AMPAS shakes up the Best Picture scenario

Posted by · 1:29 am · June 15th, 2011

The Academy has added a new twist to the Best Picture category, which was shaken up two years ago with the expansion of the field from five to 10 nominees. According to a late-breaking press release Monday, the organization has elected the field to include anywhere from five to 10 nominees, depending upon what percentage of number one votes contenders receive during the ballot-counting process.

Think of it as kinda/sorta like the Best Original Song category, which can have anywhere from two to five nominees, but in order to place, a hopeful must first land a certain “score” from the branch. In this instance, the “score” would be the percentage of number one votes received by a given film, with 5% being the minimum. Assuming they hold onto the rule, we could have different years with different numbers of Best Picture nominees, etc.

It’s interesting because the race could shake out predictably — given that a handful of films are agreed upon leading up to the nominations announcement, with one or two already conceded as barely making the cut — or it could be ignited even more with a dash to squeeze into that top percentile. Who knows? But I’m a BIG fan of this measure. It seems like a happy medium between the exclusivity of five nominations and the perceived diminishing of the honor of 10. And maybe even a bit more dialed in. Not to mention, the resulting number of nominees could be a nice representation of the Academy’s stance on an overall year of film. Nicely done.

Full press release follows…

June 14, 2011
Academy Builds Surprise Into Best Picture Rules

Beverly Hills, CA – The governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted on Tuesday (6/14) to add a new twist to the 2011 Best Picture competition, and a new element of surprise to its annual nominations announcement. The Board voted to institute a system that will now produce anywhere between five and 10 nominees in the category. That number won’t be announced until the Best Picture nominees themselves are revealed at the January nominations announcement.

“With the help of PricewaterhouseCoopers, we’ve been looking not just at what happened over the past two years, but at what would have happened if we had been selecting 10 nominees for the past 10 years,” explained Academy President Tom Sherak, who noted that it was retiring Academy executive director Bruce Davis who recommended the change first to Sherak and incoming CEO Dawn Hudson and then to the governors.

During the period studied, the average percentage of first place votes received by the top vote-getting movie was 20.5. After much analysis by Academy officials, it was determined that 5% of first place votes should be the minimum in order to receive a nomination, resulting in a slate of anywhere from five to 10 movies.

“In studying the data, what stood out was that Academy members had regularly shown a strong admiration for more than five movies,” said Davis. “A Best Picture nomination should be an indication of extraordinary merit. If there are only eight pictures that truly earn that honor in a given year, we shouldn’t feel an obligation to round out the number.”

If this system had been in effect from 2001 to 2008 (before the expansion to a slate of 10), there would have been years that yielded 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 nominees.

The final round of voting for Best Picture will continue to employ the preferential system, regardless of the number of nominees, to ensure that the winning picture has the endorsement of more than half of the voters.

Other rules changes approved by the Board include:

In the animated feature film category, the need for the Board to vote to “activate” the category each year was eliminated, though a minimum number of eligible releases – eight – is still required for a competitive category. Additionally, the short films and feature animation branch recommended, and the Board approved, refinements to the number of possible nominees in the Animated Feature category. In any year in which eight to 12 animated features are released, either two or three of them may be nominated. When 13 to 15 films are released, a maximum of four may be nominated, and when 16 or more animated features are released, a maximum of five may be nominated.

In the visual effects category, the “bakeoff” at which the nominees are determined will expand from seven to 10 contenders. The increase in the number of participants is related to a change made last year in which the number of films nominated in the visual effects category was increased from three to five.

Previously, the Board approved changes to the documentary feature and documentary short category rules that now put those categories’ eligibility periods in line with the calendar year and thus with most other awards categories. The change means that for the 84th Awards cycle only, the eligibility period is more than 12 months; it is from September 1, 2010 to December 31, 2011.

Other modifications of the 84th Academy Awards rules include normal date changes and minor “housekeeping” changes.

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 Academy’s Board of Governors for approval.

The 84th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, January 24, 2012, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2011 will be presented on Sunday, February 26, 2012, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

[Photo: AMPAS]

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61 responses so far

  • 1 6-15-2011 at 2:48 pm

    Hans said...

    (@ The Diego Ortiz)

  • 2 6-15-2011 at 3:34 pm

    Evan said...

    Hans, why would you have to rank ten films when only your #1 vote counts? That makes no sense.

    I also don’t see your logic on the plurality v. preferential voting.

  • 3 6-15-2011 at 3:42 pm

    Evan said...

    Hans- nevermind. I realized the ranking would be for cases where less than 5 films or more than 10 films get 5% of the vote. Sorry for the confusion.

    I still don’t see why you made conclusions about the voting post-nominations.

  • 4 6-15-2011 at 4:15 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Ben: Lots of Academy members were miffed by its inclusion.

  • 5 6-15-2011 at 4:21 pm

    john said...

    Steve Pond reports that the 5% is calculated after all films with less than 1% of the vote are eliminated and their votes reallocated AND the surplus rule is put into effect for front-runners that grab lots of votes. I’d say it makes a lot more sense mathematically now.

  • 6 6-15-2011 at 4:34 pm

    Robert said...

    I dunno. Put me down as a defender of the 10. Did it really lead to that many bad nominees? We got great genre films, great indie films, films with strong women, films with themes and structures that AMPAS usually ignores. All this rule does is lead to fewer of those.

    I thought the fields of 10 actually created very nice representations of their respective years in film. Even The Blind Side represented what a certain demographic watched and liked that year.

  • 7 6-15-2011 at 8:48 pm

    tintin said...

    Bad news for Harry potter…

  • 8 6-15-2011 at 10:00 pm

    Frank Lee said...

    I dislike the change for two reasons mentioned above. It makes the ranking of ten nominees pointless since, as the academies explained it, every year there are between 5 and 9 movies that get 5% of the first-place votes. That’s the end of the tabulation, in other words: Did you get at least 5% of the first place votes? This retains those movies with narrow but rabid support (which is good) but eliminates those with broad but less rabid support (which is bad: let those widely admired movies fill out the top ten list, I say). The other problem is people will be inclined to put their second favorite film in the number one slot to give it a chance of being nominated, as long as they are confident their favorite movie will receive enough votes to be nominated without their first-place vote. In the past, when an academy member’s number one movie was especially popular, their number two movie also received a partial vote. Those partial votes will be meaningless now. And I may be alone in this, but I enjoyed “The Blind Side” and “The Dark Knight” about equally: each had one great performance that made it worth seeing, but the movie itself wasn’t my cup of tea.

  • 9 6-16-2011 at 12:09 am

    Jake Garza said...

    Wow now all thats going to be nominated is the usual oscar dramas like The Reader! This is what the oscars want! They just can’t stand nominating an awesome action or sci-fi film like Super 8 or X-Men!!!

  • 10 6-16-2011 at 1:16 am

    red_wine said...

    “Kristopher Tapley said…

    Ben: Lots of Academy members were miffed by its inclusion.”

    Kris, where did you hear that? Any source?

    Winter’s Bone is a superb film, one of the best nominated last year. I’d kinda bet money that it got more no.1 votes than Inception and 127 Hours.

    I would much rather that passionately loved movies by a small faction are nominated rather than broadly liked ones.

  • 11 6-16-2011 at 8:21 am

    Pete said...

    If only 7 films receive 5% of the votes in the first round, they become automatic nominees for BP, as I understand the new rules. That means that AMPAS voters who chose a film other than one of these 7 will not have their vote counted. In a year like Titanic or Schildler’s List, there might be only four films that reach the threshold. What does the Academy do then?