Tom O’Neil at Gold Derby talks to several people about the chance of the little robot making it into the big five. Here is what Mark Harris had to say and then we can talk a bit about how the balloting works:
I think a big difference between this year and last year is that at the end of 2007 the number of movies with some sort of passionate following was pretty staggering. There were at least three live-action movies that didn’t get best picture nominations ‚Äî “Into the Wild,” “Sweeney Todd,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” ‚Äî that I would imagine had a substantial number of No. 1 votes. This year, I don’t sense that depth of support for that many movies. “Wall-E” is one of the few that I hear people discussing with real passion. It’ll be interesting to see if that adds up to votes.
So this is how they do it. Every Academy member who decides to turn in a ballot ranks their choices number 1 to 5. They first count the number of number one votes. I’ll leave the rest to Tom O’Neil in an article he wrote last year, just nevermind Sweeney Todd:
In order to be nominated, a film needs one-sixth of the votes plus one ‚Äî that’s about 868 out of 5,200 votes. As soon as accountants figure that, say, “Sweeney Todd” reaps that tally, they stop counting and set those ballots aside, decreeing “Sweeney” a best pic nominee. The remaining ballots with “Sweeney” on top get distributed to other stacks based upon their second-ranked choices.
If no other movie has enough number-one votes or those number twos once the stray “Sweeney” ballots are re-distributed, then accountants turn to the movies with the fewest votes and redistribute those ballots based upon number-two votes.
Over and over they repeat the process, working from the smallest stacks to the largest, until a film has the magic 868 votes. Then counting for that film stops, the stack is set aside and the remaining ballots in that stack get re-distributed, too, based on the film with the highest next ranking. Over all, about a dozen rounds of redistribution occur before the five nominees are settled.
It’s easy to see Wall-E or even Dark Knight getting in under those conditions, eh? If all it needs is a minimum is of 868? Slumdog is a lock, but it may be the only one we can figure out at this point, without the DGA or the PGA.¬† The PGA divides their awards, with animation given its own category – that might not help with determining Wall-E’s chances (unless it crosses over, but it probably won’t since there are two separate categories). Is it eligible for the DGA? I would assume so but I haven’t yet received confirmation.