This morning I read a piece from the NY Times Carpetbagger on this year’s Best Documentary race, which raised a question on Twitter about Academy voting requirements. Documentary is one of few categories which requires voters to have seen all the nominees.
It has long driven me crazy is that this isn’t a requirement for *all* the categories, so I spent a little time with the Rules & Eligibility for the 83rd Academy Awards to find out a little more about voting rules. If you’re looking for something exciting to do this Friday evening, you should go read through them. Then you’ll know why there are only three animated feature nominees, for example. You’ll be the hit of every Oscar party!
Each branch votes on their own nominees, and the variety in the eligibility requirements as well as the nominating process from award to award is pretty amazing. Some are pretty basic, where everyone gets a list of films that are eligible, and then there’s a vote. Some are quite complex, such as the animated feature nominating committee, with their 10 point ranking system, their 80% viewed requirement, and their guidelines for the total number of nominees. The makeup one is also fantastic, requiring artists under consideration to submit written descriptions of their process to the committee!
Any active member can vote on the actual awards, and for most of them, they aren’t actually required to see *any* of the movies. How depressing is that, Oscar Death Racers?
There are five categories that require voters see all nominees. Not only that, but they specify that they must be in a theatrical setting, sometimes specifically at Academy screenings. I think this is fantastic.
Those categories are the three shorts (Animated, Live Action, and Documentary) as well as Documentary Feature & Foreign Language.
This goes a long way to explain why many of the major awards read as career achievement awards rather than awards for specific performances. Voters aren’t really comparing performances, which is hard to do anyway. They’re comparing careers.