The importance of coming up with 10

Posted by · 4:57 pm · January 21st, 2010

Oscar ballotSteve Pond has WAY too much time on his hands, but God love him for his brilliant little experiment that illustrates, rather clearly, the importance of filling in the entire Oscar ballot with 10 films.  You hear that Oscar voters?  To say nothing of the fact that, if you can’t come up with 10 films you liked in a given year, you should turn in your card, it is important now more than ever that you take this a little bit seriously.

Pond assembled all the ranked critics’ top 10 lists at Movie City News and dished them out according to a typical preferential voting system, and he came up with a very important point in the midst of all that shuffling:

And here’s the deal with my count: in two-thirds of the cases, 81 out of 122 ballots, all or part of the vote went to the critic’s first choice. But second, third and fifth choices also counted fairly often (rarely fourth choices, though there’s no good reason for that), and a dozen voters actually helped out candidates with their sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth choices.

Richard Roeper, for instance, unknowingly cast his vote for “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” which was listed seventh on his ballot. Eric Kohn of indieWIRE did the same for “A Serious Man,” which he’d put in his eighth slot.

Kohn’s case was a typical example of how lower-ranked films can come into play. He’d put “Sita Sings the Blues” in his number-one position – but since he was the only one to do so, that film was eliminated at the beginning of the second round of tallying. His number two and three choices, “Two Lovers” and “The Girlfriend Experience,” hadn’t gotten any number one votes and thus were never in the running to begin with. His fourth-ranked film, “The Hurt Locker,” got more than enough votes in the first round to immediately secure a nomination, so it no longer needed his vote. Finally, down in the number eight slot, was a film that was still in the hunt, and one that subsequently used his vote to help win a nomination.

Of course, I doubt most voters even understand the system, so here’s hoping they read The Odds.  Pond goes on to address more of the system, like the surplus rule, but my head began to feel light and I had to sit down.

If you’re interested in what the critics’ Best Picture nominees would be based on this system of voting, here’s what Pond turned up:

1. “The Hurt Locker”
2. “Up in the Air”
3. “A Serious Man”
4. “Inglourious Basterds”
5. “Up”
6. “Fantastic Mr. Fox”
7. “Precious”
8. “35 Shots of Rum”
9. “Avatar”
10. “The White Ribbon”

Read the rest at The Odds.

→ 25 Comments Tags: , | Filed in: Daily

25 responses so far

  • 1 1-21-2010 at 5:09 pm

    The Z said...

    I have a hard time coming up with 10 because I’m usually trying to widdle out the 7-15 spots. If you can’t come up with at least 10 films I find that to be pretty sad.

  • 2 1-21-2010 at 5:12 pm

    Dylan said...

    How awesome would it be if this was the actual Oscar list? But there’s about a zero-point-zero-zero percent chance of that happening, so…

  • 3 1-21-2010 at 5:17 pm

    aspect ratio said...

    There are some interesting statistics along the same lines on Awards Daily today too, but it’s the result of votes from visitors not critics, and in more categories. I’m not quite sure even while looking at the PDF files over there that show each statistic and round, but it certainly is interesting to see in some way how this system works. It was especially interesting to see how some films/performances would gain or lose ground from the first round to the last too. Invictus for example was in like 33rd in the first round of voting but ended up in 14th when all was tallied.

  • 4 1-21-2010 at 5:55 pm

    Hans said...

    Here’s a question regarding that surplus rule. Pond writes:

    If, let’s say, a movie gets twice as many votes as it needs, the unneeded 50 percent of each of its votes will be allocated to another film on that voter’s ballot. The percentage varies depending on how big the surplus is.”

    Ok, so say the threshhold is 500, but The Hurt Locker is listed #1 on 1,000 ballots. How do they decide what ballots get to be counted again? If, of those 1,000 ballots, 650 gave their #2 votes to Avatar and 350 gave their #2 votes to Up in the Air, what happens if the 500 they pick end up being divied up like 320 for Up in the Air and only 180 for Avatar?

  • 5 1-21-2010 at 6:15 pm

    murdock said...

    Completely off-topic, but did anyone hear the interview with Jason Reitman when he said that if Clooney had turned Ryan Bingham down, he would have rewritten the role for Steve Martin?

  • 6 1-21-2010 at 6:15 pm

    Dean said...

    That’s not how it works Hans. The way I understand it is The ballots that cast Hurt Locker as number one would be adjusted to have .5 points go to Hurt Locker, still giving it the 500 needed. Then .5 points would go to the next film listed that is still in the running.

  • 7 1-21-2010 at 6:19 pm

    Hans said...

    Ah, that makes more sense. I must have read over that crucial word “each”. Thanks!

  • 8 1-21-2010 at 7:11 pm

    Andrew said...

    What an insult the “cant think of 10” story is. Those voters should not be allowed to vote. The complex voting system and 10 nominees should ensure at least 1 or 2 surprises

  • 9 1-21-2010 at 7:25 pm

    Chris138 said...

    Haha, wow, you’re right. He does have a little too much time on his hands there.

    That would be a pretty satisfying list if those were the actual nominees in a couple of weeks.

  • 10 1-21-2010 at 8:10 pm

    Me. said...

    Here’s my list:

    1. Where the Wild Things Are
    2. Bright Star
    3. The White Ribbon
    4. Where the Wild Things Are
    5. Bright Star
    6. The White Ribbon
    7. Where the Wild Things Are
    8. Bright Star
    9. The White Ribbon
    10. Where the Wild Things Are

    Honorable Mentions: Bright Star, The White Ribbon

  • 11 1-21-2010 at 9:21 pm

    Steve Pond said...

    To tell you the truth, I have absolutely NO time on my hands. But I get obsessive about this crap. I’ll sleep in March.

    And Dean, you’re right about how surplus works.

  • 12 1-22-2010 at 3:08 am

    Federico Gomez said...

    I am an Academy member myself, but I didn’t fill all ten slots. I filled just seven and here is their order:

    A Serious Man
    Inglorious Basterds
    Up in The Air
    500 Days of Summer
    A Single Man
    It’s Complicated

  • 13 1-22-2010 at 4:48 am

    AdamL said...

    Why do I get the impression you only saw about a dozen films this year Federico? How about watching some foreign films?

  • 14 1-22-2010 at 5:03 am

    theoriginal.andrew said...

    Mr Gomez’s ballot is pretty colourful and I like that. Oscars are too predictable. They need a couple of surprises like 500 days… At least that’s what I expect. I’m so tired of movies like Up in the Air, screaming “Oscars!” in every scene. And George Clooney playing George Clooney is just too much. Sorry if anyone disagrees.

  • 15 1-22-2010 at 5:22 am

    Danimal said...

    Can Academy members list the same film in all 10 slots, assuring that film a vote (similar to what Me. did), or must they list 10 different films?

    Probably a stupid question, but I haven’t read anything that specifically stated one way or the other.

  • 16 1-22-2010 at 5:29 am

    Michael W. said...

    I don’t think Up in the Air screams anything like that. So I disagree. A lot ;) And I hope the academy does too. Without a doubt the best picture of the year.

  • 17 1-22-2010 at 6:07 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Danimal: If the film in question gets eliminated for having too few #1 votes, then an additional nine mentions for it on the ballot wouldn’t help. If it has enough votes to secure a nomination, the extra nine mentions are equally pointless.

    In other words, what you’re suggesting would have exactly the same effect as listing one film in the #1 slot, and leaving the rest blank.

  • 18 1-22-2010 at 6:30 am

    Joseph said...

    Am I understanding this correctly?…So if you wanted to fight hard for a movie that has a lesser chance (say Fantastic Mr Fox or Where The Wild Things Are) would it be better to place them lower on the list instead of #1? And put the agreed upon faves like Up In The Air, Hurt Locker, Basterds up top?

  • 19 1-22-2010 at 7:13 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Well, you want to ensure the film has enough #1 votes to make it to the next round of vote-counting. So, no.

  • 20 1-22-2010 at 7:40 am

    TWC said...

    I’m just curious Mr. Gomez, What did your Best Picture nomination look like the year of brokeback and crash?

  • 21 1-22-2010 at 9:48 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    So I guess we can now expect some really crazy surprises popping up this year. So let’s name a few crazy ones:

    – Public Enemies
    – Sherlock Holmes
    – Up AND Mr. Fox
    – The White Ribbon
    – A Prophet
    – The Lovely Bones after all?

  • 22 1-22-2010 at 9:55 am

    BrianA said...

    If I were an Academy member, I could easily watch a couple of dozen screener DVDs in the amount of time I spend visiting websites like InContention and Awards Daily! There’s no excuse for members of the Academy not having seen at least a dozen films they consider awards-worthy.

  • 23 1-22-2010 at 12:10 pm

    Maxim said...

    Wow, this one dumb voting system. A really dumb, inconsistent, random system.

  • 24 1-22-2010 at 1:48 pm

    davey said...

    Yes. It is a ridiculous system – so of course the Academy uses it :(
    Why wouldn’t a ballot be torn up and not used if they did not fill in all 10 spaces for Best Picture. It’s almost a slap in the face to the people that make movies!

  • 25 1-22-2010 at 1:53 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    I don’t see how it’s a dumb system. It gives you the freedom to acknowledge films you may love but know don’t really stand a chance, without “wasting” your vote in the process. This way, everyone gets some level of influence on the eventual nominee list.