It’s still a mystery to most people — maybe even some members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. How does the Oscar voting process work?
Like this: The 6,000 or so members of the Academy nominate films only in their own craft areas: actors nominate actors, cinematographers nominate cinematographers, and so forth. Everyone gets to nominate five films for best picture, ranked in order of preference, and any film that’s listed in the top spot on five percent of the ballots or more is automatically in the race. (Thus there can only be 10 nominees at most. This year, only nine hit the five percent bar.) Special rules involving select committees apply for certain categories such as documentary shorts and features and foreign language films.
Come voting time, everyone gets to vote on everything, and the Academy urges members to see as many films as possible. Screeners are sent out, screenings are held, and an honor system prevails. After switching from mailed ballots to online voting last year, Oscar brass have instituted a system in which a message is sent to a member’s cellphone before voting can commence. This is to guard against the rumored practice of Academy members giving their ballots to their grandchildren or — if some stories can be believed — to their gardeners.