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Growing Resentment Of Oscar Campaigns Recalls Mo'Nique's Controversial 'Precious' Choice

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by Tambay A. Obenson
December 23, 2013 3:18 PM
13 Comments
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It's that time of the year again...

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, 4 years ago. 

As was the conversation earlier this year, there's been 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," as GoldDerby.com put it - 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, Michael Fassbender joined the chorus started earlier this year, stating firmly in a GQ interview that he won’t be campaigning for an Oscar nomination for his much-ballyhooed performance in 12 Years A Slave, for which he's very likely going to be nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category. 

You might recall similar previous statements from others before him, made during the last awards season:

- David Cronenberg: "Every year I try to be as disconnected as possible... 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: "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."

- Matt Damon: "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.

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.

And with his recent revelation of his plans to not campaign for a nomination for his role in 12 Years A Slave, Fassbender (who said in an interview with GQ, "I'm not a politician, I'm an actor") certainly doesn't fear any sort of retribution from Academy voters.

And what does his 12 Years A Slave director, Steve McQueen think of his decision? His campaign is on screen. That’s Michael Fassbender’s Oscar campaign. He’s done his thing. That’s it,” McQueen has said in support.

I recall an article on the Monique "non-Oscar-campaigning" 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.

I've yet to see any pieces titled "Oscars: The Michael Fassbender Problem," nor did I see anything of the sort for any of the other above actors after they made their feelings about the campaign process known, and during years that they were up for nominations.

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 spell out that 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, here's a sample:

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, to start.

Further, from Mark Olsen's article: "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 [BET]. 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.”

She's been chilling apparently, being a mom, and working hard to lose pounds (which she's done), if her Twitter feed is any indication.

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 original point of this piece... the question is asked: How much campaigning is really necessary to win an Oscar? One answer given at GoldDerby:

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.

I'm sure, campaign or not, Fassbender will get a nomination for 12 Years A Slave. Whether he wins, is another matter. But I think mankind will be shocked if his name isn't announced next month, when the nominees are revealed.

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13 Comments

  • Alias | December 27, 2013 5:50 PMReply

    @Critical Acclaim. I second your thoughts. And will add... What is more surprising to me is that, for whatever reason (I guess wanting to take time off for personal and familial reasons) Monique didn't seek to ride the wave of winning by, immediately, jumping on board other projects. Even if she just put on a producer's hat for a moment. It seems, to me, that the most important aspect of winning an Oscar is using it to further your career opportunities.

    Yes, Monique was already an established comedic actress and TV host, but even the most diehard fans, sometimes, move on if the person they admire/follow/support isn't producing anything or in the forefront of their minds. ...And I think it makes it that much more difficult
    to then "comeback" as it were, even if you (i.e. Monique) never felt as though you left.

    Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer are excellent recent examples of nominees/winners who have really capitalized on their nominations. And not just with their work, but I think for Davis, in particular, really being an activist speaking out about the dearth of opportunity for black actresses in Hollywood. I really applaud them for fully utilizing their platform(s) in ways that not only benefit them, but shed light on ongoing problems in the industry, and problems, in society, in general, that directly, and disproportionately, affect black people.

  • Donella | December 30, 2013 7:57 PM

    What I don't admire about Davis is that she repeatedly listed Black screenwriters as her number one obstacle to success. Side-eye to Davis on that.

  • Critical acclaim | December 25, 2013 7:24 PMReply

    Ignoring the low class barbs below, I loved this post and the analysis. Good points throughout. Thanks.

  • Malcolmx | December 24, 2013 5:21 PMReply

    Yall black nigg@s love these cracker ass nigg@s Oscars, I'm tired a reading all yall nigg@s talk about these cracker @ss Oscars all day long, Precious winning Oscars, Help winning Oscars, Slaves winning Oscars, Butlers winning Oscars, Gay is the New Black winning Oscars, I would give yall nigg@s an Oscar too but yall n@ggas don't deserve it.

  • Solid E | December 24, 2013 3:47 PMReply

    The problem with the Oscars is that the definition of Academy Award Winning has never been defined. The selection process as we know it is simply a matter of personal preference which removes artistic from the equation completely. Should the academy of motion picture arts and sciences review all literature on how to write a great screenplay, direct, edit etc., and make a checklist? Should there be a rule that states didactic themes will not be considered by the academy? Hollywood has dug a hole for itself.

  • BLACKMAN | December 24, 2013 1:19 PMReply

    FUG White People's Plastic Make-Believe Fairytales. The Oscars is just another DISTRACTION of monumental perportion. Monique will NEVER-EVER be forgotten. I watched it. She Shut-It-Down. She was HERSELF. And in this world with everybody dying to lose themselves, it's a Blessing to see REAL PEOPLE ON TV.

    Be You. Live You. Love You; and Follow Your Path. (That is what Monique did). Besides, She Always Kept it Real!

    Why ya'll want her to be a Fake-Plastic-Phony-Sellout for a Coin? (that is you - STOP externalizing it)


    Monique makes Fake People shake.

    Why?

    Because THE TRUTH is the last thing White People Seek.

  • Donella | December 23, 2013 9:00 PMReply

    Well, Marlon Brando did them all one better with his denunciation of the Oscars in the name of Native Americans.

    Monique is a brave lady with integrity. She spoke about the behind-the-scenes shade she received on her talk show. Barbara Walters was terrible towards her.

    While she may have ticked off a few monsters in the industry, I'm sure she will rise again and take her rightful place on call lists, even if she has to produce her own work, which is ALWAYS an option.

    Her friends in the industry have been mighty quiet and kept their distance from her which is sad. I'm sure Monique has taken a good long look around her and sorted through her contacts.

  • Donella | December 26, 2013 11:23 AM

    I saw the video of the View when Monique was a guest.

    Both Barbara and Joy were very shadeful towards her, but especially Barbara.

    But when Joy couldn't stop her mouth, Monique seemed quite willing to ask Joy what the five fingers said to her face.

  • beemooree | December 23, 2013 9:36 PM

    Donella Barbara was not terrible to mo'nique. All that mess was false. Ppl made up stories saying Barbara called Mo'nique twins creatures which was false.

  • Alberta | December 23, 2013 5:17 PMReply

    yea i say f*ck any group of white males that has something in common

  • Rick | December 23, 2013 4:07 PMReply

    I feel like Phoenix was taken to task for his criticism of the Academy. Enough that he had to issue an apology just to get the backfire to stop/

  • Nemesis | December 23, 2013 3:47 PMReply

    Well, it's excusable for white males to be above it all... but Monique should have been grateful, dagnammit!

    Was always respectful of Monique's decision. What surprised me more was the number of black people thinking her actions were out of order.

  • cashandcarry | December 23, 2013 4:10 PM

    Exactly.

    I wonder what those people will say now.

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