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

One of the ads actress Melissa Leo purchased on behalf of her Oscar campaign ...

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

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?


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