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The list of 2019 Oscar nominees are out, and Sorry To Bother You, Boots Riley’s critically acclaimed debut film, wasn’t among the finalists. Riley responded by offering some insight as to why he got snubbed via Twitter.
There are tons of ppl making statements this morning about what Sorry To Bother You not getting nominated says about the Academy and the film industry that I think are misconceptions that may affect what kinds of movies filmmakers think are possible to get made. So I want to— Boots Riley (@BootsRiley) January 22, 2019
make a few things clear. I think that most of the film industry want to see something new and that there is a large percentage of the film industry that actually agrees with what I'm saying in STBY. Separate from that-— Boots Riley (@BootsRiley) January 22, 2019
from my conversations and other people reporting their knowledge to me, there are a lot of people in the Academy who liked STBY a lot. Obviously, with any movie that takes chances there are also folks who hated it. That's to be expected.— Boots Riley (@BootsRiley) January 22, 2019
As he explained in a Twitter thread, there’s a more likely explanation as to why Sorry To Bother You didn’t get nominated: It didn’t run a traditional Oscars campaign complete with “For Your Consideration” ads and accessible screeners. (And when you don’t have those things, it’s interpreted to mean a film doesn’t have a chance.) Even then, Riley noted, doing that might’ve still garnered the same results from the Academy.
The Coup’s “OYAHYTT” was shortlisted for an Oscar for original song while some saw Riley, who also wrote Sorry To Bother You, potentially getting an original screenplay nomination. The film didn’t receive nominations in either category. But he doesn’t blame the Academy for snubbing his film, noting that he’s heard that there are some fans of the film from within the Academy.
But the largest factor as to why we didn't get nominated is that we didn't actually run a campaign that aimed to get a nomination for Screenplay or Song. We didn't buy For Your Consideration ads in the trade magazines and we didn't service the whole academy with screeners.— Boots Riley (@BootsRiley) January 22, 2019
Without that, its perceived that you don't have a chance, or enough buzz. Academy members dont just vote for a thing they like if they think it doesn't have a chance. It's like that with most voting. That is not to say that we would have gotten a nomination if we had done that-— Boots Riley (@BootsRiley) January 22, 2019
because at that point it becomes about which of the contenders they like the most- it's just that not doing that made it a self-fulfilling prophecy that we wouldn't get nominated. So I had no actual belief that we would get nominated.— Boots Riley (@BootsRiley) January 22, 2019
That’s not to say that Sorry To Bother You didn’t campaign. According to Riley, there was a campaign for Sorry To Bother You that involved press events and red carpets, and he says he’s already gotten plenty out of the experience.
I just enjoy the parties, free drinks, & hanging out with really talented filmmakers that inspire me- many of them who got nominated. &the campaign that we did do- press runs, red carpet stuff- got a lot more ppl2see the movie. That's, 4 me, the big attraction to any film award.— Boots Riley (@BootsRiley) January 22, 2019
While Sorry To Bother You has been shut out of the Oscar race, it has still been part of the awards season conversation. Riley and Sorry To Bother You were up for multiple Gotham Awards and it was included on the National Board of Review’s 2018 Top 10 Independent Films list. Riley is also up for outstanding directing for a first-time feature film at the Directors Guild of America Awards and he’s up for two Independent Spirit Awards.
Michelle Jaworski is a staff writer and the resident Game of Thrones expert at the Daily Dot. She covers entertainment, geek culture, and pop culture and has brought her knowledge to conventions like Con of Thrones. She is based in New Jersey.