Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

19 January 2007

The First of a Couple Posts about Oscar Before the Nominations on Tuesday

I should say first of all (stop me if you've heard this before) that I love Oscar nomination morning. It's my Christmas morning. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call it—quite literally—my favorite day of the year. The reason for this is that I love all of the surprises and all of the wealth that gets spread. Oscar night itself, with its glitz and glamor and montages, is relatively lacking in surprises (the ridiculously homophobic display that constituted Crash's win last year excepted). But the morning of the Oscar nominations... there are so many names! And there are so many shockers! I can get so excited when things come through for someone whose performance I think is aces. Last year there were genuine surprises in the nominations for Amy Adams and William Hurt and some years it's downright crazy (remember Keisha Castle-Hughes getting nominated for Best Actress for Whale Rider?) On the west coast, too, there is even more ceremony. To watch the nominations on television in Los Angeles, you have to wake up at 5:30a on a Tuesday... something I know many people are loathe to do. I always do it. In the pre-dawn, I make my coffee and sit with a blanket wrapped around me and yawn while I wait for the president of the Academy to walk out and start reading off names. It's the best day of the year. This year, I'm on the east coast, so I won't have to wake up ridiculously early. I'm sure that will put a glitch in the ceremonial aspect of the morning for me, but I expect the anticipation to be just as pregnant. I can't wait!

A couple more things before I move on to predictions in a day or two (I have a lot of Greeks to read, so forgive me). I want to go over how the nominations work and explain my ballots a little better. The way Oscar nominations work is really weird. First off, everyone votes in their own fields: only actors vote for acting nominations, only cinematographers vote for cinematography nominations and only music composers vote in the music categories. The breakdown of the Academy (this is from Oscarwatch) is as follows:
Actors: 1260
Producers: 461
Executives: 429
Sound: 415
Writers: 396
Art Directors: 378
Directors: 376
Public Relations: 371
Members at Large: 283
Shorts/Feature Animation: 316
Visual Effects: 249
Music: 237
Editors: 224
Cinematographers: 186
Documentary: 134
Makeup: 115
Total: 5830

The way I understand the nomination process to work is like this: each voter picks five names in the order of their preference. For example, my ballot for Best Director would be (in order):
1) Aronofsky, The Fountain.
2) Cuarón, Children of Men.
3) Greengrass, United 93.
4) Almodóvar, Volver.
5) Frears, The Queen.

Next, the ballots are put into piles based on the first choice listed. (My ballot goes into the Aronofsky pile.) From here, the ballots in the pile with the fewest number of votes are removed. Let's say there are ten directors who picked Oliver Stone for World Trade Center as their first choice. If that pile is the smallest, those votes are removed from the Ollie Stone pile and re-distributed based on the second choice on the ballot. This continues until there are only five left. This encourages voters to actually pick the choice that is their favorite as their top choice, because even if their first choice isn't in the popular running, their vote still counts. In this way, too, it makes sense for a voter to weight his or her ballot toward the nominees with the least chance (notice my first Best Actor choice was Melvil Poupaud for Time to Leave, an actor with a snowball's chance in Hell of nabbing a nomination.) So, in my director example, let's say that at some point the Darren Aronofsky pile is the smallest pile, the ballots from that pile are re-distributed and my ballot gets put in the Alfonso Cuarón pile, where it hopefully stays, taking Cuarón to his first Best Director nomination. If Cuarón's pile becomes the smallest pile, my vote will again be re-distributed, this time to Paul Greengrass's pile. The vote only counts once, though, so my vote can really only help one of the directors in question. By this line of thinking, I should be happy if one of my five choices makes it to a nomination on Tuesday morning, since my vote can only count once anyway. This is how I try to approach it. Last year, Amy Adams was my first choice as supporting actress, Philip Seymour Hoffman was my fourth choice as lead actor, Judi Dench was my fourth choice as lead actress and William Hurt was my fourth choice as supporting actor. I try to pick my five favorites and then put the people who I think need the most help at the top of the list. But one person from each of my lists made it on the final ballot, so I have to be happy with that. That's all the say I would've gotten even if I were a proper voting member of the Academy.

That's it for now. I'll have proper predictions later on in the weekend after I see Letters from Iwo Jima and The Last King of Scotland, which both have finally arrived in Tallahassee.