Nick Leshi

Nick Leshi
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Bronx, New York, United States of America
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December 13
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Writer, actor, media professional, fan of entertainment, pop culture, and speculative fiction. Contact nickleshi@aol.com for more info.

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FEBRUARY 9, 2013 11:11PM

Campaigning to Win an Oscar

Rate: 7 Flag
The Academy Awards ceremony is only a few short weeks away, and the deadline is February 19 for the final ballots from those eligible to vote in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which means the campaign to win those coveted golden statuettes (affectionately nicknamed "Oscar") is heating up. As a clear example of the competitive nature of the race, my weekly issue of Hollywood Reporter arrived in the mail heavier than usual. The extra weight was the result of not one but two heavy-stock booklets promoting one of the contenders for "Best Picture." The print industry should feel very grateful to the people of show business who continue to spend outrageous amounts of money on magazine and newspaper advertising and print marketing collateral to hype their nominees during the awards season.  This is in addition to the extra budgets for press junkets, extra showings of contending movies in theaters for Academy members, free screeners and tchotchkes, and more, all to try to earn an edge and win what is seen as the ultimate prize.

The two marketing booklets that were attached to this week's issue of Hollywood Reporter were for Lincoln and Argo, arguably the two frontrunners to win the "Best Picture" category. The Lincoln piece was probably the third hefty insert I have seen for that film in the past few months. DreamWorks is really trying hard to spare no expense to make voters know that this is a "special" movie worthy of top honors for everyone involved. The Argo insert included a mini-documentary DVD about the true events that inspired the production and a booklet that neatly combined in one package everything that the previous Lincoln pieces showcased -- a timeline of the historical events in the film, the characters and actors who played them, the creative talent behind the scenes, the stellar quotes about the motion picture by critics from a long string of publications, and most importantly for Argo, a list of the many awards it has already won. 

These are not cheap one-sheets, but expensive multi-page marketing material. Spielberg has been burned in the past (as chronicled in the book The Men Who Would Be King) losing out to other films when arguably he should have won the prize, so no doubt his studio is sparing no expense in this campaign.  Likewise, Warner Bros. and its production and distribution partners are doing the same for Argo, which continues to stun with its strong word of mouth, great reviews, and victories in other prestigious awards ceremonies, including for director and star Ben Affleck, who was snubbed by the Academy.

I used to be so naive, thinking that the awards were given out to deserving winners based on quality and merit alone, that voters actually voted on the actual movies they saw, not manipulated by all the hoopla paid for by the producers and distributors who spend a small (and often not so small) fortune in an attempt to emerge victorous on Oscar night. These campaigns are no joke, starting with the early "For Your Consideration" shout outs for everyone and everything, and culminating with this burst of fevered pitching and shmoozing.  Politics has nothing on campaigning compared to show biz.

Is all the expense really worth it?  Do Oscar victories really translate to a boost in box-office and ancillary sales? I suspect that it's more about ego than just a financial investment. The Academy Awards are, after all, the film industry's self congratulations, and who among us does not wish to have the respect and accolades of our peers?  Who wouldn't want the phrase "Academy Award Winner" attached to their name and project?

So, who will emerge victorious? Will it be Lincoln or Argo? The irony might be that another film altogether steals the spotlight.  

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It also about brokering better deals.
If I were a member of the Academy, I would be voting for SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
If I were a member of the Academy, I would be voting for SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, which is a wonderful feel good movie on the level of Frank Capra. I never saw THE ARTIST, which won last time, because they showed so many parts of it, and I knew it didn't appeal to me. I think that for people who watch the awards, sometimes one become attracted to a movie by what they see in the clips. I think it helps a movie to be nominated, and it helps an actor to be nominated. Are mailings for political campaigns successful? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Maybe this is the same thing. I think anyone who is a voting member should take it seriously. View the movies and make a decision, based on artistic judgement, not what they are being told to do. It should be as simple as that. I know when it comes to voting for fellow actors, all kinds of weird decision making comes in. But that psychology shouldn't work for best movies. LINCOLN was good, but mainly because of what it taught us, and the good acting. It was quite slow going at times, and not entertaining in the way a movie should be entertaining.
I can understand advertising to get Academy voters to see the nominated movies and performances, but this seems excessive, like a political campaign, trying to convince voters "why" they should be award, instead of trusting the voters to make their own value judgements. And I blame Weinstein -- now Spielberg and the rest probably feel that if they don't campaign, their hard work will be overlooked because others are campaigning.
I like the People's choice awards. Less political. If one of these people in the academy JUST DOESN'T LIKE someone, they will give them no chance. The populace, on the whole, watches movies because they are interesting thus giving stars they may not like, a chance to shine through.
I've seen Lincoln, Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty…and I personally would rate them: Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, and Argo.

I honestly do not see why Argo is even a contender. Even if based on real events, it is, at best, a cliché driven, so-so “thriller.” But obviously that has to do with individual tastes, because there are so many supporters for that film.

Should be an interesting night. This will be the first year since I cannot remember when…for me to watch.
The Oscars are silly, Bourgeois excercises in Capitalist, masturbatory self-satisfaction. Nothing is more insane than millionaires giving golden statues to eachother, patting themselves on the back and telling eachother how wonderful and liberal they are.

There should be wage-caps on actors, directors, producers and directors. Writers should have a wage floor and their wages increased. There should be more social-input regarding the quality and nature of the films that are made---these shouldn't be based on market principles, as capitalism is decadent and corrupts the quality of the artistic medium.

Socialism is a much better system for producing quality film and art, in general. The US produces trash, because capitalism is a garbage economic system that rewards and incentivizes crappiness.
If I had any say in the matter, they would hand out granite statues of Lenin. These statues would be given out to film folks who made movies with the deepest and most profound messages of social justice.

Movies would be judged on the basis of artistic merit, as well as ideological content.
If you make an art film and nobody wants to see it, would it still be an art film or just crap?
Classic art films of the type seen in the West at independent film festivals, these are useless, Bourgeois crap. Basically, they are the infantile whining rants of self-absorbed, frustrated proletarians who sub-consciously desire revolution, but sublimate this through art, because they have been emasculated through the castrating superstructure of capitalist society.

True film, as we see with Sergei Eisenstein, is both artistically profound, and has a meaningful philosophical/social message for humanity. This is true art. It both reflects reality and moves it higher. It must have a purpose.

Michaelangelo, Raphael, Da Vinco. All the Italian Rennaissance Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle artists....their work was profound because it was not only stylistically significant, but also philosophically profound. It aimed at distilling a message about faith, man, society, nature, love, passion and the like.

If you cannot combine style with substance, crap is the only outcome. That said, substance without style is far superior to style without substance. This is the essential aspect of modern America. It is all style, no substance. A plastic culture that serves a masturbatory function for a people and civilization in terminal decline.

The world will once again know the truth of socialism.
I like how Stalin dealt with movie producers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boris_Shumyatsky
When governments control the arts, all you get is propaganda like Triumph of the Will.
Looking forward to your take on the actual event.
Mine was just posted.
Nick: Of course. The communists failed, because in countering corporate power, they tried to give the government absolute power. This corrupted them absolutely, and caused bad things.

The key, we realize, is to destroy all forms of power concentration through massive, decentralization of power. Through the total annihilation of all power concentration.

When it comes to the motion picture industry, we can see how concentrated financial and organizational power, from corporations, has created some good. On the other hand, it has also caused much evil, in terms of vacuous movie stars, meaningless scripts, the saturation of senseless special effects and horrible acting. Corporatization of the motion picture industry has put minimum influence on good writing and acting, and a higher influence on special effects, sex appeal, simplistic writing (which can be more easily translated into 20 different languages, which aids international distribution among a multi-national movie-going clientele), as well as the distribution and organizational efficiency that is inherent in such a large, top-down scheme.

I hope the time will come when we no longer need the studio system and the corporate structure it uses. This will not only be more democratic, but will improve the quality of movies, as well. The internet will do this for us. Currently, the Motion Picture Association of America, through their former Sheriff of Nottingham, Jack Valenti, passed some horrible and draconian copyright laws. These served to maximize copyright, intellectual property and royalty rights among the big companies, producers, directors and actors.

This is horrible. Art should be produced for purposes of communication and the transmission of beauty, not the profit-motive. The desire for profit causes degradation of art. Certainly, artists need financing, but when greed takes over, the product suffers.

Large commercial movie companies also make it hard for highly talented actors/actresses, as well as directors and film-makers to get into the industry. They act like a politburo of sorts. The way to destroy their power is through the annihilation of their profit source, which is primarily found through intellectual property law as well as copyright and royalty rights.

What we need is 100% open access and freedom of information.

My prediction is that in 100 years, all movies, videos and music will be downloadable for free, with the ascent of China as a world power and the inability of the West to prevent them from dominating global media and re-writing global media and intellectual copyright laws. This, in turn, will cause higher creativity and and an increase in quality among the output of Western artists. They will focus more on live performances, on theatre, on the personal, on things that cannot be transmitted electronically.

Rock bands are now seeing diminishing returns from CDs and record sales. As such, there is increased pressure for them to make a living from live performances. This is as it should be. It is the triumph of the human and the personal. Democracy at work through the leveling of the playing field.
Also: regarding Leni Riefenstahl----the most sinister government propaganda doesn't consist of obvious films, like Triumph des Willens. It consists of subtle, indirect influence on movies. For example, when "Air Force One," and "The American President" were made during the Clinton Administration, so as to boost public approval of Clinton during his administration. Hollywood did many subtle propaganda pieces for Bill Clinton during his administration. However, many liberals refuse to accept this, because they are not interested in objective truth, but only in calling out conservatives for their errors.

To evolve, we must cure defects in all who have them, friend and foe alike.

Other forms of subtle propaganda include the movie, "The Green Beret," with John Wayne, which was promoted heavily, behind the scenes, by Lyndon Johnson, in order to influence the public to support his escalation of the Vietnam War.
I think there is always a measure of spin...But I always remain hopeful that hard work is rewarded...