Oscars 2021: how are the prestigious statuettes awarded?

A few hours before the presentation of the most glorious cinema prizes, awarded on the night of this Sunday, April 25 in Hollywood, back to the mysteries of the ballot.

They are 9,362, a record figure, to be able to vote this year for the Oscars, the most prestigious cinema prizes which will be awarded on April 25 in Hollywood. Who are they ? Where do they come from ? How is the ballot organized?

Who has the right to vote?

All Oscar voters are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences located in Los Angeles. They must be “accomplished” cinema professionals, coming from one of the 17 branches of the industry (actors, hairdressers, costume designers, editors, producers, directors, screenwriters …). All applicants must be co-opted by at least two Academy members, with the exception of Oscar nominees and winners who can apply directly. After studying their file, the final decision rests with the Board of Governors of the Academy. Members of the Academy have long enjoyed the right to vote “for life” but since 2016, it has been limited to a ten-year renewable period.

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Who are they ?

The Academy has long remained discreet on the voters list, even if nothing prevents these privileged from making it known. In 2016, after several years of scathing criticism of the composition of its members not reflecting the diversity of society, it indicated that its 6,000 members at the time were 93% white and 76% male. Their median age was 63. The Academy announced in the wake of a doubling of women and members of ethnic minorities by 2020 to breathe new blood into its workforce. She announced last summer that she had kept this commitment thanks to her new recruitments. The proportion of women within the Academy is now around 33%, compared to only 25% in 2015. As for “under-represented minorities”, in other words not all members being white, their number has tripled. to go from 554 in 2015 to 1,787, or 19% of the workforce. In order to meet its goals, the Academy has become much more international in recent years, tripling its foreign members who now number over 2,100.

How are appointments made?

Most of the nominees are chosen by members of their professional branch: actors vote for actors, directors for directors, and so on. Certain categories, such as the best foreign language film or animated films, are the subject of a special committee. However, all members of all branches can vote for the best film of the year.

How are the winners chosen?

Unlike nominations, all voters can participate in the vote to choose the winners, regardless of their professional branch. In 22 of the 23 categories, the one with the most votes wins. The “best film”, the flagship award of the Oscars, is an exception. Since 2009, this category has been governed by a strange and complex “preferential” voting system with several rounds. Each voter must rank in order of preference the films in the running (eight this year) but, unless an absolute majority is obtained straight away, it is not the work that collects the greatest number of first position that wins. automatically.

On each round, the film that was ranked first the least often is eliminated and its allocated votes are reallocated to the remaining films, according to the highest “preference” on each list. The process continues until a work passes the 50% vote mark. Result of this system: very often, the film which emerges the winner is the one arriving in second or third position on the greatest number of ballots, and not at the top.

“The idea of ​​this alternative ballot was to reflect the wishes of the greatest number of voters. Otherwise, we risked ending up with a film that 25% of people loved but that others couldn’t stand ”, explained Ric Robertson, head of the Academy of Oscars, during the reform of 2009.

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Oscars 2021: how are the prestigious statuettes awarded?

Hank Gilbert