Saturday, February 23, 2013
How the Best Picture Oscar is determined
Ever wonder how the Motion Picture Academy determines “Best Picture?” For the last four years they’ve gone to what they call a Preferential Ballot. How does this work and how can Florida sabotage it?
Voters rate the Best Picture nominees in order of preference. So it might be ARGO – 1, LINCOLN – 2, SILVER LINING PLAYBOOK – 3, etc. No write-in votes. You can’t slip BATTLESHIP in there.
Voting ended Tuesday. Now the Academy or Price-Waterhouse or hired day laborers – whoever gets the assignment – collects all the ballots and puts them in nine piles based on everyone’s number one choice. The stack with the fewest number one votes is eliminated and each of its ballots get moved to the pile of their second choice. Again, the smallest stack is eliminated and those voters’ ballots go to their third choice.
This is repeated until one stack has over 50% of the votes. That's the winner. So in a runaway year a movie could win on the first round. But if it’s close – like this year figures to be – it could go down to the seventh or eighth round. In a sense, more important than how many voters select your movie as their top pick is how many place it third instead of sixth?
Is this a fair system? I don’t know. I suspect Nate Silver would have a bitch of a time making an accurate prediction. Karl Rove would have BATTLESHIP winning according to his polling. But what this system does is encourage members to vote honestly. Don’t not vote for your favorite simply because it’s not a frontrunner. The movies that don’t win have a big impact on the one that does.
And if LINCOLN loses Spielberg will demand a new system next year.