And the Winner Is…

September 1, 2009

New rules for selecting Best Picture and Best Original Song.

Best Picture voting just got complicated. Earlier this year, the Academy announced that the number of Best Picture nominees will be increased from 5 to 10. Now the selection process changed as well. Worried that 10 nominees could result in a Best Picture winner that received  just slightly more than 580 votes out of the potential voting pool of 5,800 members, the Academy is introducing a “preferential voting” system.

Here’s how it works.

Voters will be asked to rank nominees in order of preference from 1 to 10.

“Instead of just marking an ‘X’ to indicate which one picture they believe to be the best, members will indicate their second, third and further preferences as well,” Academy President Tom Sherak said. “PricewaterhouseCoopers will then be able to establish the Best Picture recipient with the strongest support of a majority of our electorate.”

The new system for tallying vote for best picture is the same system that the Academy currently uses in its nominating process, and it was also used from 1934 through 1945 for Best Picture selection.

That’s not the only change: Best Original Song is in the crosshairs as well. Using the same preferential voting system, a minimum threshold has been set to have any nominations at all. From the press release:

The governors approved the Music Branch Executive Committee recommendation that if no song achieves a minimum average score of 8.25 in the nominations voting, there be no original song nominees and thus no Oscar presented for the category. If only one song achieves the required minimum, it and the song with the next highest score will be deemed the nominees. If two or more songs achieve the minimum score, they will be the nominees though no more than five nominees can be selected. Previously, the rules dictated that there be no more than five but no fewer than three nominees in the category.

Why make this change? According to an article on the BBC website,

“We’re trying to improve the quality,” said composer Bruce Broughton, head of the Academy’s music branch.

He added the move would make entries “as good as possible”.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the songs in films, the lack of memorability compared to songs in the past, the almost forgettability of some of them” said Mr Broughton.

I’m not sure what I think about this. The winning tunes from the last few years, at least, seemed reasonable to me, although I agree that the other nominees were not memorable (e.g., see this wikipedia page for a list).

The Best Picture change will make the Oscar pool more interesting, if nothing else.

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