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

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

And by ΓÇ£old fartΓÇ¥ I donΓÇÖt necessarily mean physically old, but those technology and future-resistant members who fight the nominations of movies like The Dark Knight. ThereΓÇÖs a schism in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences thatΓÇÖs gotten progressively worse over the last decade, and a central componentΓÇöbesides realizing that yes, blockbusters can be art, tooΓÇöhas been the debate over when and how to introduce new technology to the Oscar voting process. Finally, thereΓÇÖs been a decision madeΓÇöin 2013, the Academy will vote electronically.

BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

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 OscarΓÇÖs television ratings are fine, as they still rake in tens of millions of viewers each year, but there is dissatisfaction in the Academy that theyΓÇÖve 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 peopleΓÇÖs 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 ΓÇ£competingΓÇ¥ shows, and, in theory, return some of the glory to Oscar ratings.

The long term implications include real very security concernsΓÇöany 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 donΓÇÖt see all the movies up for nomination/awards. Many donΓÇÖt see even a fraction of them. This is why I defend the Golden GlobesΓÇÖ relevancyΓÇöitΓÇÖs not about predicting winners but nominees, since a lot of members look at the various nominee lists and just go with what already ΓÇ£seems well approvedΓÇ¥. Shortening the voting process means even more movies wonΓÇÖt 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 wonΓÇÖt be time for the typical ad campaigns, talk show appearances, interview cycles, et cetera, that make up a campaign. Or, thatΓÇÖs the idea. I think campaigning will just happen earlier and in new, more aggressive ways, but thatΓÇÖs 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 doesnΓÇÖt mean Samuel L Jackson still wonΓÇÖt just hand it off to the housekeeper to fill out.)

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