Rules, schmules! Oscar hopefuls work around new guidelines

Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:52am EST
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By Ronald Grover

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The January 31 photo opportunity for the film "The Artist" came courtesy of Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who presented the cast and crew of the film with the inaugural "Made in Hollywood" award. But the photo op wasn't just a feel-good ceremony to celebrate the movie.

It also served as a clever marketing opportunity for Harvey Weinstein, the movie impresario who has made a history of tweaking rules set by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to restrict Oscar campaigning.

With balloting for the Oscar only a month away, the event was aimed not so much at citizens of Tinseltown as at the nearly 5,800 Academy members who could vote for "The Artist," one of the nine films nominated this year for Best Picture.

"The Artist" is the only one among this year's contenders for the world's top movie awards that was truly filmed in Hollywood, and the plaque being presented to the makers of the black-and-white, mostly silent movie about 1920s Los Angeles was a none-too-subtle bit of lobbying to movie folk who have seen film jobs leave for Toronto, New York and elsewhere in recent years.

What's good for Hollywood is, naturally, good for the Oscars and good for show business.

"The Artist" wasn't the only Oscar hopeful using the marketing ploy of a thinly veiled civic or educational event this year. Fox Searchlight, a unit of News Corp., sponsored "A Tribute to Classic Family Dramas From Oscars Past and Present" and sent "The Descendants" star George Clooney to a question-and-answer session at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles.

The Fox studio event was co-sponsored by the nonprofit American Cinematheque, some of whose members are also Academy members.

Dreamworks, which produced the "The Help," a tale of Southern maids in the 1960s, sponsored a symposium on "the power of films to create social change" with the USC School of Cinematic Arts.   Continued...

French actors Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo attend an interview session about the film "The Artist" in Paris January 24, 2012.   REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer