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The Academy Makes Changes to the Best Picture Voting Rules

by
August 31, 2009

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Back in June, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced that there would be 10 Best Picture nominees instead of 5 at the upcoming 82nd Academy Awards being held next February. To this day still, that decision causes heated debates among film fanatics, mainly because we don't yet know the kind of impact it will have, and every week we see new movies that have the potential to make it in as a nominee (District 9? Inglourious Basterds?). However, the Academy has announced new voting rules today for members that may effect the final outcome in a big way. It's confusing, but we'll do our best to explain.

Here's an explanation of the new voting rules courtesy of The Wrap. Read on for why it makes a difference.

Instead of just voting for one nominee, the way Academy members have almost always done on the final ballot, voters will be asked to rank all 10 nominees in order of preference — and the results will be tallied using the complicated preferential system, which has been used for decades during the nominating process but almost never on the final ballot.

As a result, a film could be the first choice of the largest number of voters, but find itself nudged out of the top prize by another movie that got fewer number one votes but more twos and threes.

The goal, says Academy executive director Bruce Davis, is to eliminate the possibility that one of the films could win with less than 18% of the vote. One of the issues that increasing the nominees to 10 presents is that, initially, members voting for one movie would vote so sporadically, that it would only take 18% for one movie to win - and that wouldn't be a proper representation of the Academy's choice for Best Picture (they want a majority). That's why this change was made, in order to eliminate that extreme possibility, with the Academy members ranking all 10 of the movies instead, then using a bit of math to determine the winner.

Our friends at Film School Rejects have a fantastic write-up on the new voting rules and both the good and bad. "The major problems have to do with voters themselves," Cole says, but "there are still going to be tight races, still going to be upsets and surprises, and still going to be some genuine winners." Everyone will argue about this for months and months, and even after the Best Picture winner is chosen next year, I'm sure a few people will still argue about it. That's just the nature of the Oscars, but it's also why they're so exciting. Right now I'm just looking forward to seeing what 10 movies end up getting nominated. Bring on the Oscars!

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  • N
    They should have the same system like the Eurovision Contest, giving out 1-12 points for every nominee and then calculate which movie recieved the most points.
  • bracomadar
    This is how we should elect presidents and other government people 😉 At least give us the choice of "None of the Above".
  • Ben
    Sounds good to me. This could eliminate the yearly "trendy" film that always manages to win awards... like Slumdog being a "trendy" Bollywood type movie or Juno being the "trendy" indie type movie. This could bring it back to the old days where films won for being great films and not because the Academy wanted to look "with the times". Could also eliminate the fact that films like TDK and Wall*E never get best picture noms when they clearly deserve them. Thumbs up to the change for me :)
  • Shikaka
    #1: Err, that's essentially what this is. They're giving the 10 movies each a score from 1-10 and then adding the totals. I don't understand why people get so confused by preferential voting.
  • carfonexdo
    does that mean QT can get an Oscar for Pulp Fiction now? LOL lets backdate all the awards!
  • Not to start an argument #3, but what else would you have rather have seen win if not Slumdog? It's a great film, I think it deserved Best Picture! But in general, yep, I'm excited to potentially see Pixar's UP get nominated for Best Picture this year as well. :)
  • Al
    This is pretty stupid. So instead of the film more people prefer, a film that most people liked 3rd or 4th best could win. So basically, a film that nobody would consider best picture, could win best picture.
  • wm
    I'm sure there will be some "fudging" going on in the end.
  • Shane
    Alex, I think Slumdog was a great film too, but I would have honestly preferred to see The Wrestler not only nominated, but win Best Picture. Slumdog's big strength was it's direction, which Danny Boyle appropriately won for. But overall I feel The Wrestler was last year's best film.
  • Ben
    Alex - Slumdog is a great movie. However I don't think it was the best film of the year. Yeah it deserved the nomination, but there were many films that were better than it was. Milk for one really did deserve the award. Best film made for years, but it would never have won cause it wasn't "trendy" enough. Heck even Benjamin Button would have been a better choice. But this is just my personal opinion and opinions after all are like assholes, we all have one.
  • If UP isn't nominated....
  • PG
    Sounds like a promising approach, but at the end of the day I'm willing to bet politics will be involved like usual and we'll see the same shitty Oscars we've been seeing for the last I dunno how many years. Although, I did agree with Slumdog being awarded Best Pic last year, but TDK snubbed from a nom killed it for me.
  • N
    @2 Oh, then I misunderstood... sorry. :)
  • N
    Correction. @4
  • beetle
    Way too many!!! My opinion..... There was only 2 good films last year : TDK and Frost/Nixon. The year before: No Country For Old Men & There Will Be Blood Only 2-3 max good films have come out each year for the last 10 years or so. This is modern cinema. Films such as Iron Man, Wall-e, are just not special enough, there "good-views" thats it. Not great. And films such as Transformers & Die hard 4 were well over rated. "Stupid Films" All action, no story. Bring back the 60's-80's when films werent just about special effects but showing a great story.
  • Joey
    Slumdog was good, but not the best picture of the year. That should have gone to Wall-E or at least Benjamin Button
  • Johnny
    or TDK...
  • beetle
    My opinion.... Wall-E does not have the same magic as The incredibles and Finding Nemo. Overated. Benjamin Button- what is so great about that film?? his life is upside down, and thats about it, the story is not that good.
  • darren
    I agree with the Majority. Out of all the movies last year Slumdog was the best? Definitly Not. The Dark knight didn't even get nominated for best picture and look at the records it broke. It was a shame and a disgrace not to even have it nominated. I think they're doing the new voting process so another Slumdog doesn't win again. and i agree with #9. The Wrestler was a MUCH better film than Slumdog.
  • germs
    I have a feeling this is going to cause a lot of drama and unrest. So basically if you have thirty people vote, and 29 say movie X is their number one, but all thirty also rank Y as their number two. Y is the best picture winner? Does not seem fair to me. Even though I understand the situation they are trying to prevent, as explained in the article, I still can't help but think this is going to snub the real best picture...again.
  • beetle
    The Wrestler?? what actually happened in that film?? no another overated film
  • darren
    Personally, I think JCVD should win best picture. The Dubbing was amazing!!!
  • ?????
    This just confuses the hell out of me. If they just rank and tally and ta-da you have a winner, wouldnt that not work if they want a majority? or are they ranking the movies, eliminating those that get the least number of votes for number 1 and then starting again until they get a majority? That seems to make sense to me. I really don't get it...
  • Matt
    with only 5 movies being named in the past, it was an film makers found to be a honor just to be nominated now with 10 movies i think you will lose the honor of the nomination and it will become less interesting to movie fans around the world
  • Sarah
    I actually didn't really care for Slumdog. *shrug* New voting system seems like it could work out ok. I guess we will see.
  • Al
    i swear to god if Harry Potter gets nominated the gun goes to my head, and im pulling the trigger
  • I think this is a great idea that really makes the ten nominee plan more workable.
  • Nikhil Hariharan
    #3, Yea like as if movies before were nominated for being good, not trendy. As long as i can remember most of the Best Picture choices were not great. In terms of Slumdog winning it last year, i thought it was a good choice but like you i would have preferred to see Milk win it. I think that The Wrestler (good ass film) is overrated, and Benjamin Button i think isnt worth the Best Picture award. And god with those Dark Knight fanboys, seriously that movie does NOT deserve to be the Best Picture.
  • travis
    just gives all the lesser films a shot at the big time. Gives 10 films that banner across the top saying OSCAR NOMINATED FOR BEST PICTURE!!! and makes them a ton more money cuz people buy that shit. Basically will make the 5 that really deserve it look like shit being nominated along side crapper movies.. oh and "Up" being nominated?...... yeah right, it was good, but I think we need to start looking at QUALITY of a whole movie and not just something someone favors.... cuz that's all the extra five will be...... "fan favorites"
  • Eric Shook
    Now when I hear that a movie was "Nominated for Best Picture" it will no doubt mean half as much. I think the increase to ten films is just a way for Oscar to generate some printing on DVD covers. What will we see nominated on a bad year for films where only 6-7 are really Oscar Worthy? One of those stupid Tyler Perry films?
  • travis
    @30 EXACTLY
  • NadaNuff
    Am I the only one who doesn't care what the Academy thinks? If a movie I HAVEN'T seen gets a nomination (and that rarely happens) then I'll consider taking another look. Otherwise, I just think "Oh, they liked it, too" and keep on steppin'. Academy members are a bunch of film critics who are out of touch with the general public. Why should I let them influence what I watch? In the end we're all film critics. I decide for myself what's worth checking out.
  • Sean
    Im still not going to watch the whole thing, I watch the opening monologue/song and dance what ever there doing now. Then I might check back during commercials of more entertaining programs...like the grass growing network or the paint drying channel.
  • Zac
    @20 ~ Nah, I'm pretty sure each slot will be weighted. Such as, each 1st place vote will count as 10pts toward the total and each 2nd place vote will count as 9pts. So, for your example: 29 votes x 10pts = 290pts and: 30 votes x 9pts = 270pts, therefore, the first would win.
  • Phil
    @32. I agree the academy is sometimes way out of touch with the general public, but they did have it right when The Departed won back in 07. Even last year I can see why No Country For Old Men won it, even though a movie like Michael Clayton was far more entertaining and interesting.
  • seanathan
    beetle, you say only two movies were worthy of best picture in 08, one of which you list as dark knight. which is EXACTLY why there should be ten nominations- because dark knight did not even get nominated! with this system, on the cusp movies that usually don't get the best picture nod now get a chance (i.e. dark knight, half nelson, adaptation, etc.) so people that feel "their" movie was snubbed will have little to no reason to complain- if you can agree five of the ten movies nominated are better than "your" movie, it clearly doesn't deserve to be best picture (whereas the past five years, there has always been at least one "snub" in my mind, that was replaced by at least one fad pick). does this mean the award will become diluted? not at all- the only thing that will change will be the lessened dispute over what got snubbed, because the only way a movie is going to win is if the majority of the voters (not just the higher ups) agree that a movie has earned the right to be deemed best picture. please understand, this is a voting system in place for many sports awards that ensures the most "fair" pick. so when AL says "a film that most people liked 3rd or 4th best could win" is kinda hiding the truth. truth is it would be won by THE film that was at the HIGHEST RANKING of the MAJORITY of voters. hard to say movie A deserves to be best picture when only 10% think it was the best movie and the rest of the world hated it, while 90% think movie B was at least the top two. that 90% will hold up over time much better than that 10%. to illustrate this, let's go to 98. shakespeare in love won best picture because period pieces and set design were the "in" thing in hollywood, and it did a fantastic job at that, probably some of the best. however, did it deserve to win over saving private ryan??? i think the majority of hollywood (and the &^%#ing world!!) would say no. and a voting system like this would keep one-year-wonders from beating out instant classics that only lost because the director and lead actor had their turn at the podium that decade. so, yeah, let's embrace this system, at least for a couple of years. because, hey, if it keeps a ben affleck movie from winning, then how bad can it be?
  • Caitie
    I actually did not like Slumdog Millionaire at all, I thought it was overrated and in the end it ended up being just a typical love story about how "love conquers all", way over used. I think hands down The Dark Knight was the best last year. Yeah I think that if the academy did it right 10 slots for best picture would be okay if they picked more indie pics similar to Juno. Those usually end up being the best films in the end. Maybe they should grab a random person off the street and mix them in with all the film snobs. I know it would not happen but I can dream right?
  • Tex
    What a pile of horse shit... This same ridiculous average ranking system gimmick has practically ruined the bowl system in college football. For those of you who don't realize, the BCS takes an average of several rankings by different media polls (e.g., ESPN, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, etc.). They even throw a coaches' poll in there. This is a great idea in theory, but in practice it has been insanely flawed. For example, Utah was the only unbeaten team last year, but they weren't even invited to the championship game because they were not ranked first or second by the BCS. In essence, Utah was the Dark Knight. Great reception among critics, great performance during its run. However, because of a flawed ranking system, it received no recognition during the championship. I guess the Dark Knight did win one for the Gipper tho... RIP Heath. The only thing that Hollywood has guaranteed is more controversy come time for that last envelope to be opened at next year's Oscars. Look at last year. I'm not denying that Slumdog Millionaire was a good movie, but I don't think it has the staying power of Benjamin Button, The Wrestler, The Dark Knight. In other words, who would watch Shakespeare in Love and Saving Private Ryan today with no knowledge of the results of from that year's Oscars and believe that Saving Private Ryan did not win? (You could make the same argument about popularity of the Utes vs. an SEC or Big 12 team, but I'll argue that point on ESPN's forums.) At the end of the day, I can't fathom how someone dreamed this up and thought it would solve any controversy. I even have a hard time with the money argument. If anything total sum of money for 5 best-picture movies may end up getting spread thinner with 10 movies around. This is just a bad idea, plain and simple.
  • Josef
    Benjamin Button is a longer version of Forrest Gump. If the Academy would also throw out remakes, I would be much happier.
  • Jeff
    Alex, in regards to your #6 response, 'Slumdog' DID deserve to win the best picture, but only because it was the best out of those nominated, not the ACTUAL best movie of the year. The real best pictures of that year weren't even nominated: The Dark Knight, Wall-E, The Wrestler, Revolutionary Road. In my opnion, three of the five nominess (The Reader, Slumdog, Ben Button) shouldn't have even been nominated. 'Slumdog', while it is a great movie, was not the best picture. It was merely the lesser of those five evils. I'm curious to see how this new system will work and how it will, among other things, affect the actual ceremony itself.
  • SlashBeast
    The only reason Slumdog Millionaire deserved to win last year was because it was the best film nominated. Other than that, it was a totally typical and predictable romance-drama. Otherwise, the true best films of 2008, The Dark Knight, WALL-E, The Wrestler, were robbed. Hopefully this system can fix that.
  • You you could edit the blog subject title The Academy Makes Changes to the Best Picture Voting Rules FirstShowing.net to something more better for your webpage you create. I loved the blog post withal.

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