Tuesday, December 18, 2012

282 films are under final consideration for an Oscar nomination in the Best Picture category. This is the largest number of films in five years to meet the Academy’s requirements for nomination. Ballots have gone out to the nearly 6,000 members of the Academy and voting began on Monday. Voting closes on January 3, with the announcement of the nominees on January 10.

There has been some controversy about this, as voting is earlier this year than in the past. That means that a lot of Academy members have not yet seen many (or perhaps most) of the eligible films; a lot of viewing will have to be crammed into the next two weeks.

With this schedule, many voting members will rely on DVD screeners rather than seeing a film in a theatre or at a special screening. Clearly there will be some if not many of the 282 films that may not get seen by many members.

Another change this year is electronic voting. The Academy has always used paper ballots in the past, but this year a member may vote online or via paper ballot. The online voting will help somewhat with the schedule; a member can wait until the last minute to vote.

Voting for Best Picture nomination and eventual winner is done by all members of the Academy. In other categories, nominees are selected by members of the appropriate branch of the Academy. For instance only Actor members may vote on nominees in the acting categories.

To make the qualified list, the film must be at least forty minutes long and have had a commercial run of at least seven consecutive days in both Los Angeles and New York, during the year.

From the 282 qualified films, members will select as many as ten but no less than five actual nominated films (the other categories are limited to five nominees). This is determined by how many first place votes a film receives. With the sheer number of films and a number of real contenders from the Major studios (they have the money to put into high-powered Oscar campaigns) there will likely be 10 nominees. Last year there were 9.

The short list of films likely to be nominated includes some big pictures from the major studios (in the past few years, Best Picture nominees and winners have favored smaller budget, Independent films).

Here are some that I would be surprised if they did not get nominated. Each of these has received positive attention from critics, the film-festival circuit, Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations, and of course, the ‘Hollywood buzz’.

Lincoln, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, The Master, Les Miserables.

The SAG Awards can be particularly predictive. Actors make up the largest branch of the Academy, so their votes are meaningful. Their nominees for best cast in a Motion Picture could be telling in how they vote in the Best Picture category.

Other possibilities: Silver Linings Play Book (which played at the Denver Film Festival), Amour and even Skyfall. Yes it is a year in which big, studio pictures are contending. My sleeper (and wishful) possibility is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

You can view the entire list.

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