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Oscar Watch: New Voting Method Hurts Marginal Academy Ballots

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 23, 2011 at 6:04AM

Steve Pond's mathematical appraisal of the change in Academy voting compares last year's method of voting for top ten best pictures and the new approach that forces each movie to meet a standard of popularity. (He's using a sample of critic votes to make his case.) Thus, if certain films don't grab a percentage of top-place votes, they won't make it into contention during one single elimination round. Pond is suggesting that with the new voting rules, Academy votes for movies such as Biutiful and even Oscar-contenders True Grit and The Kids Are All Right might not have even been considered last year. Departing Academy executive director Bruce Davis doesn't argue with him.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Steve Pond's mathematical appraisal of the change in Academy voting compares last year's method of voting for top ten best pictures and the new approach that forces each movie to meet a standard of popularity. (He's using a sample of critic votes to make his case.) Thus, if certain films don't grab a percentage of top-place votes, they won't make it into contention during one single elimination round. Pond is suggesting that with the new voting rules, Academy votes for movies such as Biutiful and even Oscar-contenders True Grit and The Kids Are All Right might not have even been considered last year. Departing Academy executive director Bruce Davis doesn't argue with him.

Pond argues that about 25 % of ballots, ones with marginal top three choices, will be thrown out this way, as opposed to about 10% in the last two years. But the numbers Pond comes up with are less dramatic if you compare the new voting method with the one that existed before the Academy added ten best picture slots. Back in the good old days, Oscar voters chose their top five films--not ten. While it's certainly better not to have Oscar voters stretch to include movies they don't truly admire to fill out their ballot, I'd like the Academy to go back to voting for five. Pronto.

This article is related to: Awards, Oscars


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.