December 8, 2009 / 8:07 AM / 8 years ago

Oscar insiders take their movie chat online

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Adam Shankman has a Twitter habit, and it’s making Academy officials nervous.

<p>Director Adam Shankman arrives as a guest at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts &amp; Sciences 2009 Governor Awards in Hollywood, California November 14, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>

Although the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nothing against publicity, it likes to dole out its news about the 82nd Annual Academy Awards, set for March 7, on its own timetable.

Shankman, who is producing the Oscar show with Bill Mechanic, doesn’t share that reserve, though. He enjoys talking to the fans directly via his Twitter account, which has more than 48,000 followers, as the mood strikes him.

To date, Shankman hasn’t had too much to say about the upcoming awards show. Instead, a lot of his tweets have been devoted to Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” where he became a permanent judge in October.

But this past weekend, Shankman’s thoughts turned to Oscar.

It began innocently enough. Visiting New York, he tweeted on Saturday, “Had dinner last night with Oscar cohosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Laughed so hard I almost passed out. This is gonna b goooood...”

Then, on Sunday, he tossed a question into the Twitterverse: “Curious: what and who do u wanna see on the oscars? What would make u watch?”

FAN FRENZY

Fans responded in a frenzy. Lots of requests for “High School Musical” stars Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, scattered calls for the kids from “Glee” and Neal Patrick Harris as well as impassioned pleas for “Twilight‘s” Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart.

“If Rob and Kristen present an award together, or even just Kristen since she wasn’t invited (rude!) last yr, I’d 4 sure watch,” one of Shankman’s followers tweeted back.

Lots of singer Adam Lambert’s fans demanded that he be included. (The mere mention of his name, after his pelvis-grinding turn on the American Music Awards, probably had Oscar broadcaster ABC reaching for the tape-delay button.)

When Shankman posed the follow-up question -- referring to “So You Think You Can Dance” -- “would u watch the oscars with more excitement if I cast some sytycd dancers if there are musical #s,” the fans went nearly berserk with excitement. “I will watch the Oscars no matter what, but my excitement factor will be ten-fold if you have SYTYCD alumns in the show. :),” one responded.

Ultimately, after stirring up the fan frenzy, Shankman backed away from any promises. “We will C if thr R musical #s :).,” he tweeted. “I h8 musical #’s in shows when they don’t make sense. I‘m choreographing, so the dancers will be amazing.” Addressing the minority of respondents who were horrified at the thought that the Oscars might turn into some “Twilight”-meets-“High School Musical”-meets-“So You Think You Can Dance” marathon, Shankman tweeted, “I promise that the glamour and sense of occasion will be present! It’s the oscRs for god sakes! I‘m good at this. They are going to be great.”

The whole exchange demonstrated that the Oscar process is opening up in the age of such social network sites as Twitter and Facebook.

PUBLIC CONVERSATION

The Academy, which frowns on outright campaigning, would probably prefer that its members keep their opinions to themselves. But what’s starting to happen is that those post-screening discussions that used to take place in the lobby of the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater are now beginning to pop up on online, where almost anyone can listen in.

In mid-November, for example, screenwriter John August, who was invited to join the Academy in July, tweeted, “First DVD screener came today: 500 Days of Summer. Begin 109 Days of Awards Season. Sigh.” A few minutes later, he added, “No sooner did I tweet than FedEx showed up with 6 more screeners. The August Family Film Festival begins shortly.”

A few days later, Killer Films’ Christine Vachon chimed in that she’d been “charmed by 500 Days of Summer.”

Although “(500) Days of Summer,” Marc Webb’s deconstructed romance starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, did a tidy bit of business -- $32 million domestic -- when it was released in July, it’s a safe bet that not many older awards voters saw it during its initial release. Fox Searchlight’s decision to get those screeners out early appears to be paying off because the film picked up three Spirit Award nominations last week.

Suddenly, the recommendations are pouring in from every direction.

Sarah Silverman described “Fantastic Mr. Fox” as “pure Joy” and in another tweet testified, “PRECIOUS wins it all. ... You will lose so much water weight out your eyeholes.” Ben Stiller urged, “See The Messenger if it is near you. Powerful movie about the effects of war. Great performances.” And visual effects supervisor Jean-Luc Dinsdale tweeted, “Just got my District 9 Academy screener. Love this movie!”

This weekend, the attention of Hollywood’s twittering classes turned to “Up in the Air.” Producer Frank Marshall tweeted, “National Board of Review Best Picture-UP IN THE AIR. Go see it this weekend, you’ll see why...” Echoed actress/filmmaker Nia Vardalos in a tweet addressed to the movie’s director, Jason Reitman, “Congrats! Up in the Air wins National Board of Review Best Pic. Please all, see this movie First Friday.” August took the advice, tweeting Saturday night, “Up in the Air killed. Every little detail landed, with a minimum of fuss.”

Shankman’s instinct to draw fans closer to the process simply reflects the fact that in this age of Twitter even Hollywood insiders are themselves just another fan base.

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