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The Last Oscar Week

In this weekly feature from Murtada we follow Oscar contender appearances and interviews

The Oscars are just 9 days away so this will be our last Oscar Week column of the season. Let’s look at how contenders are hustling in Phase 2. In this phase campaigns pivot their messages to try and secure the win. This gives us more pointed and sometimes bold messaging. Like the exploitative use of the Muslim Travel ban by Lion. Always happy to see Sonny Pawar's expressive face, but this message is a bit of a stretch. Arrival is going for the heartstrings, showing Amy Adams hugging Jeremy Renner and talking to her daughter, rather than talking up the sci-fi elements. This is smart messaging since the mother-daughter relationship is what most leave the theater talking about...

For some acting contenders this is the time to try and get the maximum exposure possible, even if they know they won't win. Like Naomie Harris. The nomination is the prize for her. Harris is a veteran who’s gotten more attention for her nominated performance in Moonlight than any other, despite years of great work. She is conceding the race to Viola Davis, telling New York Magazine in their latest cover story “It’s Viola’s year, you know?”. In the same interview she talks about the anti-immigrant sentiments taking over in the world right now, with elegance, saying

"The whole foundation of these countries — America in particular — is based on immigration. Britain wouldn’t be the country it is without immigration. So it’s madness. It just seems so retrograde to talk about these ideas now, at a time when the world is just becoming smaller and more interconnected. And now, to want to take a step backward, almost to the dark ages, where, you know, ‘We want monocultures and mono-races,’ it just seems really … yeah, regressive. And very sad.” 

Negga on the other hand, is a newcomer and this nomination is her very splashy introduction to the industry. She has worked very hard since last May and it worked out for her. She continues to harness the power of magazine covers like no other contender. Arguably one of the reasons why she got the nomination is because of her high profile during phase 1 voting, gracing the covers of Vogue and W. Now she's on Another cover. This is her chance, like Harris to build up her career, and she’s seizing the moment. While she's made up to look like Betty Boop on the cover, it's another Betty she considers romantic.

Does romantic mean When Harry Met Sally? Or does it mean Betty Blue? The fact that he kills her in the end of Betty Blue is romantic to me. It’s a different kind of romance to Sleepless In Seattle, but with the same intentions.”

 OK screenwriters, pronto to your computers and write Ruth her own Betty Blue.

Mahershala Ali also has a major cover this week. Unlike Harris or Negga though, he's trying to win. After BAFTA chose Dev Patel, Ali gave the Hollywood Reporter a very personal interview. The headline "Mahershala's Moment" is leading and voters might nod while filling out their ballots, "yes it IS his moment".

The accompaying interview is a good read and sheds more light on his journey as an actor, and more details about his conversion to Islam and his relationship with his mother. The latter, of course, was the most poignant and memorable moment of the SAG awards. It’s smart of him to play that up. And he does it with class and humility. The Lion campaign could learn a thing or two.

Isabelle Huppert continues to run a great campaign. She’s everywhere from late night TV, to festival tributes to presenting an award at BAFTA even when she’s wasn’t eligible for a nomination. If Emma Stone prevails as expected, it won’t be because Isabelle didn't try. Here she is talking about her extraordinary year with Elle and Things to Come.

Do you think Ali's cover story helps him close the gap with Dev Patel and win next Sunday? 

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Reader Comments (17)

Isabelle slays all day everyday on the campaign trail. She might pull off a Mark Rylance type of upset win, which is ironic cause Mark barely campaigned last year.
On the other hand, that KAJ's take on LLL is everything. Read it now!

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

Love seeing Ali, Harris and Negga all workin' it on those magazine covers.

I still have a feeling that both Lion and Arrival could walk away empty-handed.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Three headlines I saw this morning:

Roman Polanski's legal team taking another run at closing rape case, report says

• "Everybody's awake": Watch Susan Sarandon defend her Bernie Sanders vote and scold MSNBC's Chris Hayes

• Nicole Kidman confirms she was once engaged to Lenny Kravitz

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Nyong'o and McDormand won their Oscars with wins from Critics Choice and SAG. Losing the Globe and BAFTA only makes Ali vulnerable only to those looking for an upset or dislike Moonlight altogether. Negga is gorgeous. Hope she's not wasted like Nyong'o.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Susan Sarandon Says Her Sexual Orientation Is "Up for Grabs"

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Paul - so you wanted this to be about those headlines? I don't understand. This feature is about Oscar campaigns.

February 17, 2017 | Registered CommenterMurtada Elfadl

As if I wasn't in love with Ruth Negga already, now she has to go and talk about how much she loves Betty Blue. LOVE.

That Arrival FYC ad is also great in a sneaky, "We know, we can't believe Amy Adams didn't get a Best Actress nomination, either. A vote for our film is a vote for her!" way.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDancin' Dan

Eek, that Lion ad is cringe-worthy. The thing is the film does not need that hard sell. The flm's emotional content basically sells itself.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Murtada, I find all of those headlines pertinent to the final week of Oscar campaigning, Kidman most obviously. The other ones more as footnotes or interesting juxtapositions.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I thought of featuring Kidman but the interview you mentioned plus another one for NYT were mostly about Big Little Lies.

February 17, 2017 | Registered CommenterMurtada Elfadl

Late stage Oscar campaigning is my least favorite part of the whole process. That ARRIVAL ad is laughable. A brainy female scientist who saves the world through her bravery and intelligence is reduced to a nurturing mother, hugging the dude and cooing over a baby. Blech. .... And isn't Saroo, in LION, Hindu? So capitalizing on rightful anger over Trump's Muslim ban is particularly incongruous. ... I don't mind the glamorous fashion stuff -- hard to object to watching newly minted stars like Harris and Negga shine, the better to light the path to their future careers -- though it does make me long for a little Mo'Nique-style restraint.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHustler

Negga is stunning on that cover.

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

The Weinsteins are shameless. Do Harvey & Co. really think that Oscar voters (and American moviegoers) don't know or can't/won't discern the difference between a Hindu boy from India and largely Muslims from seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa? That we'll just buy their conflation of the U.S.'s apparently odious visa application process with a temporary travel ban?

I guess they could've used this ad for Carol last year, swapping in Cate Blanchett's face and testimonial. (At least the ad for Arrival actually used images from and was entirely germane to the film's storyline itself.)

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

#honorthismovie #honorthisman

February 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

It's great to listen to Isabelle tirelessly explain Elle in multiple ways.

Here's a very short clip that one I found about Isabelle. She's so disarming here and who knew her first crush was Bette Davis?


February 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

Okay, so WHAT is the deal with calling Naomie Harris a veteran? I've seen her labelled as such three times now. Her first film was 28 DAYS LATER in 2002! Does 15 years make you a veteran these days?

February 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

I'm with Hustler re: Arrival, and indeed, that was the aspect of the film that disappointed me. The language stuff with the aliens was so interesting, and so well done, that it was rather crushing to find that the film seemed to want to amount to a story of self-sacrificial motherhood. Both this and Gravity irritated me in that they could only make women intelligent and technical protagonists by also making them emotionally tortured over their lost child. I'd have liked Arrival five times more if the daughter stuff just hadn't been in it. Not to take away from Amy Adams, though, who was, as so often, excellent.

February 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

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