The Riseborough Effect

Major surprise: the omission of Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”) in the Best Actress category and her replacement by Andrea Riseborough in the little-seen “To Leslie”.

The Brownees: 2023 Oscar Nominations – Ireland’s Triumph: 01/24/23

When I wrote this piece on the Oscar nominations for my movie blog, it had obviously struck me, on an unconscious level, that the snub of Danielle Deadwyler for her performance in “Till” was somehow related to the out-of-nowhere nod for Andrea Riseborough’s effective but incomparably lesser performance in “To Leslie.”

Then, in a Eureka moment, I found that the sentence I had written with relative nonchalance was, in fact, a window into the workings of AMPAS. Mirroring our deepest and long-held physical principles, what we witnessed today was:

Newton’s Third Law of Action & Reaction


The result is:


The Actors’ Branch is the largest and most powerful branch of the Academy. It has always been in their power to create a campaign of their own, for one of their own, and this time they did it (There have been rogue campaigns before by the likes of Sally Kirkland, Diane Ladd and Melissa Leo but they were baby steps compared to this one). Although Riseborough is not a well-known actress, she is a highly regarded one for those in the know (“W.E.” anyone?). And when those in the know are the elite of Hollywood, they can be powerful enough to win you an Oscar nomination. Meanwhile, a more deserving actress, one who does not have the power to move in such circles, is deprived of a nomination.

Of course, you rightly say that each nomination costs millions of dollars and that any actor who gets one has just spent the winter season in a state of Machiavellian duplicity that would put the Medici court to shame. Also, each year the distributors have to make choices, many of which are not trivial – remember the 2000/2001 Oscars when Sony Picture Classics had to choose between “Pollack” and “The House of Mirth.” They put all their money and effort behind the former, sacrificing the latter on the altar of broken promises. The result was an Oscar for Marcia Gay Harden (which she deserved) and nothing for Gillian Anderson.

The difference this time is the inequality and, although almost certainly unintended, the racist overtones.

The Riseborough campaign started shortly after its screening at SXSW with such luminaries as Charlize Theron, Edward Norton, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslett and Cate Blanchett coming on board to give support and host screenings. And then the floodgates opened. Screenings were popping up all over LA’s west side and New York. During that choice period in early January, just before Oscar voting commences, our screening hosts included Courteney Cox, Demi Moore, Mia Farrow, Joe Mantegna, Mira Sorvino, Ellen Barkin, Sally Field, Sarah Paulson, Jennifer Aniston, and Jane Fonda. Amy Adams and Minnie Driver both hosted a screening the night before AMPAS voting closed.

By this time, Deadwyler’s chances were beginning to slip away. Why did this groundswell of support among the Hollywood elite not affect the other actresses who, like Deadwyler, were heavily favored for a nomination? Why was THE RISBOROUGH EFFECT, in this particular instance, with its Archimedean/Einsteinian action/reaction purely a Deadwyler-Riseborough phenomenon?

Well, Deadwyler is Black. Blanchett, Williams, and de Amas move in a different world than Deadwyler. She was the vulnerable one. And what about Viola Davis? Her situation was not the same as Deadwyler’s. A seasoned Hollywood actress with several awards and an Oscar to her name, Viola Davis was not in the same position. It’s also a known statistical adage that newbies tend to play off of one another and cancel one another out. So, for every point that Riseborough gained, Deadwyler lost.

This has to stop. The number of screenings hosted by actors and actresses in the Academy MUST BE EQUAL FOR EACH ONE OF THE FIVE NOMINEES IN A GIVEN CAREGY. This kind of rogue behavior must be regulated. Otherwise, Oscar, what you get is the dreaded RISEBOROUGH EFFECT.

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