Well here’s one solution for the Academy’s old fart voters

January 27, 2012 15:45:51 Posted at January 27, 2012 15:45:51
Sarah Posted by Sarah

And by “old fart” I don’t necessarily mean physically old, but those technology and future-resistant members who fight the nominations of movies like The Dark Knight. There’s a schism in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences that’s gotten progressively worse over the last decade, and a central component—besides realizing that yes, blockbusters can be art, too—has been the debate over when and how to introduce new technology to the Oscar voting process. Finally, there’s been a decision made—in 2013, the Academy will vote electronically.


In the short-term, it means a faster voting process. Studios and distributors have already begun offering award screeners through streaming and now the Academy itself is streamlining the process with e-ballots. Nomination ballots go out at the end of December and are due back about three weeks later, then the voting ballots go out at the end of January and are due back another three weeks later. With e-ballots, the roughly six-week process could be cut down to a matter of a couple weeks, if not just days. End result? The Oscars move up to January, instead of the end of February.

I would argue that Oscar’s television ratings are fine, as they still rake in tens of millions of viewers each year, but there is dissatisfaction in the Academy that they’ve averaged a loss of about twenty million viewers in the last 10-15 years. A ripe target for blame is the slew of award shows that come before, that somehow these other shows affect people’s willingness to watch the Oscars (instead of, you know, stultifying long and boring broadcasts). If electronic voting can shorten the process by so many weeks, the broadcast could pre-empt many of these “competing” shows, and, in theory, return some of the glory to Oscar ratings.

The long term implications include real very security concerns—any electronic system can be vulnerable to attack. Can you imagine what the bounty for hacking the Oscar votes would be? Anonymous will have a field day. Another issue is the dirty not-so-secret that many Academy voters don’t see all the movies up for nomination/awards. Many don’t see even a fraction of them. This is why I defend the Golden Globes’ relevancy—it’s not about predicting winners but nominees, since a lot of members look at the various nominee lists and just go with what already “seems well approved”. Shortening the voting process means even more movies won’t get seen. The end-of-year crunch with dozens of films hitting theaters within a span of just a few weeks is cumbersome. Having those extra weeks in January gives that little bit of time to squeeze in a few more screenings. But with the prospect of going from nomination to vote in just days, that window is virtually eliminated.

Another thing that could be virtually eliminated is the Oscar campaign. If nominations and votes are completed in just days, there won’t be time for the typical ad campaigns, talk show appearances, interview cycles, et cetera, that make up a campaign. Or, that’s the idea. I think campaigning will just happen earlier and in new, more aggressive ways, but that’s something that will materialize over time, once we know exactly what impact electronic voting will have. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in 2013. Sooner rather than later the broadcast will move up the calendar and we may begin to see more and more award baity projects coming out earlier in the year to allow for proper viewing windows. (Lainey: though that doesn’t mean Samuel L Jackson still won’t just hand it off to the housekeeper to fill out.)


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