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Academy Changes Rules for Oscar Voting

The changes they make seem to impact only the documentary, short and foreign language films. I’m not sure why they don’t require that voters see all of the nominated films in EVERY category to vote. The press release also says they had 90% voter turnout last year. Academy will send out screeners for foreign, doc and shorts.

For the first time, the entire voting membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will automatically be eligible to vote in all 24 Oscar categories, Academy President Hawk Koch announced today at a meeting of the Academy’s members. The Academy’s Board of Governors approved a plan that will allow members to see the nominated documentary shorts and foreign language films either at a theatrical screening or on DVD.

Prior to the final round of voting, the Academy will provide members with DVDs of the nominated films in five categories: Foreign Language Film, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Animated Short Film, and Live Action Short Film. In previous years, members had been required to see the nominated films in a theater in order to vote.

“This change continues our efforts to expand our members’ participation in all aspects of the Academy’s activities including, of course, voting for the Oscars,” said Koch. “Building on this past season’s 90% record voter turnout, we want to give our members as many opportunities as possible to see these great films and vote in these categories next year.” The nomination processes for all categories remain unchanged.

Academy Awards rules are reviewed annually by individual branch and category committees. The Awards Rules Committee then reviews all proposed changes before presenting its recommendations to the Board of Governors for approval. The Oscars® for outstanding film achievements of 2013 will be presented on Sunday, March 2, 2014, at the Dolby Theatre™ at Hollywood & Highland Center®. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries worldwide.

47 Comments on this Post

  1. On one hand, it should increase participation. On the other, I think this favors middle of the road “entertaining” pictures in the doc and foreign film area. And, I think the elimination of having to prove that you saw all the nominees will further dilute the vote to make these categories more a “Most Popular” than “Best” contest.

    Of course, we already know that members are already voting in categories where they have NOT seen all 5 nominees. Nobody will ever convince me that every member who voted in the Art Direction category really saw nominees like VATEL and GATTACA that year. Or, that every voter really saw SECRET OF THE KELLS or CHICO AND RITA!

  2. steve50

    As cockeyed as the old system was for these categories, at least you knew that the voters had seen the entries and cast a knowledgable vote.

    If I’m reading this correctly, they’ve just thrown these categories to the mercy of marketing. (of course, unless there is a skill-testing question online or on the ballot)

  3. If the vast majority of the Academy members doesnt even watch the best picture nominees, imagine the docs, foreign… And the shorts. They dont realize they are helping to kill the whole Oscars expectations even faster. What will members do? Vote on the presumed frontrunners… Vote on the doc that is winning everything… They already vote in the animated with the greatest box office regardless of the quality of the film.

    As the Oscars become more and more a signing down act, the early sites of the awards season become more and more crucial. Once you build a frontrunner, its a domino… And the Oscar is the last piece of this game.

  4. My one wish for the AMPAS is that they stop trying to be what they aren’t. For years now they’ve been trying to appeal to a younger audience, one that watches more mainstream films. The reason why the Oscar is the most esteemed award given is that it is exclusive. No, not every film or every performance is worthy of an Oscar, and in this era where everyone gets a ribbon for participating and it is considered snobbish or harsh to exclude anyone, it seems Oscar voters are feeling pressure to conform to the culture’s falling standards of true excellence.

    In my opinion the Academy should return to their rules pre-2009: 5 Best Picture nominees, only voters in a given category can vote in that category. Expanding voting for foreign language and documentary categories makes sense but everything else is hogwash, just stupidity. In thirty or forty years the Oscar will be utterly meaningless.

  5. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    “The press release also says they had 90% voter turnout last year.”

    I wish they’d be so transparent about the years they’re not so proud to boast about. Obviously the turnout in the past has been less — 85%, 80%, 75%?

    Makes me wonder which years did a thousand members not even bother to vote.

  6. Kevin Klawitter

    Because we ALL know how smart it is to keep everything the same and restricted because of what MIGHT happen three decades from now.

    I’m all for exclusivity and elitism in awards and stuff, but defending that with such a maddeningly vague slippery slope argument is not the way to go about it.

  7. keifer

    Ryan,

    I had the same reaction. And where exactly are the other 10%? Laying in an assisted senior center pooping their pants and drooling all over their pillows watching old Jane Russell movies?

  8. keifer

    Also, I read somewhere years ago that when the Academy was so weak-willed not to back the various unions in the ’30s that membership declined so drastically that one year (1932) it was estimated that only a handful (only 50 people!) actually voted for the Oscars that year. If true, that’s kind of amazing, when you think about the impact the Oscars have today on the industry.

  9. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    That’s an amazing story, keifer. Wish we knew the source. Believable though. Doesn’t sound like a myth that would be made up out of the blue.

    Who knows how many industry people were charter members in 1927. Probably began with just a handful of notable names.

  10. Profile photo of Ryan Adams

    Boasting about a 90% participation is an explicit admission that 600 members don’t care about the Oscars at all.

    So there’s no reason to think the every individual in the remaining 90% have a responsible attitude. No doubt some of the ballots are filled out in 5 minutes with far less thought than most of us devote to the choices all year.

  11. Kevin Klawitter

    I remember reading that in one recent year AMPAS turnout was about equal to the turnout for the Presidential election. Of course, at the time the Presidential turnout was around 30%. Don’t quote me on that, though, because I can’t remember the source.

    It seems, I think, that some people like the honor and perks of being in the Academy without wanting to be able to participate. Brando, for instance, said that he rejoined the academy simply because he liked being sent screeners.

  12. keifer

    Ryan,

    You made me curious about my source material.

    I found it!

    In Anthony Holden’s book published in 1993, “Behind the Oscar” (compulsory reading for all you Oscar fanatics out there), he states that in 1936, “Academy membership had fallen from 600 to 40; its staff was down to just one, the redoubtable Margaret Herrick; and funds were low. Only its “dedicated but discouraged” board of governors stood between the ten-year-old organization and extinction.”

    It was Frank Capra, then President of AMPAS , who saved AMPAS by “converting the awards banquet into a tribute to the director D. W. Griffith . . . “Oscar history recorded its first standing ovation when Griffith entered the Biltmore ballroom.”

    The book goes into greater, very interesting details about AMPAS and its fight with the unions and guilds (a competition that still exists to this day, I would imagine).

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