How are Academy Award Winners Chosen?

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The 82nd Academy Awards will crown a new Oscar winner for Best Picture, as well as hand out statues for achievements in film direction, acting, writing, animation, cinematography, art direction, costume design, editing, makeup, sound editing, visual effects and more.

But how are these winners decided? How do the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences choose which film they felt was exemplary?

The L.A. Times discusses the anatomy of the Oscar race, stating that the Academy uses the system of preferential voting, and has done so since 1934. Let’s examine the voting process for best picture…

Each ballot asks voters to choose their picks in descending order, so placing the best film at number one, the next best at number two, and so on. If the votes tally up to 50.1% of the vote, then that particular film is declared the winner. However, a majority win like that is hard to come by, so the next step is to take the film in last place (with the smallest number of ballots) and redistribute them according to the second choice film. This eliminates the film in last place from the race. Then the votes are counted again to see if there’s the possibility of a 50.1% winner. This process continues until there’s one film with the majority.

So what happens once voting is over? Newsweek explain how accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers counts and determines a winner in each category  counting and declaring a winner once the Academy members have voted:

  • Four accountants and two ballot leaders being tallying the votes. The room they count the votes in has one door and no windows. Each ballot is counted by hand to ensure accuracy.
  • During this time, an assistant types the names of all the nominees in each Oscar category on two sets of notecards. These are given to the ballot leaders, who will select the winner from the stack of cards and place the names in envelopes.
  • Once the ballots are finally counted, the final results (and envelopes) are locked in a safe. Only the ballot leaders know who the winners are before they are announced during the ceremony.
  • On the day of the show, the accountants who locked up the winners place the envelopes in identical black briefcases. Each person takes a different route to the Kodak Theater (where the Oscars are held), arriving two and a half hours before the ceremony.
  • During the ceremony, each accountant is stationed at one end of the stage. Presenters receive envelopes from one or the other. Neither accountant can leave during the telecast. They also have all the winner’s names memorized, in case the wrong names is announced.

Who will you be rooting for to win this year’s Oscar? Tell us your Academy Award winner predictions in the comments below!

Related Film Fact:

Rain Man, starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1988.

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