Last night’s Oscars error has already spawned conspiracy theories, some goofy, some more serious. But this is hardly the first time the Oscars have been the target of conspiracy theories. Here, ranked by credibility, are a handful of them.
Scientology Derailed Going Clear‘s Nomination
Alex Gibney’s documentary Going Clear looked closely at the history of Scientology, how it uses celebrities to draw followers and play down its scandals, and interviewed ex-members who’d been abused. Needless to say, the Church of Scientology, famous for being vindictive and free with lawsuits, fought Gibney’s documentary tooth and nail right down to the release, dumping smear videos on the internet and essentially confirming the film’s central thesis. And that’s led some to believe that Going Clear, which made the shortlist for Best Documentary Feature but didn’t get nominated, was the victim of Scientology behind the scenes.
Is It Credible?: It’s certainly possible. While nothing’s ever been proved, and it’s unlikely it ever will be, Scientology, which is famously well ensconced in Hollywood, would have certainly wanted to stop the positive buzz and higher viewership an Oscar nomination would have gotten the movie.
Ben Affleck’s Political Connections Cost Him Best Director
Argo took home a lot of awards at the 2012 Oscars, including Best Picture. But Ben Affleck, who directed and starred in the movie, wasn’t nominated for either. Why? Some postulate that Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney stepped in to boost Argo‘s chances as a favor to Ben Affleck for campaigning for him years ago. Courtney had issues with how his state of Connecticut was represented in Lincoln, specifically that the state voted against the 13th amendment, which ended slavery in the United States. Not unreasonably, Courtney was a little upset his state was shown being pro-slavery, but some noted that the timing was a little too convenient not to be suspicious, right at the height of awards season.
Is It Credible?: While it’s an unlikely chain of events, it’s not impossible that Courtney’s letter put the Academy off Affleck, who still took home a little gold man since he produced. But there’s a far more prosaic explanation, in light of Ang Lee winning for The Life Of Pi: Spielberg, Affleck, and a few others split the vote enough that they all got knocked out of contention, especially as they both have Oscars already.
The Academy Blocked The Dark Knight From Its Rightful Nominations
If you’re an awards watcher, it’s usually pretty easy to predict who gets the nominations for the Oscars. You just track who gets nominated at the satellite awards, such as the Director’s Guild, the Producer’s Guild, and the Writer’s Guild. And The Dark Knight, a critically acclaimed, record-shattering blockbuster, seemed poised to get many nominations. But The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and other awards. Instead, many of those nominations went to The Reader, which in any other year would probably have had a decent shot, but The Dark Knight was more popular both with critics and with audiences. The following year, the Academy changed the rules to allow up ten nominees for Best Picture.
Is It Credible?: While nerds would love to imagine that the greatest superhero movie of all time got screwed by the priggish Academy, the far more likely reality is that the Academy’s voters, who are generally far, far older than the moviegoing audience, viewed it as just another dumb blockbuster that happened to have a really good actor at the center. Let’s not forget Heath Ledger was nominated, and won, for his portrayal of the Joker. Helping The Reader was the presence of Harvey Weinstein, a master at manipulating the Academy to get nominations for movies that would otherwise quietly slip under the water. So it’s more likely Batman couldn’t defeat cultural biases and Hollywood politics, instead of being the victim of a vast awards conspiracy. (Deadpool, on the other hand, was robbed.)
Jennifer Lawrence Planned Those Faceplants
In 2013, Jennifer Lawrence tripped accepting her award for The Silver Linings Playbook. In 2014, she tripped yet again. COINCIDENCE?!
Is It Credible?: Notice that nobody who has ever had to wear a 20-pound dress and walk around in high heels thinks Lawrence staged this. Seriously, couture dresses can be damn heavy. The real conspiracy should consider why the Oscars aren’t full of constant pratfalls.
The Oscars Are Rigged
The idea of the Oscars, of course, is that the cream of Hollywood gets celebrated. But, unsurprisingly, as long as the Oscars have been around, people have accused each other of cheating. Julie Delpy recently said that the majority of Oscar voters are for sale, for example.
Is It Credible?: While it’s certainly true the almighty dollar is what ultimately rules Hollywood, and an Oscar can be a useful marketing tool, keep in mind we’re talking about bribing nearly six thousand people here. There’s certainly no shortage of skullduggery or backroom politics; Harvey Weinstein, who we’ve mentioned before, has a long history of doing almost anything to get his movies in front of Academy voters and in the public eye, from making his actors testify before Congress to hiring publicists (who just so happen to be members of the Academy) to schmooze their buddies. It works: Lion is one of his movies, and it got a Best Picture nomination, continuing a streak for him that’s been going since 2009.
Still, there’s a line between aggressive marketing, which is really all Weinstein stands accused of 99% of the time, and outright cutting checks for votes. Really, if it were that easy, the Oscars wouldn’t have any credibility: We’d be talking about Batman & Robin‘s shocking Best Picture win.
Marisa Tomei Doesn’t Deserve Her Oscar
Finally, there’s this chestnut: Marisa Tomei is supposedly the winner of a lie. The theory goes that Jack Palance, the presenter, misread the card or the teleprompter, and rather than face the shame of making a mistake on air, Tomei was just quietly made the winner.
Is It Credible?: This has been outright debunked, and repeatedly so over the years. It appears that people were so bitter Tomei won for My Cousin Vinny they refused to believe she earned it. It didn’t help she won for a comedic role, which famously gets short shrift at Oscar time. It’s always been an uncomfortably sleazy bit of Oscars scandal, rife with the implication that Tomei wasn’t good enough, despite having spent a decade paying her dues as an actress on stage, screen, and TV and having done terrific work since then. It also tends to ignore that Tomei was a key player in a movie that’s been repeatedly praised by lawyers and legal experts (Well, all right, not all of them) as one of the most realistic depictions of how a courtoom works on film. There’s a lot more to the movie than those two yoots.
Tomei gets the last laugh, though. She’s since been nominated twice by the Academy, for her supporting role in In The Bedroom and her work in The Wrestler.