Oscar nominations came out last week and, therefore, the complaining about who was a surprise and who was snubbed has been going on for days. This gives me two thoughts, one about how to spice up the nominations themselves, and one about how to get the nominations right.
First off, announcing the nominees should be a televised event. Making the announcements on live TV is a no-brainer move that should have happened years ago. Hell, you could do it on Good Morning America or whatever morning show is on ABC. Considering how expensive ad time is during the Oscar telecast, it would make sense to turn the nominations into a broadcast event. Plus, Hollywood is a pretty big fan of celebrating itself so I can’t imagine there would be too many dissenting opinions about a big televised event.
Second, there needs to be multiple rounds of voting. Antiquated rules have left the Academy standing with its proverbial tail between its legs on multiple occasions and the recipe needs to be reshuffled if it’s going to evolve.
This is how the voting process works as of now: the nominees are chosen via preferential voting by the specific members of each branch. Actors vote for actors, editors vote for editors, etc., and everyone votes for Best Picture. For a breakdown of how voting currently works, visit here, or for a better understanding of preferential voting check out this handy visual.
As you can see, voting is both simple and complicated and this process determines all 5 of the nominees in each category, plus the Best Picture field that can range from 5 to 10 films. Under my proposal, the same preferential voting would be used to determine only the first 4 nominees in each category, and then voters are sent a list of the top 5 remaining vote-
getters in each category for them to vote on and determine the fifth, and final, nominee by way of popular vote. Then, after all the nominees have been set, the voters finally cast their ballots for the winner of each category.
We see a vicious cycle with almost all voting outcomes because people rarely vote with their head. This causes names to be left out and films to be forgotten. We’ve become a society that wants to find the most agreeable solution. And you might argue, “Who cares? It’s just an awards show”. But there are people who care, and there’s an honor and respect to receiving an Oscar nomination. If there’s any “who cares” sentiment then I can say squarely that this outcome has been caused by years of sloppy voting practices and flawed winners. History has not been kind to the Oscars. It used to mean something to win or even be nominated. There needs to be a respectability brought back into the fold.
This isn’t to say I feel like the nominated films, actors, and filmmakers aren’t worthy of nomination; my main concern here is to make sure we get it right, democratically speaking. To be clear, this is mainly for those nominees that will not be winning an Oscar, as this constitutes the majority of people and films represented at the ceremony. It is an honor and a privilege to be nominated for an Oscar and the voting should be treated as such.
Let’s look at my plan in action. Take, for example, this year’s Best Director nominees: Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Todd Phillips, Sam Mendes, and Bong Joon-ho. Let’s say through the first round of voting our nominees are Martin Scorsese, Quentin
Tarantino, Sam Mendes and Bong Joon-ho. Those are, arguably, the 4 shoo-ins in this category. The second round of voting would, then, include a list of the 5 directors who received the most votes but did not get one of the top 4 nominations. From this list, voters will choose the final nominee. This year that list might look something like this:
I think this helps ensure some accountability on behalf of the Academy in the event some film or filmmaker gets left off the ballot. This year we might take a look and say that, of those five potential nominees, Greta Gerwig made the best film and not Todd Phillips. Keep in mind this is hypothetical, I haven’t seen Little Women yet so I’m neither for nor against Gerwig being nominated. I’m just illustrating a point.
Some of the finer points are flexible (e.g. the number of nominees selected, the number of candidates on the second ballot) but I think you get the gist of my idea. I realize this post amounts to spitting in the ocean, but it’s at least something to think about if we’re going to get the Oscars back on track.