Tales from Tinseltown - Accusations, shady reporting and bad hype? It’s Oscar time!

Is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences promoting this year’s anything-can-happen Oscar race a little too well? It seems that the venerable organization is spewing forth so much hype about the March 26 ceremony that it has managed to attract unprecedented - and, in some cases, unwelcome - attention.

Is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences promoting this year’s anything-can-happen Oscar race a little too well? It seems that the venerable organization is spewing forth so much hype about the March 26 ceremony that it has managed to attract unprecedented - and, in some cases, unwelcome - attention.

Is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences promoting this

year’s anything-can-happen Oscar race a little too well? It seems that

the venerable organization is spewing forth so much hype about the March

26 ceremony that it has managed to attract unprecedented - and, in some

cases, unwelcome - attention.



The reporters on the mailing list to receive missives about the ceremony

are getting several press releases per day on everything from the

ever-expanding list of presenters to who will be serving up the haute

cuisine at the post-show Governor’s Ball. (Just so you know, it’s

Wolfgang Puck.)



These daily updates on the ceremony have become standard fare in Variety

and on shows like Access Hollywood. This is all well and good, says one

Academy member, but there are rules that must still be respected

However, pesky journalists trying to sniff out behind-the-scenes

goings-on involving the voting process have apparently crossed the line

this year.



Claiming that The Wall Street Journal was polling Academy members on how

they would be voting without disclosing that the questioners were, in

fact, reporters, academy president Robert Rehme declared war on the

paper. He fired off a letter to Academy members warning them about this

scam; a spokesperson for the WSJ countered by denying Rehme’s claims

that the callers weren’t being open about the fact that they were

reporters.



While there’s nothing per se illegal about the Journal’s actions, the

paper has ruffled more than a few feathers. Says one Academy member:

’It’s an unwritten rule in covering the Oscars that there are subjects

which are off-limits. Getting members to speak off the record about who

might win based on insider information certainly falls into that

category.’



The Academy’s policies clearly state that members cannot reveal their

choices. But another miffed member said that those who were quizzed

skirted this policy by turning the tables on the scribes and giving

false info.



Alas, the saga continues. There has also been some talk among Academy

members that studio spies have been making calls to voters.



Perhaps some ill-will remains on the part of various factions who claim

Miramax used any means necessary last year to steer votes away from

Dreamworks’ Saving Private Ryan. Those same voices are now clamoring

that The Cider House Rules’ seven nominations can be attributed to

another Miramax push.



So the question remains: when does ’word of mouth’ become a bad

thing?



The answer: apparently whenever Hollywood power brokers don’t get to

control what’s being said.



- Diane Clehane is a contributing editor for TV Guide.



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