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‘For Your Consideration’ Ads: A Reader’s Guide to Oscar-Season Variety

Every winter, Variety — Hollywood’s trade mag of record — does boffo biz in For Your Consideration ads, the studios’ glossy attempts to convince Oscar voters, Guild members, and Hollywood at large to consider their awards hopefuls at voting time. But as everyone in Hollywood knows, FYCs are only partly about stuffing ballot boxes. They’re also about perception. You might think you’re awards-worthy, but how plausible is your candidacy, anyway? Everything — from the size of your ad, to its placement in the mag, to the specific quotes the studio picks to illuminate your mastery — might tell the real story.

Click through for Vulture’s guide to reading the FYCs the way the biz does.

The Real Estate: Cover, Dec. 7. The Push: Best Actress. The Target: Academy members who assume Sidibe, like her character, is actually an inarticulate, depressed teen. The Text: A quote from Ebert: “You meet Sidibe, who is engaging, outgoing, and 10 years older than her character, and you’re almost startled. She’s not at all like Precious.” The Translation: She’s an actress, people.
The Real Estate: Full page, Dec. 10. The Push: Best Picture. The Target: People who loved Up when they saw it but now are wavering on voting for it for the top award. The Text: Three stills from Carl and Ellie’s long relationship. The Translation: What was that you were saying about Pixar not making “real” movies? We’re sorry, we’ll wait for you to stop weeping.
The Real Estate: 1/4 page, Nov. 19 The Push: Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Spacey for acting categories. The Target: Fans of terrible mustaches. The Text: “Go-for-broke performances.” The Translation: Hey Oscar voters: Overacting is harder work than regular acting!
The Real Estate: Full page, Dec. 7. The Push: Supporting Actress. The Target: People who love Betty White! The Text: Twenty photos of Betty White! The Translation: Funny story! Disney’s head of advertising went out drinking with Betty, and they were doing tequila shots, and the next morning he woke up pantsless in West Hollywood with a crumpled-up Variety invoice in his hand.
The Real Estate: Full page, Dec. 7. The Push: All categories, but really Best Supporting Actress. The Target: People who are distracted by shiny objects. The Text: Four gritty, horrifying photos of Viggo in the End Times; one gorgeous photo of a sun-dappled Charlize Theron. The Translation: She’s so pretty!
The Real Estate: Full page, Dec. 16. The Push: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay. The Target: Voters who actually totally loved The Blind Side but are too embarrassed to talk to their friends about it. The Text: “John Lee Hancock is solidly back in his wheelhouse.” The Translation: Sandy Bullock did not direct or write this movie, although you could be forgiven for thinking so.
The Real Estate: 1/2 page, Dec. 8. The Push: Best Actor. The Target: Sentimental voters. The Text: A gauzy photo of 84-year-old Hal Holbrook. A title with intimations of mortality. A choice NYT quote: “”Matches in depth and truthfulness his portrayal in ‘Into the Wild.’” The Translation: Remember two years ago when you thought “Gee, this might be Hal Holbrook’s last performance ever?” but then you gave the award to Javier Bardem’s haircut instead? One more chance, people.
The Real Estate: Cover, Dec. 3 The Push: All categories — why not? The Target: Voters who are not otherwise aware that this movie, Roy Scheider’s last, even exists. The Text: “viewironcross@calibrapictures.com.” The Translation: We got investors to pony up $400,000 for FYC ads in Variety, but we couldn’t even remember to include our movie’s title in the ad!
The Real Estate: Full page, Dec. 3. The Push: Best Animated Feature. The Target: Voters who don’t really get how much work a stop-motion feature is. The Text: “It took an entire week of production, with a crew of over 300 people, to complete 90 seconds of footage for Coraline.” The Translation: What have you done that was so impressive? Just nominate us already.
The Real Estate: Full page, Dec. 14. The Push: Best Animated Feature. The Target: Voters who think Wes Anderson is a dilettante. The Text: A charming photo of a dapper Anderson tweaking one of the film’s stop-motion figurines. The Translation: See, he wasn’t in Paris the whole time!
The Real Estate: 1/3 page, Dec. 10. The Push: Best Foreign Language Film. The Target: The shadowy voters in this category. The Text: A bunch of naked dudes on bikes. The Translation: We’re Belgium, and we promise our foreign-language film isn’t artsy or depressing.
The Real Estate: Cover, Nov. 23. The Push: Best Picture! Well, at the Golden Globes. The Target: The Globe-voting Hollywood Foreign Press specifically, although also everyone in Hollywood. The Text: A delightful shot of the cast in full morning-after deshabille, plus Mike Tyson’s tiger and a chicken who has recently been on fire. The Translation: We guess we have an outside chance now that there are ten nominees, but really, we just want to remind you that we made so much money we can buy up the front page of Variety for the hell of it.
The Real Estate: Cover, Dec. 11. The Push: Technical categories. The Target: Guild members who need to be reminded how awesome it was when Roland Emmerich destroyed the earth. The Text: A tsunami inundating the Himalayas. The Translation: C’mon guys, you’ve gotta nominate something in all these categories to lose to Avatar!
The Real Estate: 1/4 of page 21, Nov. 19. The Push: Best Director. The Target: DGA and other guild members who just haven’t gotten around to seeing this once-hot awards contender. The Text: A not-great black-and-white photo of director Lone Scherfig. The Translation: Look, people. There’s a recession going on. Sony’s not paying for a full page. We’re not even paying for color. Could you just see the movie please?
The Real Estate: 1/8 page, Dec. 4. The Push: All categories. The Target: Anyone with eyes strong enough to notice Sony’s tiny, black-and-white ad. The Text: “All AMPAS, HFPA, WGA, PGA, DGA, and SAG nomination committee members: Your card with picture I.D. will admit you and a guest to any performance.” The Translation: …however, we’re running a little low on cash for this Oscar campaign, so a donation bucket will be passed around the theater after the show.
The Real Estate: 1/3 page, Dec. 7. The Push: Best Actress. The Target: Oscar voters who feel guilty about how they’ve treated their own domestic help. The Text: A photo of actress Catalina Saavedra peering straight into your soul. The Translation: See how terrifying she is in this photo? Imagine a whole movie of this!
The Real Estate: Cover, Dec. 8. The Push: Best Actor. The Target: RDJ lovers who couldn’t bring themselves to enjoy The Soloist. The Text: A huge picture of Downey along with his name — and no other credits from the movie. The Translation: No, no, this is really a serious movie! Pretend Guy Ritchie wasn’t involved!
The Real Estate: Full page, Dec. 8. The Push: Best Actor. The Target: People who had previously discounted Brad Pitt’s performance as a cartoony joke. The Text: Pitt’s photo paired with that of genius presumptive Supporting Actor winner Christoph Waltz. The Translation: You’re gonna nominate this guy you never heard of before, but not Brad Fucking Pitt?
The Real Estate: Full page, Dec. 8. The Push: Best Actor. The Target: Nicolas Cage’s agent. The Text: “No one does twisted mania quite like Cage.” The Translation: Hey, maybe some Academy members are smoking heroin too!
The Real Estate: Two-page spread, Dec. 2 The Push: None, really. The Target: Industry haters. The Text: “$493,000,000!” The Translation: Who needs awards?
‘For Your Consideration’ Ads: A Reader’s Guide to Oscar-Season Variety