Nothing like kicking off the new year with Oscar befuddlement.

(THR) Most Academy members have now received their Oscar nominations ballots, which were mailed out on Tuesday, and THR is beginning to hear from some of them who are profoundly confused by the new voting system. The primary area of concern is over the number of best picture nominees.

Was there no better way to phrase that? Our most hallowed Hollywood tradition entrusted to “profoundly confused” hands?

Back on June 14, the Academy announced that, as part of an effort “to add a new twist to the 2011 Best Picture competition and a new element of surprise to its annual nominations announcement,” it would no longer guarantee spots for 10 films in the category, but would instead have anywhere from five to 10 depending on how many attain first place votes on at least five percent of submitted ballots.

Don’t panic. It’s all explained after the cut.

The Oscar ballots that are arriving in voters’ mailboxes, however, contain only five spaces in which a voter can nominate a film for best picture, which some voters are concerned is an error on the part of the Academy, since they — understandably enough — expected 10 spaces. (Nomination ballots in 2009 and 2010 — the two years in which the Academy guaranteed spots for 10 films in the category — featured 10 spaces and asked for voters to list their nominees in order of preference.)

Academy members should rest assured that nothing is awry. Indeed, as the Academy announced in June — and as THR’s Gregg Kilday reported at the time — “This time around, in the case of the best picture ballot, each member will be given a ballot with five open slots, which they will be asked to fill in with five movies, again ranked by preference.”

The reason that voters are only being asked to name five films instead of 10 is that the current “preferential” voting system rewards films that appear highly on the most ballots, not films that merely appear somewhere on the most ballots. In other words, it seeks to identify films that many people love, not that most people like.

Consequently, as Kilday wrote in June, “On most ballots, the number one movie carries the real weight, although second and third choices could well come into play. Fourth and fifth choices will play a much more minimal role in the selection process.” Sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth choices, had they been sought, would not have impacted the results at all.

Oscar nomination ballots are due back to the Academy January 13. Hopefully this addresses voters’ questions.


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  • Makes sense. Even thought I would just ask for ONE movie, nominate the 5 most voted films and then have ’em all vote for the winner again, among the nominees. Simpler, more fair.

  • So simple really, isn’t it? I think The Hollywood Reporter is being alarmist with words like “befuddled” and “profoundly confused” – it can’t be that bad.

    It’s the same way we always tally up informal polls here on the site. If we want to compile a list of the 100 Most Important Gay Movies, or whatever, we have a huge multiple choice ballot — but each reader can only click 5 choices.

    We still come up with a neatly ranked list of dozens and dozens of titles — and our Top 5 are always superb.

    Of course, those are usually only the best movies we gave as options. Not any clunkers among ’em. And the readers here have terrific taste.

  • Only smart people can vote. Advantage, Tree of Life! 🙂

  • Chad

    This would explain why Pat Buchanan is getting more votes than George Clooney.

  • OCO 300

    Maybe the top 5 should be

    1. The Artist

    2. The Help

    3. Hugo

    4. The Descendants

    5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

  • Oh for fuck’s sake. These people are members of this organisation and they can’t even stay conscious long enough to understand what’s going on within it. Even if they don’t thoroughly know what they’re supposed to do, can’t they just put five names down and be done with it?

    This doesn’t bode well.

  • OCO 300

    does the academy really thing think the “Deahtly Hallows Part 2” are children? The 3 actors are adults by any standard

  • steve50


    I’m with you. Just tell them to name their favorite. Do this with every category and don’t provide a cheat sheet of eligible candidates. If they can’t remember what they liked, they shouldn’t be participating in the selection process. This is their bread and butter, for god’s sake – they must have an opinion.

  • Bobby C.

    FYC: Hugo, Shame, Drive, Super 8, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

  • Yashar R

    I also think THR is indeed being alarmist as Ryan said. Of course if that’s not the case and a sizable chunk of voters are indeed confused, then the results could end up more entertaining or surprising compared to the last year.

  • OCO 300

    @Bobby C. yeah man, I mean they had no right to kick HP:DH 2 out of those state critic awards……unless it’s for independent films.


    Top 5 should be
    2. HUGO
    4. THE HELP
    It will
    6. WAR HORSE
    & then
    10. DRIVE

  • akumax

    My ballot:

    1. The tree of Life
    2. Drive
    3. The Artist
    4. Hugo
    5. Midnight in Paris

  • tintin

    My ballot:

    1- Harry Potter 7.2 (it deserves the nod…but it needs lots of number 1 spots)
    2- The Artist
    3- The Descendants
    4- The Help
    5- Hugo

  • lazarus

    At 9:45am local time:

    Number of comments: 14
    Number of Harry Potter references: 6

    Ryan and Sasha, before this season is over, you need to seriously consider getting rid of some of these trolls. Because the main site is turning into a magnet for idiocy and infantile, petulant whining. Consider how much worse it will get once the nominations come out.

  • Josh

    It’s only OCO 300, who then changes his name.

  • kerchee

    My Ballot:

    Midnight In Paris
    The Help
    Tree of Life
    The Descendants

  • guany

    There’s a handful of films I still want to see, but my ballot right now…

    1. Hugo
    2. Shame
    3. Weekend
    4. Midnight in Paris
    5. The Tree of Life

  • OCO 300

    @Josh I’m not tintin ask Ryan Adams

  • It is not just OCO. I think the last Harry Potter film is the best film of the year. (And I was never an HP fan – in fact, I’ve only seen 2 previous HP films.) But the last one knocked my socks off.

    It deserves a shot at Best Picture.

  • May I add one more eensy teensy article of fact in regards to the “confused” AMPAS membership. The average AMPAS member is well over 60 – maybe even 65 – so these old foggies need reminding (you know, the brain cells start to wither after a certain age).

    And I felt even last year they were “confused” when they opted for “Blind Side” in the Best Picture slot. That shocker must have prompted the Board of Governors to take action this year with a new voting system so something so ludicrous like that won’t happen again.

    I think what they have done is streamlined the process this year . . . and by God, it needed it.

  • OCO 300

    and I’m not Booby C.,Jesus Alonso, PRAKSHID, hey Josh and lazarus how many people do you know around the world (besides me) really like Harry 8 or went to go see it?

  • Byron Gray

    Keifer, you’re comments were so insulting. People 60 years and older are not idiots. These particular “old fogies” have attained membership in the most prestigious organization in the world of film. They have had a career in film. What are you doing with your life?

  • JP

    My ballot:

    1. Harry Potter 7.2 (I would not vote for it to win, but as it needs the 1st places to have a hope to get nominated).

    2. Mignight In Paris (because I still think it’s vulnerable)
    3. Hugo
    4. The Descendants
    5. Margin Call

  • Logan

    The Artist
    The Descendants
    Midnight in Paris
    The Help

    My ballot:
    The Artist
    Midnight in Paris
    A Separation
    Take Shelter
    The Descendants

  • RyanT

    “…and don’t provide a cheat sheet of eligible candidates.”

    Not recommended! This would put the small films not backed by Weinstein at a distinct disadvantage.

  • I’m doing a lot with my life. Thank you very much.

    You want insulting? “The Blind Side” for best picture? I rest my case.

    Look at AMPAS results historically and you see they are voting for films they have just seen (films released in December usually). Their memories for the entire year’s worth of films are, for the most part, incredibly bad.

  • Josh

    @OCO 300 I’m a huge fan, bigger than you probably believe. I just don’t talk about it here because it has no chance in the Best Picture race. The Academy already proved they hate the Potter series. You’re setting yourself up for disappointing unfortunately.

    Okay, I’ll stop before someone says HP is taking over the discussion again.

  • alfred

    My ballot:

    1. Hugo
    2. Take Shelter
    3. Drive
    4. The Descendants
    5. The Artist

  • One more thing. I think it would behove AMPAS to consider expanding their membership. All they would have to do is get the mailing list for the membership of the Independent Spirit Awards and their voting track record would improve considerably.

    Remember, this was the organization that gave Ron Howard a Best Director Oscar over Robert Altman. Again, I rest my case.

  • JP

    Considering 2011 films’ quality is notoriously inferior to the 2010 ones, the only salvations for the 2012 Oscars in terms of ratings and interest from public would be either a blockbuster like Harry Potter taking a Best Picture nod or that this very tight race for the Acting awards continue through the Oscars night (right now it’s tough not seeing The Artist winning BP)… If a consensus is built in Actor, Actress and Sup. Actress (a race of 3 now), this will be the most boring Oscars I’ve ever seen.

  • Kevin Landry

    If they’re confused by that, imagine how they’ll be confused when they watch “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”!!

  • Jacob

    My ballot:
    1. The Descendants
    2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    3. The Help
    4. Moneyball
    5. Bridesmaids

    *I still haven’t seen The Artist or Hugo*

  • Jake G.!

    I have a strange feeling their will be a surprise nominee like Shame or Drive! I think dragon tattoo shall get a nomination also! Who knows with this new system thing!

  • Niles

    They should seriously just go back to five and call it a day.

  • Mattoc

    Definitely a slow news day at THR. The fact that some of them haven’t received their ballots is more of a worry.

    If they are confused by what they need to do – what is the worst that can happen?

    Unless they got Ryan’s ballot by mistake, and think there’s a new category this year, and are expecting 100 Gay movie screeners in the post.

    Vote #1 Priscilla
    Vote #2 The Sum of Us

  • JP

    @ Jake

    I have a feeling that there will be one extra nominee that will join the 7 almost everyone assumes are in: Artist, Descendants, War Horse Help, Midnight In Paris, Hugo and Moneyball. And it could go to a few films. We just have to know which ones the PGA will nominate. The extra nominee is one of the 3 PGA nominees apart from the ”big 7”.

  • Benjamin Forestieri

    1. Drive
    2. We Need To Talk About Kevin
    3. Shame
    4. Take Shelter
    5. A Dangerous Method

  • Morgan

    “Only smart people can vote. Advantage, Tree of Life!”

    Haha…If only there were a like button.

  • Lazarus

    I think Ryan and Sasha would have a really fun time if anyone sends them a recommendation to ban me as a “Harry Potter” troll. I mean, I’ve been 10 years in the site and I’m well known, my weaknesses and strengths. It ain’t my number 1 of the year, even (but loved it). Some people can’t really digest it’s the most successful on all levels film since The Dark Knight and flying over most of the Best Picture “serious” candidates. It’s not going to be nom’d anyways, so why bother about people who’s just complaining it should have a shot?

    Grow up, that some are trolling about it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about it. Specially when you consider the magnitude of the phenomenom, wether you like it or not. Objectively speaking, it’s as embarrassing as back in 2008 when they avoided The Dark Knight AND Wall·E.

    I really hope the Academy reacts and give Rowling or the casting director of the franchise (or both) an Honorary Oscar for the whole thing. It’s not like they should ignore it, and certainly a win at art direction itself it would feel like a ridiculous reward for such an unprecedented achievement. I’m playing devil’s advocate here, and I think that the message of the AMPAS couldn’t be other than making a highlight in the ceremony, if only to increase the ratings and also to please not only Warner Brothers but encourage the big studios to keep focusing on a ratio of quality and marketing.

    I mean, anyone in Hollywood would tell you, HP should have some kind of reward on Oscar night. Any studio exec can tell you. Any analyst, too.

  • My ballot:

    1. The Tree of Life
    2. War Horse
    3. Hugo
    4. Margaret
    5. Drive

    Obviously, foreign language choices can’t be part of this equation, otherwise Mysteries of Lisbon, A Separation, Tomboy and Of Gods and Men would be near the top, as would the English, but still foreign Melancholia.

    Win Win would be sixth choice.

  • @Keifer

    Martin Scorsese is 69. Woody Allen is 76. Terrence Malick is 68. Steven Spielberg is 65. Should I keep going or do you get it? You wish you had those brain cells.

    All this article is saying is that people weren’t aware of the change from ten to five spaces and though the ballots were wrong. It’s not like they don’t know how to fill it out or there are going to be hanging chads or anything.

  • Tiago SN

    I always die with this HP bullshit LOL
    Leave it alone, like the British Academy itself has taught us ‘-‘
    Anyway, I’m still waiting the chance to watch most of the contenders =/
    By now, lots of love for The Ides Of March, A Separation, Shame and Win Win.

  • OCO 300
  • OCO 300
  • Mattoc

    Hey, thanks for the links Red Phantom.

  • Alexandra

    To tell you the truth,I wonder why are the Potter fans so angry at the AMPAS for not giving the franchise a win,when the BAFTAS have been truly insulting:28 BAFTA noms for the whole series and just ONE win… they had to give it an honorary award because, apparently,the fact that it´s BRITISH and it´s Britain´s pretty girl (rightly so ) doesn´t count.So,those noms without wins look to me suspiciously like pretty smoke…ps.not counting audiences awards

  • JP

    @ Jesus Alonso

    Perfect commentary. That’s exactly what I think: Potter is not getting nominated but It really should for everything the franchise has achived and for the fact that 2011 is one of the weakest years I’ve ever seen in terms of ”serious” contenders. The weakness of the Academy Awards Best Picture nominations is that it rarely gives space to diverse kind of films: not only the serious but Blockbustes, Animations, Comedies, Foreigns and even Docs (in the past decade there are docs that are WAY BETTER than most of the serious contenders). And the Academy will pay for it if this becomes the lowest-rated Oscar ever or one of the most. As I said before, the only 2 things that could prevent this to happen (considering 2011 films are worse than 2010’s) is a blockbuster nominated for BP or a very cofusing race in the acting, script categories and maybe directing. If a consensus is built, forget about it… the oscars will bomb in not a good way.

  • JP

    Even the most boring Oscars I’ve ever seen in 2004 (absoloutely NO surprise) were saved in terms of ratings and repercussion because of the quality of the films and mostly because there was a BIG hit called The Lord of the Rings nominated for BP.

    This year as a whole lacks the quality we’ve seen in previous years and there’s no Big Hit.

  • Ttheres going to be some exotic nomines this year that for ex micjeal shannon take shelter margin call and a seperation

  • Byron Gray

    That still doesn’t mean their old and stupid, Keifer. Would I want somebody like Scorsese or Spielberg or Milos Forman to judge my work? You bet.

  • Happy New Year, Sasha and Ryan! From Times Square! No! Really! 2012! And THANK YOU!!!! For what? For everything Oscar-wonderful!

    And I have Oscar New Year’s News! Just watched
    “A Better Life” and was totally riveted by it! And moved! And I do think that Damian Bechir is gonna knock Michael Fassbender out of contention. Just like SAG did!

    He’s TREEE-Mendous! And it’s a film every in LA in the Academy can relate to and feel proud that they’re supporting it! It’s one of the last Academy pieces to fall in to place in my Oscar-obsessed mind! He gives a tremendous, affecting, heroic performance that it HUGELY sympathetic. And it hits a topic that is eternally hot. Immigration.

    I couldn’t believe how I felt when he climbed up that palm-tree and then, and then…well, no spoilers! But congratulations to Demian Bechir! I think you’re going to the Kodak

    in Feb! Just like Javier Bardem did last year!So it’s the SAG FIVE. George, Leo, Brad, Jean Dujardin and Damien! And I think the same goes for the Best Actress category, too. SAG may be more predictive than it’s ever been in years!

    This is my New Year’s Message to all you Oscar watchers! SAG is always off a bit in the Supporting Categories, but I think Demian Bechir is this year’s Daniel Jenkins.

  • The Great Dane

    If #1 placed films really matter that much in the new system, how strong is The Help really? Would Blind Side have made it under this system? And Midnight in Paris? Are these films really THE best film of the year to hundreds of voters? Cause if they are only #3 on people’s ballots, they are not gonna make it…

  • William Best

    1. Midnight in Paris
    2. Drive
    3. The Artist
    4. Carnage
    5. The Guard

  • Hold on here. If it were just esteemed directors, screenwriters, actors, etc. who were deciding these things I wouldn’t mind at all. But there are many members of the Academy who haven’t made a film since the 1950s, and I bet you haven’t heard of their names . . .EVER in regards to the making of a movie. AMPAS membership is filled with publicists, corporate executives, and people who are on the “money” end of making pictures, not the artistic side. And they’ve been around forever. I remember reading copy on Tony Curtis who said a few years ago that he didn’t vote for “Brokeback Mountain” because he refused to see it because of the subject matter. Oh boy. Now, there’s a responsible member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

    You make a mistake if you think all AMPAS members are responsible enough to even SEE the nominated films. Certainly, some are. I’m not arguing with that. I’ve even read that the level of members who even participate in the final election process has dwindled over the years. Henry Fonda once handed his ballot to his wife Shirley to fill out one year.

    And there are countless examples (many included on this website) of Oscar getting it completely WRONG (nominations and winners).

    It’s an organization that is somewhat infuriating in that it often rewards mediocrity.

  • We all know that Keifer. But you were generalizing about people of a certain age.

    Someone like Samuel L. Jackson who is constantly working has said that he just votes for his friends. I believe he and Sarah Jessica Parker were reported to have not watched Brokeback Mountain before they voted that year. They’re not people we haven’t heard from since the 50s. Plenty of members of the academy suck but age has nothing to do with it.

  • Zooey

    @ lazarus,

    I’m no fan of Harry Potter. I actually think the film doesn’t deserve much, but your comments and the whole name calling thing is really off-putting. Who are you to call people idiots etc?! So please follow your own advice and go seek help!

  • OCO300

    @William Best Carnage got a 67% among all critics and a 48% among top critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and it got a 57% on Metacritic

  • REICHDOME returns!

    Keifer you have highlighted the point i been emphasizing the last few years that:

    “The average AMPAS member is well over 60 – maybe even 65 – so these old foggies need reminding” here hre

    @ Antoinette, how are you? always nice to chat with you well all of you- but i admit some individuals i have fond memories of the movie buff style conversation exchange the way it works i guess and happy new year too!

    But in regard to your comments Keifer’s statement was looking at the issue more broadly lord forbid anyone would EVER call Spielberg, Scorcese, Cameron, Fincher, etc as npot having many brain cells one would be cursed for suggesting such a thing;):P

  • REICHDOME returns!

    I laughed to my self and in my mind shaking my head knowing that such is the level of division and confusion as the conservatives in hollywood struggle to respect and accept the rising young tide to come to oscar’s celebrations, that it seems that confusion within the balloting structure is likely to derail the credibility of most likely whomever wins the oscar for best pic if they stuff up ballots then it really proves how overtly complex, convoluted and lacking in direction and common purpose oscar has become.

    The question, more broadly remains: do oscar see themselves as embracing film in its art form that sets new benchmark or elect to take the path of non- popular obsucrity?

    what exactly do they stand for? who knows? certainly snetiment in the commentary amongst us the public hugely reflect one simple fact we just don’t care though we want to we just don’t- unless the academy start to respect our part in the process as they once did!

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