous. Yes, they both caused a bit of a stir with the way the handled their Oscar moments but to suggest that Leo was forgiven her trespasses because she's white and Monique is still being punished because she's black is bullshit. That's like me saying why doesn't BET give Leo a talk show and a stand up special? Oh, that's right, because she's right. That's ridiculous.

  • Anz | January 4, 2013 9:16 PM

    applause

  • Donella | January 4, 2013 3:19 PMReply

    I think Monique has taken a break from a pretty vicious circle of sharks. She may find more opportunities overseas. Russell Crowe has also been on the receiving end of Hollywood's ire.

  • Donella | January 10, 2013 3:53 PM

    "So rare for a Black actor/actress to make it overseas." Very rare for a Black actress to win a Best Supporting Oscar, but she did. I hope Monique continues to defy your and everyone else's low-rent expectations.

  • NO BRAINER | January 10, 2013 12:45 AM

    What ANTI-BELIEVER just said.

  • Anti-believer | January 7, 2013 12:09 AM

    Overseas? HA! Don't make me laugh, but you did. So rare for a Black actor/actress to make it overseas. Then you also compare her to a white male actor. If you read the article, you would've saw that white male actors dominate Oscars... basically this field.

  • dw | January 4, 2013 3:18 PMReply

    I applaud Monique for challenging the status quo and allowing herself to be "in the moment." She's right, people conform to these so called foundations of "how [an]....actress should look or behave." But she proves that if you're not afraid of them, they don't have power over you. She was able to do what she wanted and be successful without having to shave her legs and lie about who she really is. Inspiration to those who are afraid to be honest... The truth will set you free, and even if it feels like rejection at first, eventually other people will come around... Insightful of you Tambay, to reflect back on this so that we can benefit from re-considering where Monique was coming from...

  • Anz | January 4, 2013 2:59 PMReply

    I'm confused. The article makes it seem as though she did in fact participate, but she did so in her own style. So what exactly was the problem? Also, the article is very vague about what the actual gripe is. Are they upset at having to advertise their movies by making red carpet and talk show appearances? Or is there more of a soul selling ritual that takes place?

  • Micah | January 4, 2013 1:39 PMReply

    I think one of the first rules of advertising is making sure they know you exist. If your film was a tiny budget film with out a lot of money to promote it, it's easy to overlook. Reminding people that you are here might help you. In a perfect world every one voting would get to see all of the films eligible before voting but that is simply not possible. So now you have ridiculous and somewhat politicized campaigns to win. That's why while I have respect for the Oscars, I can only take them so seriously.

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