In a 12.28 piece that attempts to explain the low-tech tabulating process that determines Oscar nominations, The Wrap‘s Steve Pond says the following about the Best Picture nomination process: “You’re listing 10 films on your ballot, but you’re only actually voting for one. Your ballot gives you a single vote, which goes to a single film. And if a movie’s not ranked number one on somebody’s ballot, it’s out.”
Pond also points out that “the magic number for a Best Picture nomination is 501,” based on (a) the goal of 10 nominations, (b) having started with 5,500 Best Picture ballots and (c) dividing 5,500 by 11, giving you a magic number of 500.
I think I understand this, but maybe I don’t. To a guy who’s always had trouble with numbers, this seems to mean that if Precious doesn’t end up with 501 Academy members (i.e., one tenth of the membership plus one) listing it as their top Best Picture choice, it won’t emerge as one of the ten finalists. And if this doesn’t happen, Mo’Nique‘s chances of winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar…naah, she’ll win regardless. I know when I’m beaten.
One result of this system, says Pond, “is that the number of films contending for the 10 Best Picture nominations will actually be no larger than the number that would have been contending for five.” Wait…what?
Movie City News, he explains, “is now compiling all the critics’ top 10 lists for the year. As of this weekend, they had 54 lists, which mentioned a total of 104 different films. But only 21 of those films were ranked number one on the ballots — so if those lists were tabulated using the preferential system, those 21 films would be in the running and the other 83 would be immediately eliminated.”
I’m still having trouble with the 501 thing. It’s theoretically possible that Avatar, The Hurt Locker and Up In The Air might be listed as the #1 Best Picture choice on, let’s say, 4500 Academy ballots. That would mean that remaining choices on these 4500 ballots won’t mean squat, right? That would leave 1000 more ballots from which seven other Best Picture nominees would need to be chosen. This means that these seven would have to appear as #1 Best Picture choices on only 142 ballots…right?
No, it’s not right. A little voice is telling me this, and to hell with it. I don’t want to understand the math. I’ve never wanted to. I used to fail math quizzes when I was a teenager.