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Did a ‘To Leslie’ Instagram Post Violate the Oscars’ Rules on Campaigning?

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
A since-deleted IG post quoted a critic’s endorsement of Best Actress nominee Andrea Riseborough’s performance — but also mentioned a rival nominee. So, what do the actual rules say?

On Jan. 7, the official Instagram account for Momentum Films’ To Leslie was buzzing after longtime movie critic Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times anointed the performance of acclaimed namesake star Andrea Riseborough as his favorite by any actress in 2022. Naturally, they simply had to post about it. Wouldn’t you?

Two weeks later, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the Oscar nominees for this year’s upcoming ceremony, with Riseborough earning a Best Actress nod that nonetheless took a significant number of fans and insiders by surprise given the micro-budget film’s overall dark horse status.

Given the Academy Awards’ rules and regulations regarding what interested parties may or may not due as it relates to campaigning for one of those famous statues, the social post in question was suddenly cast in a different light. After Variety made note of this on Jan. 27, the original post was ultimately deleted.

For the record, here’s the direct quote from Richard Roeper that made up the Instagram blast’s caption:

“As much as I admired Blanchett’s work in ‘Tár,’ my favorite performance by a woman this year was delivered by the chameleonlike Andrea Riseborough in director Michael Morris’ searing drama about a mom at the final crossroads in her life after she’s lost everything due to her drinking. With an insightful script by Ryan Binaco and fine supporting work by Marc Maron, Andre Royo, Allison Janney and Stephen Root, ‘To Leslie’ ranks with ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ and ‘Crazy Heart’ as modern-day classics about the ravages of alcoholism.”

At issue is the mention of Cate Blanchett, who later became a fellow Best Actress nominee for her performance in Tár alongside Riseborough, Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans), and Ana de Armas (Blonde). Though the post was published a good two weeks before Oscar nominations were actually revealed — to say nothing of the fact that the words in question are a direct quote from a critic with no ostensible horse in the race — it raised uncomfortable questions about what does and doesn’t cross the Academy’s bright red line as it relates to impermissible campaigning, egregious examples of which can result in a nomination being rescinded.

Let’s take a closer look at what the Oscars’ rules actually say.

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What are the Academy Awards’ Rules on Campaigning for Oscars?

According to AMPAS’ “Regulations Concerning the Promotion of Films” nominated for Oscars, here’s what the organization maintains verbatim specifically regarding “References to Other Nominees”:

  • Ads, mailings, websites, social media (including Facebook and Twitter) or any other forms of public communication by anyone directly associated with an eligible film attempting to cast a negative or derogatory light on a competing film or achievement will not be tolerated.
  • In particular, any tactic that singles out “the competition” by name or title is expressly forbidden.
  • Academy members that violate this regulation will be subject to a one-year suspension of membership for first-time violations, and expulsion for any subsequent violations.

Let’s go blow-by-blow here.

Did the Instagram post attempt “to cast a negative or derogatory light on a competing film or achievement?” No, Roeper expressly says that he “admired” Blanchett’s performance in Tár, implicitly suggesting that if we’re setting aside Riseborough, then the Australian’s latest tour-de-force would deserve all relevant top honors for 2022.

Did the post “single out the competition by name or title?” Well, yes, but we’re going to assume that this second part couldn’t strictly apply if the first doesn’t, but this is simply an inference. Do Academy Award competitors not regularly “single out” one another with praise while accepting awards at the Golden Globes or the Critics Choice Awards in the weeks or months leading up to the Oscars? In fact…

Yep. Feels like a slippery slope.

All told, the industry buzz around this intriguing episode prevailingly points toward Andrea Riseborough’s Best Actress nomination for To Leslie remaining in place with no special fear of rescindment. However, it’s anyone’s guess as to just how many Academy voters will take all this into account one way or another when it’s time to cast their final ballots for Hollywood’s biggest night.

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About The Author
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn is the Managing Editor of Boardroom. Before joining the team, he was an editor and multimedia talent for several sports and culture verticals at Minute Media and an editor, reporter, and site manager at SB Nation. A specialist in content strategy, copywriting, and SEO, he has additionally worked as a digital consultant in the corporate services, retail, and tech industries. He cannot be expected to be impartial on any matter regarding the Florida Gators or Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter @RealFakeSamDunn.