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The biggest Oscars controversies of 2023: ‘Whale’ fat suit, Slap fallout

New York Post logo: MainLogo New York Post 3/12/2023 Johnny Oleksinski

The 2023 Oscars, airing Sunday, March 12 at 8 p.m. on ABC, won’t be the starriest of all time, but there are still plenty of controversies swirling around Hollywood’s biggest night. 

From getting over “the slap” to totally unexpected nominees crashing the party, here are the biggest scandals going into the 95th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.

Will Smith’s Chris Rock slap lives on

While it has been a year since Will Smith shockingly smacked Chris Rock onstage at the Academy Awards after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith, the comedian reignited the feud with his Netflix stand-up special “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage” last Saturday.

“Will is embarrassed and hurt by what Chris said about him and his family in his Netflix special,” a Smith source told “Entertainment Tonight.”

Embarrassed or not, last year’s Best Actor winner received a 10-year ban from the Oscars and other associated Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences events, so he cannot present the trophy for Best Actor in 2023 as tradition dictates.

© Provided by New York Post Wounds from Will Smith’s 2022 Oscars slap were reopened when Chris Rock (left) addressed the attack in his Netflix stand-up special “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage.” Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

And a source told Page Six the violent dust-up won’t go unmentioned Sunday night.

“We’re going to acknowledge it, and then we’re gonna move on,” executive producer Molly McNearney said in a press conference. “We don’t want to make this year about last year. It’s certainly something we can and will address in a comedic fashion.”

© Provided by New York Post “To Leslie” star Andrea Riseborough was helped to a Best Actress nod by a grassroots Hollywood campaign.REUTERS Andrea Riseborough’s surprise nomination

When British actress Andrea Riseborough received a nomination for Best Actress, her film “To Leslie” had made just $27,000 at the box office during a brief October run in a few theaters. And barely anybody actually saw it — even in Hollywood. 

So some cried foul when her name was called on Jan. 24. They learned that major Oscar-winning celebs such as Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow, among other A-listers, campaigned for the actress on social media after being wowed by her performance, and Winslet hosted a screening of “To Leslie” to help get the word out.

The academy reviewed the incident to determine if any rules had been broken and ultimately decided to uphold Riseborough’s nomination.

“Based on concerns that surfaced last week around the ‘To Leslie’ awards campaign, the academy began a review into the film’s campaigning tactics,” began a statement from the academy. “The academy has determined the activity in question does not rise to the level that the film’s nomination should be rescinded. However, we did discover social media and outreach campaigning tactics that caused concern. These tactics are being addressed with the responsible parties directly.”

© Provided by New York Post Best Actress competitors Michelle Yeoh (left) and Cate Blanchett were all smiles at the Independent Spirit Awards, but Yeoh possibly slighted Blanchett on Instagram.REUTERS Michelle Yeoh’s Instagram gaffe

With just days to go until the Oscars, where Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) is in a tight race with Cate Blanchett (“Tár”) for Best Actress, Yeoh might have violated an old rule using social media.

On Tuesday, while Oscars voting was still underway, Yeoh posted a section of a Vogue story with the headline “It’s Been Over Two Decades Since We’ve Had a Non-White Best Actress Winner. Will That Change in 2023?” to her Instagram account.

“Detractors would say that Blanchett’s is the stronger performance — the acting veteran is, indisputably, incredible as the prolific conductor Lydia Tár — but it should be noted that she already has two Oscars (for Best Supporting Actress for ‘The Aviator’ in 2005, and Best Actress for ‘Blue Jasmine’ in 2014),” read the blurb Yeoh posted.

It also said: “Meanwhile, for Yeoh, an Oscar would be life-changing: Her name would forever be preceded by the phrase ‘Academy Award winner,’ and it should result in her getting meatier parts, after a decade of being criminally underused in Hollywood.”

That move could possibly be against the rules.

Academy bylaw No. 16, “References to Other Nominees,” strictly prohibits “any tactic that singles out ‘the competition’ by name or title is expressly forbidden.” 

The stricture also warns that “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.”

Yeoh deleted her post, and it does not appear that there will be any consequences.

© Provided by New York Post Some viewers of “The Whale,” starring Brendan Fraser as a 600-pound man, found an actor wearing a fat suit to be offensive.AP ‘The Whale’ fat-suit backlash

In his acclaimed role as Charlie in “The Whale,” Best Actor nominee Brendan Fraser plays a 600-pound, homebound gay man. Fraser is neither 600 pounds nor gay, and this has rubbed some social media users the wrong way since the film was released in December.

Aubrey Gordon, author of the book “‘You Just Need To Lose Weight’: And 19 Other Myths About Fat People,” wrote on Twitter that “so much of the discourse this time around consists of fat people saying ‘this is going to make life harder for me’ and the response from people who aren’t fat is largely ‘no, it’s humanizing you.’ I would argue that’s our call to make.”

Indeed, producer Jeremy Dawson told the Hollywood Reporter, “The key thing for us was to show somebody who was just a human who had things he was dealing with, that we would want to have empathy and love for him at the same time, as [well as] understanding, empathy and love for all these other characters he’s interacting with.”

This image released by A24 shows Brendan Fraser in a scene from "The Whale." (A24 via AP) © Provided by New York Post This image released by A24 shows Brendan Fraser in a scene from "The Whale." (A24 via AP) Danielle Deadwyler received acclaim and a SAG Award nomination for playing Mamie Till in “Till,” but she was left off the Oscars roster.AP Acclaimed black nominees snubbed

The Best Actress field is packed with big names — Blanchett, Yeoh, Michelle Williams and Ana de Armas among them — but many were irked that a couple of heralded performances from black actresses were, in their estimation, unfairly left out. 

Viola Davis, a past Best Supporting Actress winner for the film “Fences” was lauded for her action-drama turn in “The Woman King,” which got her a SAG Award nomination, but was nowhere to be found when the Oscars field was announced.

And Danielle Deadwyler, who got rave reviews for playing Mamie Till, the mother of Emmett Till, in the film “Till” was also left off of the Oscars roster after receiving a SAG nod.

“Till” director Chinonye Chukwu responded on Instagram: “We live in a world and work in industries that are so aggressively committed to upholding whiteness and perpetuating an unabashed misogyny towards Black women.”


New York Post

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