That’s how Oscars winners are decided

The Oscars are coming. The countdown has started and everything is being prepared for the great night, that will take place on 26 th of February. Then we’ll discover if LaLaLand gets the 14 Oscars it’s nominated to and which actress, actor and film gets the coveted award. But, wait a minute, who decides this?

Who can vote?

The Oscar’s voting members is a select club that many wish to belong. The approximately 6000 members of the Academy have to “achieve distinction in the motion picture arts and sciences” in their respective fields. Depending on the branch to which the voting member belongs -an individual can belong to only one branch-  the requirement changes. For example, writers, producers and directors must have at least two screen credits to their names, while actors must have credited roles in at least three films.

A member can enter the club being sponsored by two Academy members from the branch to which the candidate seeks admission. But the easiest route to Academy membership is to get nominated: Those who were nominated the previous year and are not currently a member are automatically considered.

In an unprecedented action, last year the Academy invited 638 people to join the membership, in order to increase diversity. 46 % of their invitees were women and 41% people of color. Despite this, the equality doesn’t exist yet. The 73% of the members are male, while only 27% are women, the 89% white, with only 11% non-white.  The average age is 57.


The election of the jury has a reflection on the nominees and the winners. According to Labs.time, in a graphic that you can see here and that gathers all the history of the Oscars, 6.4% of acting nominations of the total 1,668 since the awards began in 1929 have gone to non-white actors. Isolating for the past 25 years, only 56 actors—11.2% of the total—were non-white. 

According to SkyNews, “while almost half of voting members had appeared on screen in the previous two years, hundreds had not worked on a movie in decades”. That’s why since last year each new member’s voting status will last just 10 years, and be renewed only if they have been active in movies during that time. 

How the voting process works?

 The voting process is divided in two. In the first round, each member chooses up to five nominees, ranked in order of preference, between the films that had acquire all the requirements to enter the run. This first voting is done by branch, each member only vote for the nominations of their own field. For instance, someone in the writers’ branch would be asked to nominate for Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. But certain categories such as best foreign language film and best animated feature film have special voting committees, and all voting members are eligible to select the best picture nominees.

David Gritten, an Academy Member, told Telegraph that the Academy hosts screenings around its four main centers, in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and London, in order to the Academy members to watch the films and vote. The film distributors can send DVD’s to the members, but “absolutely cannot send gifts”.

Gritten also said that “Most of voting is online. The Academy now has an online system under which you’re not only given an ID and password – but also, as you’re about to vote, you receive a code to your mobile phone that you must answer back before your vote can be accepted.”

Once members send back their ballots, PricewaterhouseCoopers begins the process of counting, still done by hand. What people from PwC search for is what MentalFloss calls ‘The Magic Number’, the amount of votes in each category that automatically turns a potential nominee into an official nominee. To determine the magic number, PwC takes the total number of ballots received for a particular category and divides it by the total possible nominees plus one.

“The counting starts based on a voter’s first choice selection until someone reaches the magic number. The ballots that named him as a first choice are then all set aside, and there are now four spots left for the Best Actor category. The actor with the fewest first-place votes is automatically knocked out, and those ballots are redistributed based on the voters’ second place choices (though the actors still in the running retain their calculated votes from the first round). The counting continues, and actors or different categories rack up redistributed votes until all five spots are filled”.

After the nominees are decided, the second round starts. The whole Academy gets to vote on each category. Each member gets one vote per category—though they’re discouraged from voting in categories they don’t fully understand or in which they haven’t seen all the nominated films—and the film or actor with the most votes wins.

We’ll have to wait until February 26 to discover the winners, but there will be something that the voting counters will never tell us. Who got second?

Author: Andrea Llovera



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