Written by Sarah

Last week during the liveblog someone asked if I knew of any examples of when Oscar campaigning has backfired. I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head (Deadline includes a list in the article sourced below), but now we have a contemporary example.

Melissa Leo shot her campaign in the foot.

What did she do? She took out ads on her own dime promoting herself for the Oscar. I don’t think she’s in violation of AMPAS rules because the ads make no mention of The Fighter or even Best Supporting Actress, they just say “Consider” and include a link to her official website in small print. But they’re tacky. And frankly, disappointing.

Melissa Leo has not been this person. She has not been this desperate, grabby, me-me-me person. She has been for so long a working actress, a truly gifted character actress toiling in the trenches with no recognition for 98% of her career. Even after an Oscar nomination in 2008 for Best Actress (Frozen River) she continued to work her ass off for next to nothing. So why now is she losing her sh*t?

Maybe it’s the thrill of finally winning. Of finally getting to stand at the podium. Maybe that’s not quite enough, after nearly thirty years, maybe she wants more than just her ninety-second acceptance speech. She makes a valid point about actresses of a certain age having to fight for magazine covers. And Leo being so unknown to the general public has to fight extra hard because this isn’t a “comeback” or even a “discovery”, this is a long-time-coming culmination of decades of solid work. That’s not as sexy as the newly-discovered Hailee Steinfeld or Nicole Kidman’s “comeback” or Michelle Williams finally talking about Heath Ledger. That’s just…well…a job well done.

These ads of Leo’s, though, are not a job well done. They’re badly done. Cheap looking bordering on trashy (“trailer park,” one friend called them, “like Glamour Shots,” said my Academy acquaintance), they don’t even look like Leo. It’s always a problem when you don’t look like yourself. And then there’s the WHY.

WHY does Leo need to do this? Okay, so you’re not getting magazine covers. But the Oscar is in the bag. That’s sewn up. If this was Jacki Weaver, the totally unknown Australian nominee from the movie no one saw (Animal Kingdom), I would kind of almost get it. But it’s Melissa Leo. She’s won everything leading up to this point. She has no reason to say “consider”—she’s already being well and truly “considered”. Which means…this isn’t about the Oscar at all. This is about those magazine covers. And that’s disappointing. Melissa Leo is not supposed to be this person.

But now she is this person, this tacky, kind of desperate person. She’s too talented not to be hired but she isn’t special anymore. She isn’t that “hardworking actress who’s all about talent and craft and the work”. Now she’s just another actress who wants more magazine covers, more recognition, more attention. The cache of being an “actor’s actor” once gone can never be retrieved. Leo’s truly deserved Oscar win is being overshadowed by discussions about how unflattering these photos are and questions of WHY Melissa Leo, of all people, would resort to this.

The thing about foot wounds—they’re not fatal. This isn’t going to kill Leo’s chances at an Oscar. She’s still the (heavy) favorite for Best Supporting Actress. But foot wounds are annoying. They’re gross. They bleed a lot. They cause weird things to happen to your toe nails, like blackness and randomly falling off. (Not that I know about foot wounds…) Melissa Leo’s campaign foot wound is gross, not fatal. She’ll win on Oscar night, but will you fist pump?

Attached – Leo at the Nominees Luncheon yesterday.


Photos from Wenn.com