The Story That Wasn’t There

Let me explain what the Hurt Locker-related, Nicolas Chartier wildcat e-mail non-story is all about…okay? A certain party saw a chance to somehow hurt The Hurt Locker‘s chances of taking the Best Picture Oscar, and thought that creating a little hoo-hah out of a relatively minor e-mail blunder might help in that regard.

In short it’s a typical “do whatever you can to take down or damage the front-runner” maneuver — no more than that. Except it’s a non-starter.

On 2.19 (i.e., last Friday), one solitary guy with politically clueless instincts sent out an e-mail to friends and colleagues in the Academy urging them to give their Best Picture vote to The Hurt Locker. His appeal basically invoked the old David-vs.-Goliath scenario — i.e,., The Hurt Locker is a little movie going up against the big swaggering Avatar, etc.

According to Pete Hammond‘s 2.23 column, Chartier wrote that “we need independent movies to win like the movies you and I do, so if you believe The Hurt Locker is the best movie of 2010, help us!

“I’m sure you know plenty of people you’ve worked with who are academy members whethere a publicist, a writer, a sound engineer, please take 5 minutes and contact them. Please call one or two persons, everything will help! — best regards, Nicolas Chartier, Voltage Pictures.”

“Whethere”? Sloppy run-on sentences? A comma instead of a period after “engineer”? Followed by a sentence beginning with the word “please” that requires “please” to be capitalized?

Chartier is a French-born foreign sales guy with, I’m told, one of those colorful personalities that foreign-sales guys are sometimes known to have. He didn’t know the rules of the Academy game when he sent the e-mail, and no doubt presumed he was doing a good thing for the Hurt Locker team when he sent the e-mail. And Clarence Thomas thought he was being seductive when he mentioned the sight of pubic hair on a Coca-Cola can.

To my knowledge the Academy hasn’t made it specifically clear to all the nominees that they have to observe certain rules and decorum, nor have they told Oscar-campaign publicists to point out these rules to their clients. Shouldn’t they have?

Last night The Wrap‘s Steve Pond reported that the Academy has “confirmed that the e-mail violated an AMPAS campaign guideline stating that ‘ads, mailings, websites or other forms of content’ that ‘cast…negative or disparaging light on a competing achievement are not permitted.’”

The thinking is that Chartier disparaged Avatar by referring to it as a very expensive Goliath-like movie. Which of course it isn’t. Where did Chartier dream that one up?

The bottom line is that Chartier committed a faux pas in terms of Oscar-campaigning do’s and don’ts. People are fallible and sometimes they screw up. But this wasn’t some sleazy whispering campaign against another contender. It wasn’t some poorly calculated trade-ad campaign that cost tens of thousands. Bags of money filled with unmarked bills weren’t left on people’s back doorsteps. The carte-blanche services of Nevada prostitutes weren’t offered, and no remnants of cocaine lines were found on anyone’s desk.

The guy sent out a dumb e-mail….BIG DEAL. Read the e-mail, shake your head in amazement, hit delete…END OF STORY.

Chartier has issued an apology, and the Academy has reportedly called a meeting about this, and will probably issue some kind of statement that says this sort of thing isn’t done, etc. Can we all go back into nodding-out mode now?

26 thoughts on “The Story That Wasn’t There

  1. Yeah, well we’ll show them when “The Hurt Locker” wins the Oscar for Best Picture! In your face, anyone who’s rooting for another movie to win!

    Hurt Locker for Class President ’10!

    Hey other movies… jealous much?

  2. Hear, hear. And I think the cracks at his grammar are on point, too — this is not the Machiavellian take down attempt that others are playing it up as but a rather silly grassroots effort from a first-time ESL producer. What is actually sketchy, in my opinion, is how it’s been trumped up, by competitors no doubt, as a Big Story that the Academy must get its hands dirty in, lest Democracy be threatened. Please.

  3. No one is focusing on the only substantive thing in this story: who leaked the email to Pete Hammond in the first place. And why. Was it an honorable Academy member who wanted to out the The Hurt Locker campaign for doing something that violated the rules? As Jeff Wells says, why not just hit delete? Too good to pass up? Too much fun? It has gotten the film’s rivals in an uproar. That’s what I wanted to know. And what wasn’t investigated in the original story nor any of the follow-ups – just taken for granted that the intentions were honorable, or beside the point. To me, they ARE the story.

  4. Who forwarded the Chartier email to Pete Hammond? I don’t want to go out on a limb, but it MAY have been someone with a motive to do so — i.e., a rep for one of the other Best Picture contenders. Whaddaya think….too speculative?

  5. Yeah it was reported elsewhere and gladly no one really making that much fuzz but it’s just more proof that the race is a foregone conclusion.

  6. Can’t help but wonder what would be HE’s tone if someone in Mo’Nique’s camp had made such a blunder. You know, like not going to rinky-dink awards shows and such…

  7. Can’t help but wonder what would be HE’s tone if someone in Mo’Nique’s camp had made such a blunder. You know, like not going to rinky-dink awards shows and such…

  8. FYI: Chartier was born in France, but has lived most of his life in the US. In fact, he doesn’t have a French accent at all, from what I’ve remembered.

    And I’m sorry, but if you are to get rewarded with a nomination, you should know the rules beforehand — as cheating, which ever way it is done, is not allowed. This email was sent long after his nomination…

    As a voting member, and having personally met Chartier a couple of times (who happened to be very nice), I can guarantee you this wasn’t the worst of things that has happened in regards to Hurt Locker’s “campaign” — Summit has been sending notices over notices, and urging me (as well as other acquaintances) to vote for Hurt Locker. They’ve also sent in books, and documentations, and what other — some people might have bought into it, but I can assure you the majority of us have not.

  9. FYI: Chartier was born in France, but has lived most of his life in the US. In fact, he doesn’t have a French accent at all, from what I’ve remembered.

    And I’m sorry, but if you are to get rewarded with a nomination, you should know the rules beforehand — as cheating, which ever way it is done, is not allowed. This email was sent long after his nomination…

    As a voting member, and having personally met Chartier a couple of times (who happened to be very nice), I can guarantee you this wasn’t the worst of things that has happened in regards to Hurt Locker’s “campaign” — Summit has been sending notices over notices, and urging me (as well as other acquaintances) to vote for Hurt Locker. They’ve also sent in books, and documentations, and what other — some people might have bought into it, but I can assure you the majority of us have not.

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