TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: Oscar nods fuel PR fire, but heat won’t warm voters to a bad flick

Now that this year’s Oscar nominations have been announced, spin doctors all over Tinseltown are readying full PR offensives for their clients in hope of generating buzz that translates into votes and, ideally, a mantle’s worth of statuettes on March 26.

Now that this year’s Oscar nominations have been announced, spin doctors all over Tinseltown are readying full PR offensives for their clients in hope of generating buzz that translates into votes and, ideally, a mantle’s worth of statuettes on March 26.

Now that this year’s Oscar nominations have been announced, spin

doctors all over Tinseltown are readying full PR offensives for their

clients in hope of generating buzz that translates into votes and,

ideally, a mantle’s worth of statuettes on March 26.



An early indication of the most effective campaigns came a week before

the nominees were announced when the Publicists Guild of America

announced nominations for top motion picture campaigns of 1999.



Among those flicks that got the nod were American Beauty and The

Talented Mr. Ripley. The Oscar fortunes of the two films clearly

illustrate what PR can - and can’t - do when it comes to getting the

attention of Academy voters.



With American Beauty snagging a Golden Globe for Best Picture and

several other major critics’ awards, a PR campaign reminding voters of

the accolades is a given. But for star Annette Bening, competing in the

hotly contested Best Actress race, PR played a more critical role.



The usually publicity-shy Bening has been a newsstand staple over the

last few months, appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair with husband

Warren Beatty and beaming beatifically from this month’s Good

Housekeeping.



Does this affect Oscar voters? One can’t be sure, but the barrage of

stories certainly can’t hurt. Clearly, the strategy makes Bening stand

out as a bona fide star among her lesser-known competition.



’This year’s race has a lot of nominees who aren’t necessarily household

names,’ said one studio insider. ’The strategy to put Annette out there

in a big way seems to reinforce the idea that she is the most seasoned

actress in the group and a genuine movie star. Hollywood loves

stars.’



But while Ripley garnered kudos for its PR campaign, the effort didn’t

win over the Academy. Though just about everyone believes that last

year’s full-frontal attack by Miramax (which jointly produced Ripley

with Paramount) helped Shakespeare in Love beat out Saving Private Ryan

for Best Picture, lightning simply didn’t strike twice for the

studio.



But it wasn’t for a lack of trying. After timing the film to come out

over Christmas (like Shakespeare and other Miramax Oscar winners before

it), star Matt Damon appeared on numerous magazines covers and was a

virtually inescapable presence on the daily chat shows. Miramax muse

Gwyneth Paltrow and man-of-the-moment Jude Law did their share of print

interviews as well. But the exposure seemed to do more for the actors

than for the film.



’The film just didn’t meet expectations,’ said one critic. Seems Mr.

Ripley wasn’t talented enough, after all.



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