Unless you live under a rock (that rock being a boulder the size of Texas), you’d know the Academy Awards are on Sunday. And it promises to be a big deal with twice the hosts, twice the Best Picture nominations, and the “man, we should have realized this was a bad idea before doing it” feature of the ceremony — the “thank you” camera.
Of course, each year entails the usual amount of buzz about the things that really matter in life, like what people will wear and if anyone from “Twilight” will be presenting. Yet one man would single-handedly find a way to both distract ourselves from the impending doom that is the aforementioned “thank you” camera and remind us of how utterly immature people can be when competition is involved — Nicolas Chartier.
As one of the four credited producers of “The Hurt Locker,” Chartier caused quite a stir within the filmmaking community when it was discovered he was sending mass e-mails to everyone and anyone who could cast a vote for the Oscars, and telling them to vote for “The Hurt Locker” so “we will win and not a $500 million film,” adding that “we need independent movies to win.”
Brilliantly veiled references to ultra-blockbusters aside, Chartier proved he wasn’t just asking for votes, he was asking for sabotage. This year’s Best Picture voting differs from the past in that they’re ranked, meaning voters rank their picks from one (the best) to 10 (the least favorite). With this in mind, Chartier asked all of these friends and friends-of-friends to rank “The Hurt Locker” as the best and put “Avatar” dead last, since placing “Avatar” even in second place could up its chances of Oscar gold.
Not only is this more childish than the race to be president of your student council in eighth grade, but it also shows a total lack of sportsmanship that undermines the spirit of the awards and, more importantly to Chartier, the Oscar buzz surrounding “The Hurt Locker.”
Of course, word of these e-mails leaked to the press and the honchos at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. And given that there are clear guidelines against what the Academy refers to as “campaigning” for votes, it seems Chartier has found himself in some deep trouble.
Yet, just like that kid with the smear campaign in eighth grade, he’s getting away with it — for now. As it turns out, the people at the Academy won’t be issuing any statement on the matter until after Sunday’s ceremonies. Stunning.
This event follows another, though slight, instance of Chartier bending the rules.
As The New York Times’ Carpetbagger blog reported, the Academy allows a maximum of three people to be listed as nominees on behalf of a film for the Best Picture category (so no more than three statuettes are handed out). “The Hurt Locker” lists director Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal and Greg Shapiro as co-producers. For Chartier — who was the major financier of the film, yet his artistic contributions are questionable — to be listed, the three appealed to the Academy, and he was then included.
So the Academy does something nice for you, like giving you a statuette if your movie wins Best Picture, and then you turn around with a blatant lack of regard for its rules by making the competition a matter of who has the most friends. No wonder the Academy is pissed off.
Chartier did apologize for his huge lapse in judgment, saying: “My naivete, ignorance of the rules and plain stupidity as a first-time nominee is not an excuse for this behavior, and I strongly regret it.”
The guy may sound sincere, but playing the “it’s my first time, I don’t know any better” card is both pathetic and poor business strategy for someone who financed the film. After all, voting closes on Tuesday, meaning there’s still time for people to either snub “The Hurt Locker” or, for the hell of it, join team “Avatar.” Or both.
Yet what’s most troubling about the situation is the Academy’s inaction toward the matter. Chartier clearly violated the rules, and his actions may have affected who will win Best Picture. It seems obvious that the man deserves some form of swift punishment.
A suggestion? Renege on the statuette. Disinvite him. Make an example out of him, instead of establishing a policy of “well, we have rules, you know, but if you break them, we’ll just deal with it later.” In addition, putting off any statement or punishment casts a large shadow of doubt over the Best Picture category. Regardless of what happens, if “The Hurt Locker” wins, there will definitely be people to call the win unfair.
Now we know “The Hurt Locker” is an outstanding film. And I would say that if it weren’t, it wouldn’t be Oscar nominated, but then that would mean calling “The Blind Side” a great movie. (And that just can’t be done.) Yet allowing Chartier’s selfish behavior to go unpunished until after the Oscars renders any punishment null and void. If the Academy wants to maintain its image as a leader in the world of cinema, then it should protect it when prodded by assholes like Chartier.
And really, such juvenile antics merit a timeout at the very least, right?
Cailley Hammel is a junior majoring in journalism and communication arts. Do you also think the “thank you” camera is an awful idea? E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.