Open Letter to Christian Bale: Oscar Campaigning IS Acting
Christian Bale! As your assistant Oscar coach, allow me to bawl you out. You're within a few rounds of the heavyweight title, best supporting actor. You're the No. 2 contender behind Geoffrey Rush on the Gurus o'Gold pundits poll, and today Anne Thompson ranked you the No. 1 contender, and Rush No. 5."Christian Bale, clean your tux and clear your schedules," says Movieline's Oscar Index.
But stuff like this makes you fighting mad, and it's hurting your championship chances. You think movies are strictly about art, marketing be damned, journalists go to hell. "I want to be able to just act and never do any interview," you tell John H. Richardson in his exquisite Esquire Q&A. "[Success] should just happen. If something's true and sincere, it happens regardless of marketing." No, it doesn't! Or Crash wouldn't have kayo'd Brokeback Mountain. "Art is no compromise," you snap.
So, can I have an interview for The Fighter? Wait, don't kick my ass like Jake LaMotta kicked Joey's in Raging Bull! I'm in your corner. I bet I would've taken your side in your Terminator: Salvation on-set bout -- because it sounds like you were defending artistic standards.
But let me defend the art of movie marketing. When your performance wraps, you start a new role: Oscar campaigner. Turn that fist into a handshake. Read the How to Win 101 training plan from THR's head coach, Stephen Galloway (and the whole story in The Hollywood Reporter weekly magazine).
Maybe you hate critics, whom Mark Twain called "crickets," but their awards and 10-best lists affect the fate of the artwork you and Mark Wahlberg have been fighting to make for years. And critics aren't enough. "Going back 20 years, the best-reviewed movies tend not to win best picture," says Rottentomatoes editor in chief Matt Atchity. "The Academy tends to vote on different criteria." I can't prove Oscar predictors' bets affect the results, but I bet they do. So you should charm-bomb us along with the whole Oscar circus.
Julianne Moore in "The Kids Are All Right."
Look: Are you saying you have more art cred than Julianne Moore? More integrity? At Thursday's DVD launch party at Eva restaurant for The Kids Are All Right, a piece of art by purists whose Oscar spotlight is just as thrilling and deserved as yours, Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and director Lisa Cholodenko charmed the pants off a tableful of Oscar reporters (a phylum generally ranked below "crickets"). Moore cheerfully said she had to go take her skirt off and put on her pants to go to the airport, simulating the kind of faux journo-star intimacy you disdain.
She also explained that when she promoted the film on Leno, she had to write a script about her personal life for her chat with Jay, collaborating with Jay's staff writers. "You can't just go up there and have a normal conversation," she said. It has to be a scene. At the same table sat major Oscar blogger Pete Hammond, who scripted what stars said at the Academy's Governor's Awards. Like Oscar telecast scripter Bruce Vilanch, he knows that for entertainment to score, it needs entertaining marketing too.
Cholodenko chatted about her art -- The Kids Are All Right is rooted in Rafelson, Mike Nichols and Altman films -- and also about her quick trip from indies like High Art to eligibility for high honors, top scripts, high budgets. EW ranks it No. 2 for best picture, ahead of The King's Speech and The Social Network. "It's like waking up in one of those weird dreams," she said. "'Oh, wow, I had this weird Hollywood dream.' It is a little bit like eating a lot of chocolate." As we Oscar pundits ate excellent Eva chocolate, the arty, now bankable auteur said she wouldn't insist on writing her own movies forever. "I'm open for business."
Christian Bale: Be more open to this Oscar business. It's good for your art.
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Scott Feinberg, the lead awards analyst for The Hollywood Reporter, is one of the entertainment industry's most experienced and trusted experts about the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys. He started on the awards beat in 2001, writing for independent websites including his own ScottFeinberg.com before joining the Los Angeles Times and then THR, for which he writes “The Race” blog, which won the LA Press Club’s National Entertainment Journalism Award for best entertainment blog of 2012-2013. A voting member of both the Broadcast Film Critics' Association and Broadcast Television Journalists Association, he is also writing a book about film history for young people for which he has interviewed more than 500 high-profile Hollywood figures whose careers span the silent era through the present.
Follow Scott on Twitter at twitter.com/scottfeinberg.