Inside the Academy Infographic – just who are the Oscar voters?

The Academy Awards are just days away. By this time next week, ardent movie fans and even casual movie fans will likely be participating in some kind of Oscar tittle tattle.

Some of you might already know that the Oscar envelope just got a new makeover last year, updating the plain white envelope design they had been using for the last 70 years. You can read about the design in this article, taking cues from old Hollywood, it’s made to look as glamorous as the ceremony itself.

It sure is pretty, but the thing that matter most about the Oscar but yet always been a mystery to me is who determine whose names that’ll get printed under the beautifully embossed lettering of “AND THE OSCAR GOES TO.” A lot are riding in that decision point, let’s face it, no matter how we as moviegoers feel about the Oscars, for the industry folks, winning or even just being nominated for an Oscar affect their career in a big way. But who really make up the 5,765 AMPAS’ voting members that largely influence the Oscar nominees and winners?

The L.A. Times did a study recently and published its finding in this article. Well, the envelope might have a fresh new look, but suffice to say that the AMPAS as an institution is still pretty much same old, same old.

A Los Angeles Times study found that academy voters are markedly less diverse than the moviegoing public, and even more monolithic than many in the film industry may suspect. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%.

Below is part of the info-graphic that illustrate the findings, you can view the complete chart here.

Apparently not much has changed since its first organizational meeting in 1927. The article did say that Academy leaders do want to diversify, but “… change is difficult because the film industry is not very diverse, and slow because the academy has been limiting membership growth for the last decade,” President Tom Sherak and Chief Executive Dawn Hudson said in the article. Ok, so we’re supposed to give the Academy points for trying?? You’d think 85 years is a long enough time to make at least a noticeable change.

Well, this race/gender inequality issue is disheartening but not exactly surprising, but what is quite interesting to learn is that the majority of members (64%) have never been nominated or win an award themselves. Now, this article also revealed that some unexpected members of the Academy, some more mind-boggling than others… Pee-wee Herman? Meat Loaf??? Erik Estrada???? Yep, they are all members whilst Woody Allen and George Lucas are NOT. Oh and apparently Viggo Mortensen actually turned down an invitation. He was invited in 2004 and was nominated for an Oscar in 2008 for Eastern Promises but the article reported that his spokeswoman said, “Viggo does not like judging art officially,” Hmmm, would that hurt his Oscar chances in the future, I wonder?

So what are your thoughts about this study folks? Surprised, appalled, don’t care? Well, let’s hear it.

Musings on Oscar’s Best Picture Nominations… and My Predictions

Hello and welcome to the eve of the Oscar nominations or Oscar night, namely the night only Hollywood folks and movie buffs give a damn about 🙂 Truthfully I almost forgot about the Oscar nominations if it weren’t for the Classical NPR station I listened to during rush hour traffic. They actually ran a special program called ‘Roll Credits’ where they played some Oscar-nominated scores, including one from The Big Country that’s on my top five list from Gregory Peck films.

All kinds of predictions have been circulating all over the place, and I’ll get to that later, but before that I just want to share some Best Picture history/trivia I learned recently. Now, out of a total of 24 categories given out at the Academy Awards, the one on everyone’s mind is which film is going to win Best Picture?’ That’s why it always came on last as people’d want to stick around to find out which movie take top honors.

The big question this year is…

How many Best Picture nominees will there actually be??

As you know, a couple of years ago, Oscar expanded the Best Picture nominees from 5 to 10. Now there’s yet another mind-boggling qualifying system… A film must receive at least 5% first place votes in the nominating process to qualify as one of the 5 to 10 nominees (per so there might be somewhere between 5-10 Best Picture nominees this year.

Here’s just a brief history of the Best Picture category specifically, thanks to AMC Filmsite:

The Oscars®, have been presented annually since 1927 (the first awards ceremony was held in May 1929) by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

The Best Picture category has been identified with a variety of names over the years: Outstanding Picture, Outstanding Production, Outstanding Motion Picture, Best Motion Picture, and Best Picture.

For the 1927/28 through the 1950 Awards, the nomination and ‘Best Picture’ Oscar went to the production company or studio that produced the film. [For example, Gone With The Wind‘s Best Picture Oscar was officially presented to Selznick International Pictures, not to David O. Selznick.] Thereafter, the ‘Best Picture’ Oscar was given to the producer(s).

The ever so fascinating—as well as discombobulating—tidbits about Best Picture nominees is the genre biases:

Most Likely to Be Nominated (or Win) For Best Picture: Serious dramas or social-problem films with weighty themes, biopics (inspired by real-life individuals or events), or films with literary pretensions are much more likely to be nominated (and win). Glossy, large-scale epic productions with big budgets (of various genres) often take the Best Picture prize.

Least Likely to Be Nominated (or Win) For Best Picture: Action-adventures, family-oriented animation, “popcorn” movies, suspense-thrillers, science-fiction, superhero films, horror, comedies (including teen comedies), Westerns, foreign-language films, and spy thrillers are mostly overlooked, as are independent productions and children’s films (although there have been a few exceptions).

Miscellaneous Trivia on Best Picture category:

  • The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) was the first non-US made film to both earn a Best Picture nomination, and win an Oscar of any sort (Best Actor for Charles Laughton, in this case). The first non-Hollywood (foreign-made) film to win Best Picture was Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948).
  • Only two novels that were made into films have won both the Best Picture Oscar and the Pulitzer Prize: Gone With The Wind and All the King’s Men
  • As I was researching about The Macomber Affair over the weekend, I found out from this Leonard Maltin site that the first film ever to win Best Picture Oscar, Wings, a silent film about WWI pilot starring Clara Bow and Gary Cooper, is NOT available on DVD. That’s a shame isn’t it?
  • In recent times since the advent of modern box-office tabulations, Best Director-winning Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (2009) was the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner of all time. Its domestic gross earnings were $12.6 million at the time of its nomination, and only $14.7 at the time of its award.
  • Precious (2009) was the first-ever Best Picture nominee to be directed by an African-American filmmaker, Lee Daniels.
  • Oh and get this: Wings was also the only silent film to win ‘Best Picture’ … would this year the Oscar ‘come full circle’ if you will, with The Artist?

Anyway, I could go on and on as I love movie trivia, so I invite you to check out the comprehensive Oscar history on AMC Filmsite.

So, here are my best guess of Best Picture Nominees, just for the fun of it really as I haven’t seen everything that might considered. But hey, I won’t let that stop me 🙂 I just take a wild guess that there’ll be eight nominees, so here goes (in alphabetical order):

  1. The Artist*
  2. The Descendants
  3. Bridesmaids
  4. The Help
  5. Hugo
  6. Midnight in Paris
  7. Moneyball
  8. The Tree of Life
  • Drive
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • The Ides of March
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The Artist is the one I’m rooting for this year and I have a feeling it just might be the picture that’ll sweep the Oscars this year.

Any thoughts on Oscar or Best Picture noms specifically? Feel free to make your own predictions before the nominees are announced tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM eastern time.