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How to Decode the 2011 ‘For Your Consideration’ Ads

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.

Related:‘For Your Consideration’ Ads: A Reader’s Guide to 2010 Oscar-Season Variety

The Real Estate: Cover, November 29 The Push: Best Picture The Target: Every other Best Picture contender The Text: Those ghastly pictures from the film’s original, terrible poster The Translation: Front-runner? We’re so confident we haven’t even bothered to take new photos!
The Real Estate: Full page, December 10 The Push: Best Picture The Target: Snobs who just can’t think of a Pixar film as a “real movie” The Text: A still from TS3’s heart-stopping furnace sequence, plus the tagline “Not since Titanic … ” The Translation: We don’t care if we’re square. We’re still better than everyone else.
The Real Estate: Four-page pull-out cover spread, plus the full back cover, December 10 The Push: Best Animated Feature The Target: Academy voters who can’t shut up about Toy Story 3 The Text: Big, dramatic stills of sad moments from the movie The Translation: We’ve got heart, too! And money to burn.
The Real Estate: Inside cover, December 14 The Push: Best Animated Feature The Target: Anyone who forgot about that movie with the owls The Text: An owl, flying RIGHT AT YOUR FACE! The Translation: Vote for us or beware the owly consequences!
The Real Estate: Full page, November 29 The Push: Best Actress The Target: Anyone who watched any of Halle Berry’s movies since Monster’s Ball The Text: “Berry shows total commitment to the part, allowing herself to go unhinged … a virtuoso job!” The Translation: Unlike in Die Another Day, X2, Gothika, Catwoman, X-Men: The Last Stand, Perfect Stranger, and Things We Lost in the Fire, she’s really trying this time!
The Real Estate: Full page, December 6 The Push: Best Actress The Target: Voters who think Diane Lane has played too many complicated, interesting, sexually adventurous characters The Text: A huge, beautiful, gauzy photo of a blond-wigged Lane The Translation: This is as anodyne as she gets, Oscar voters. Seize your chance.
The Real Estate: Quarter page, December 6 The Push: Best Supporting Actress The Target: Voters who might dare consider not nominating Jacki Weaver The Text: “Jacki Weaver sets the screen ablaze.” The Translation: And she will set your house ablaze, too, goddammit.
The Real Estate: One-third page, November 29 The Push: Best Actress The Target: Anyone who hasn’t gotten to the bottom of their screener pile The Text: Ebert: “No Oscar voter should dare to nominate for Best Actress without seeing Tilda Swinton in I Am Love.” The Translation: We know our screener didn’t come in a fancy package like the Fox Searchlight ones. We can’t even afford color for our Variety ad! Please just watch the freaking movie.
The Real Estate: Full page, December 6 The Push: Best Supporting Actress The Target: The nearly infinite number of Academy voters who have not seen the latest Tyler Perry film The Text: “I wish all nine actresses could be Oscar-nominated!” The Translation: If you like giving awards for Most Acting, look no further!
The Real Estate: One-third page, November 22 The Push: Best Actor The Target: Friends of Michael Douglas The Text: “Michael Douglas is fully alive.” The Translation: Michael Douglas is fully alive!
The Real Estate: Two-thirds page, November 22 The Push: Best Actor, Best Actress The Target: Voters who haven’t seen the movie because they don’t want to slit their wrists afterwards The Text: A photo of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling smiling. The Translation: Look, guys! It’s not so depressing!
The Real Estate: Half-page, November 29 The Push: Best Actor The Target: Voters who haven’t seen the movie because they don’t want to slit their wrists afterwards The Text: A photo of Javier Barden not exactly smiling, but not actually weeping or screaming The Translation: This is the best we could do.
The Real Estate: Quarter-page, December 7 The Push: Ostensibly Best Actor, but really Biggest Mensch The Target: Ed Harris The Text: “Opens Friday, December 17 in Los Angeles.” The Translation: Ed Harris! You gave a wonderful and totally unseen performance in our teensy-weensy movie based on our real-life father. We couldn’t pay you jack, but at least we can buy you a Variety ad and an L.A. opening. You are awesome.
The Real Estate: One-fifth page, December 7 The Push: Best Actor The Target: Vincent Gallo The Text: “Never less than stunning.” The Translation: There is no chance you will ever be nominated, Vincent Gallo, but we are terrified of you, so here are some “For Your Consideration” ads.
The Real Estate: Full page, December 1 The Push: Best Director The Target: Anyone who thinks Ben Affleck is sort of a meathead The Text: Affleck literally looking through a camera, plus a New Yorker quote The Translation: We couldn’t find a photo of him doing that thing where you make your fingers into a square to frame the shot.
The Real Estate: Half-page, December 1 The Push: Best Director The Target: Youth-loving voters looking for the next great director The Text: Apple-cheeked Tom Hooper talking to Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth The Translation: This movie was practically directed by a 14-year-old.
The Real Estate: Inside cover, December 1 The Push: Best Director The Target: Everyone who hated Hereafter The Text: A photo of Clint The Translation: What, you’re gonna not nominate Clint, just because the movie was lousy? He’s Clint!
The Real Estate: Full page, December 9 The Push: Best Director The Target: Academy voters who badmouth Roman Polanski at parties but secretly voted for The Pianist The Text: “Winner 6 European Film Awards.” The Translation: We’re perfectly happy to give him awards in sophisticated Europe. Don’t be so provincial!
The Real Estate: Quarter-page, December 16 The Push: Best Director The Target: Anyone who still thinks of Mike Leigh as the dyspeptic rabble-rouser of Naked and Life Is Sweet The Text: An adorable photo of a beaming, white-bearded Leigh The Translation: Why would you nominate Polanski? Our guy’s basically Santa Claus!
The Real Estate: Half-page in Variety’s special Best Makeup insert, December 15 The Push: Best Makeup The Target: Voters who think makeup awards are only for movies set in the Renaissance or outer space The Text: Four photos of star Paul Giamatti at four different ages The Translation: You wanna talk makeup challenges? We had to make Paul Giamatti look more haggard!
The Real Estate: One-third-page ads on five consecutive pages, December 14. The Push: Tech categories The Target: Art directors, editors, sound engineers, and anyone else who might be impressed by Tony Scott’s train movie. The Text: Quotes from critics about how good the crafts were The Translation: Hey, something’s gotta lose to Inception in all these categories. Why not us?
The Real Estate: Half-page, December 13 The Push: Best Cinematography The Target: Legendary cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (or his agent). The Text: “FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: Best Cinematography, Vilmos Zsigmond.” The Translation: I’m Dan Pritzker, billionaire director of a silent black-and-white passion project about Louis Armstrong. I’ve got enough money to hire Wynton Marsalis to play live jazz accompanying showings of my movie. So I can definitely afford an ad in Variety thanking an extremely experienced DP who may or may not have basically taught me how to direct a movie.
The Real Estate: Full page, December 15 The Push: Best Original Song The Target: Hollywood lifers with CD wallets full of Celine and Cher The Text: A full-page photo of Diane Warren The Translation: Diane Warren rules Hollywood.
How to Decode the 2011 ‘For Your Consideration’ Ads