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Andrea Riseborough’s Unconventional Nomination is What’s Wrong with the Oscars

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Northwestern chapter.

January 24, 2023. The day that Oscar nominations came out, with 16 first-time nominees and many fan-favorite celebrities and films receiving nominations. If you keep up with the film awards season, many nominations did not come as a surprise as Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Brendan Fraser, Cate Blanchett, and Colin Farrell, among others. Others with critical acclaim that may have not scored those earlier nominations came as a surprise, given the competition of the year, such as Stephanie Hsu, Brian Tyree Henry, and Paul Mescal. But one nominee stuck out as a complete wildcard: Andrea Riseborough, nominated for her film To Leslie

When hearing this nomination, my initial reaction was huh? I had never heard of this film, even as someone fairly attuned to the entertainment industry. But I can safely say that I am not the only one. To Leslie premiered at South by Southwest in 2022, receiving similar awards to favorite Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, but was not picked up by a major distributor. Their distributor would be Momentum Pictures, an independent film distributor owned by parent company Hasbro. The distributor had no money to be able to advertise the film in any way and it would have an extremely limited release in theaters. The film has been playing in theaters for 4 months and it has a global total of $27,322. Most awards films don’t make that much money at the worldwide box office, but they can at least crack 100,000, which To Leslie can’t even say. 

And the surprising thing about this nomination is that up to this point, Andrea Riseborough wasn’t nominated for any other major industry awards, which are usually the precursor to the Oscars. That is not always the case, but a film and/or actor should be getting nominations in the big awards circles, largely due to the fact that there was not enough money to host awards screenings and panels done by the filmmakers to promote their work to awards voters. 

And because of this, Riseborough and the To Leslie team went about this promotional work in a more grassroots approach, one that has caused a lot of controversy. The first step in Riseborough’s campaign was To Leslie director Mary McCormack, Michael Morris’s wife, who cold emailed academy members asking them to promote Riseborough every day until the end of Oscar voting on January 17. She even invited members to her home to watch the film, which goes against Oscars campaign rules of not having parties specifically to promote a film, though there are loopholes. Riseborough also asked her famous friends, including Gwyneth Paltrow (who hosted a screening), Sarah Paulson, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet (who moderated a panel), and Cate Blanchett, among others, to post on social media and talk about her film to garner support. Blanchett even talked about Riseborough during her acceptance speech for her performance in Tar, where Riseborough wasn’t even nominated. 

Riseborough’s campaign strategy makes the Oscars seem to be more of a popularity contest than anything, which to an extent it already was. If Oscar nominations can be won based on how many big-name Hollywood friends a person has, it disregards the Oscars as an award intended to represent the accomplishments of film that year. The other actresses that Riseborough’s nomination was believed to go to were either Viola Davis for Woman King or Danielle Deadwyler for Till, both actresses of color. It seems a bit sketchy to see two Black actresses overlooked for incredibly compelling performances as a female general and the mother of Emmett Till for a white actress nominated in a completely unknown film. This demonstrates that just as Hollywood seems to progress, it does the opposite. And in a year where Oscar ratings continue to drop, this just serves as another reason why. People, myself included, are sick of seeing the same type of performances nominated in a giant popularity contest. 

The Oscars are currently meeting to see if Riseborough’s unconventional nomination route violated the rules. It is unlikely they will rescind Riseborough’s nomination, but it should serve as an example of what not to do. The Oscars must make sure they award the great performances of the year, not just the great white performances or great performances by their friends.

Maddie Coyle

Northwestern '26

Maddie is a freshman from Evanston, Illinois. She is majoring in Radio/TV/Film. She is incredibly passionate about all things film and television. She loves trying out new coffee shops, going on bike rides and walks, thrifting, and spending time with those she loves (her family, friends, and two adorable dogs).