Would The Social Network friend Black Swan just to cruelly defriend it? Would The Fighter distract The King's Speech just to set it up for a sucker punch?
Don't underestimate what studios and flacks will do in order to win the Oscar wars. Some examples of down 'n' dirty awards-season battles:
1. Shakespeare in Love Outflanks Saving Private Ryan: There was no way Steven Spielberg's war epic wasn't going to win Best Picture. Until, that was, impresario Harvey Weinstein carried off a sneak invasion of voters' mailboxes with screener copies of his Bard-powered romantic comedy. Accusations flew that Weinstein was trying to "buy" the Oscar—yeah, as if, anybody had ever gotten one for nothing.
2. A Beautiful Mind vs. Ugly "Smear Campaign." The studio behind the Ron Howard-Russell Crowe biopic saw nefarious forces at work when media outlets started running stories about how the film version of John Nash didn't jibe with the real math whiz. The last laugh was on the alleged dirty tricksters: A Beautiful Mind won four Oscars, including Best Picture.
3. The Color Purple Can't Win: Before the Spielberg movie opened, the Hollywood branch of the NAACP called out the drama for "very stereotypical" portrayals of African-American men. When Spielberg didn't make the cut for the Best Director race, the snub was seen, in part, as reaction to the racial controversy. Then, when the movie whiffed at the Oscars, going 0-for-11, the same NAACP branch turned on Academy voters for insulting the film's "wonderful artists." Gee, thanks for the vote of (belated) confidence.
4. The Hurt Locker Snipes at Avatar: Is it wrong to point out that your chief Best Picture rival cost, like, a bajillion dollars to make? Is it a no-no to ask voters to put your little flick at the top of their ballots, and to sink the other guys' behemoth to the bottom? If you get caught, it sure is, as Hurt Locker producer Nicolas Chartier found out when he was barred from the Oscars ceremony for email unbecoming a nominee. (He still got his Oscar, though…)
5. Rosebud, Shmosebud! At the 1942 Academy Awards, or so the legend goes, everytime somebody on stage said "Citizen Kane" or "Orson Welles," the William Randolph Hearst-kept crowd downed shots booed. Somehow, someway, Welles survived to win one statuette (for screenplay). Somehow, someway, the 20th century's greatest American film lost in eight other categories, including Best Picture. Now that's a tough night.