Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 2nd 2014 Contents B10
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt March 2, 2014
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LOS ANGELES---Was it Lee Daniels The Butler, the
folk rock bio pic Inside Llewyn Davis, or Woody
Allen s Blue Jasmine?
We ll never know which film might have been the
tenth best picture nominee at this year s Oscars.
Ahead of Hollywood s biggest night tonight, movie-
goers may wonder why there have been only nine
nominees for best picture the last three years---even
though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sci-
ences rules allow for up to ten.
It s all part of a magic, complicated formula intended
to choose the year s best films, introduce an element
of surprise, and minimise voters incentive to vote
strategically, according to Rick Rosas, a Pricewater-
houseCoopers partner who supervises the count.
It allows for fewer nominees in years when support
is weak for certain films. Movies that make the cut
need a hard-core group of supporters as well as broad
acceptance by voters who would rank it their second-
or third-best choice of the year.
"We want voters to be able to fully vote their con-
science," Rosas says, "not to worry, My vote won t
matter for a particular film. "
Here s how the best-picture nomination process
works. But we must also issue a spoiler alert: Stop
reading now if you would rather not spoil the fun of
the Oscars by trying to figure out one of the most
complicated formulas devised by man.
The voting system
Still with us? Good luck.
The Academy s 6,000 members are sent ballots
and asked to rank their five favourite films of the year.
Let s say "Voter Jane" really loved 12 Years a Slave
but also thought American Hustle, Philomena, Gravity,
and Nebraska deserved runner-up status. She d mark
her ballot ranking 12 Years as No 1, American Hustle
Here s where the ballot counters come in.
All the films are ranked according to how many
first-place votes they received.
Any that get over 9.1 per cent of the first-place
votes are automatically nominated. That ensures that
no more than ten nominees automatically make the
cut. If ten make it, then the counting is done.
If there are fewer than ten, the ballot counters look
for so-called surplus votes. Any film that receives
votes at least ten per cent above the 9.1-per cent auto-
matic nomination threshold will have the surplus votes
reallocated according to the voter s second choice---
or third choice if the second choice is already nom-
Each first-place vote for that popular film is given
a lesser weight so the film barely crosses the threshold,
and that ballot s second-place votes help another film,
to a lesser degree.
So if 12 Years a Slave received ten per cent of the
votes, all of its first-place votes are counted with a
weight of roughly 0.9 votes, and all of the second-
place votes on the same ballot are redistributed to
those films (like American Hustle) with a weight of
roughly 0.1 votes.
Another check is done to see if any films cross the
9.1 per cent threshold.
Next, films with less than one per cent of the first-
place votes are eliminated and those ballots are real-
located according to the voter s second choice---or
third choice if the second is already nominated.
Finally, all films with more than five per cent of the
votes are automatically nominated. If there are between
five and ten, the counting is done. If there are
more than ten, the films with the fewest votes
are eliminated and their next-choice votes are
redistributed until only ten remain. If there
are less than five, the counters start over and
eliminate from the least vote-getters up, while
redistributing voters next-choice votes until
only five remain.
So those second- and third-place choices
really matter, even if a voter s first-place selec-
tion is extremely popular.
Oscars: How we ended up
with nine best picture noms
It's all part of a magic, complicated formula
intended to choose the year's best films,
introduce an element of surprise, and minimise
voters' incentive to vote strategically, according
to Rick Rosas, a PricewaterhouseCoopers
partner who supervises the count.
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