In order to boost its chances to gather Academy Award nominations, The Associated Press reports Fox Searchlight is running ads for its drama Antwone Fisher that include not only favorable comments from prominent film critics but from political and social leaders as well.
Denzel Washington's directorial debut focuses on a sailor, played by newcomer Derek Luke, who overcomes a difficult childhood in foster care with the help of a Navy psychiatrist, played by Washington.
According to AP, the current campaign includes quotes from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's president Kweisi Mfume, who calls the movie, "Gripping, riveting and forceful," and Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, who says, "Antwone Fisher is a compelling testament to the strength of spirit and resilience of a remarkable child."
Fox Searchlight's marketing head Nancy Utley acknowledges the ads were primarily used to get the attention of Academy Award voters. They are scheduled to stop running as of Friday now that the Wednesday deadline for Oscar ballots has passed.
Utley hopes the film will get recognized in the Best Picture, Best Actor (Luke) and Best Director ( Washington) categories when the nominations are announced on Feb. 12. If so, Fox Searchlight will start running the ads again.
"Unfortunately, the critic thing has become a blur to people," Utley told AP. "Literally every movie is using quotes, including Kangaroo Jack. It becomes difficult when you have the real deal, when you have critical appeal, to get people to understand you're different, and you really do have people loving this movie."
Peter Rainer, chairman of the National Society of Film Critics and writer for New York Magazine, told AP he thinks Fox Searchlight also used this marketing tactic because Antwone Fisher has received mixed reviews since its December release, and has won no major critics' group awards.
"I don't think it's just being aimed at the average reader who's looking to see a movie. I think it's very much aimed at the Academy Awards," Rainer said, pointing out that the ads appeared only in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the trade papers Variety and The Hollywood Reporter--the main publications Academy voters read during the busy awards season. "I think they've made a very astute decision to circumvent the critic blurb mill and appeal to a higher calling," Rainer told AP. "People will feel virtuous when they see this movie, that's what that's telling them: Do a good thing, see this movie."