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Let’s Talk: Did Melissa Leo Ruin Her Oscar Chances?

Above: One of the ads actress Melissa Leo purchased on behalf of her Oscar campaign to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

One of Melissa Leo's ads encouraging Academy voters to "consider" her for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in "The Fighter."
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Above: One of Melissa Leo's ads encouraging Academy voters to "consider" her for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in "The Fighter."

I'm curious what you think about this year's Oscar kerfuffle (there's always one leading up to the marathon Hollywood love fest).

The undeniably talented actress Melissa Leo ("Frozen River," "Treme"), known for hard-bitten characters, was nominated this year for best supporting actress for her role in "The Fighter."

The dust-up surrounds two "For Your Consideration" ads in the Hollywood trades that feature Leo. These ads are ubiquitous this time of year and studios finance them to sway Academy voters.

The difference here is that Leo financed her own ads (she's since backpeddled, saying the studio made her do it). She says she did it to combat ageism in Hollywood, since actresses her age don't get the same face time on magazine covers as younger stars.

It's hard to believe that Leo's self-promotion is so offensive to the (ahem) modest Hollywood crowd. Apparently, you don't promote yourself in such an openly egregious way. You do it under the auspices of the studio making you do it.

The second "mistake" Leo made has to do with the look of these ads. They are glamour shots - and not far off from the kind of images produced by the mall-based Glamour Shots franchise. She's wearing a lot of make-up, fur (apparently fake) and, evening gowns.

In other words, she looks exactly like every other celebrity walking down the red carpet! Why the fuss?

But Leo, who in her films, often looks like she's never seen a MAC counter, is known for characters with a lot of miles on them. The fact that she would step out of her indie persona and doll it up is offensive to some.

I personally think the whole thing is ridiculous. Who cares if she paid for the ads? Why not do what you can to win an award that will help you get more roles in the future? Leo's hardly a household name (though she should be) and an Oscar win will increase her profile ten-fold. Why should she wait for the studio to step in on her behalf?

The ads are a little cheesy, but I also admire Leo's attempt to change her persona in the public sphere, to show that she can expand her look. Everyone knows the roles for women of Leo's age are scarce.

In what is turning out to be the most predictable Oscar ceremony in years, I'm now curious about the best supporting actress category. If Leo doesn't win, it will certainly be blamed on this campaign.

What do you think? Was this a huge mistake on Leo's part? Do you think it was in bad taste? Should her publicist be tarred and feathered for such a PR misstep? Or do you think controversy is ridiculous?

Comments

Avatar for user 'Noticed'

Noticed | February 25, 2011 at 11:58 a.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

If you look at the women nominated this year, they are almost entirely (with the exception of Natalie Portman) from very small films. How many people saw Frozen River? Sadly, too few. Melissa Leo was phenomenal in it. I don't blame her for promoting herself. She knows her isn't a household name and she also knows she deserves to be noticed.

We see backlash against women who self-promote in all industries, not just in Hollywood. They are expected to accept lower-paying jobs and rampant double standards and keep quiet about it.

This controversy is ridiculous. If she were a man, the conversation wouldn't be happening.

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Avatar for user 'Angela Carone'

Angela Carone, KPBS Staff | February 25, 2011 at 12:41 p.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

You know, I wondered the same thing. If this were a man, would there be such a fuss? Hard to tell. If Colin Firth paid for ads campaigning for his bid for best actor, would people have complained? Maybe, but likely not.

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Avatar for user 'Tennessee3501'

Tennessee3501 | February 25, 2011 at 3:50 p.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

Although Melissa Leo's Ads have generated a lot of comments from bloggers, I really wonder if Academy voters are really influenced by such nonsense. Should an Academy voter cast a ballot against an actor/actress because of his/her race? Religion? Gender? Sexual orientation? Political affiliations? Age? Self promoting ads? What is the difference? The Academy Awards were created and exist to recognize and reward achievment. Melissa Leo gave, in my humble opinion, the "Best Performance By An Actress in a Supporrting Role" for 2010. If an Academy voter disagrees, vote for the nominee of your choice. Vote on the merits. Do not vote on the basis of the ads.

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