The 86th Academy Awards voting process has begun.
Until the nominations are announced on Jan. 16, 2014, Hollywood will be holding its collective breath. Provided below is a short summary of what you might expect to hear on that date.
The all-important awards season is the most competitive in decades thanks to a flood of critic and member pleasing fare. Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars are featured in challenging roles this time around.
The highly emotional and compelling “12 Years a Slave” is the favorite for Best Picture, with “Gravity” hovering nearby in the No. 2 slot. The unexpected ultra-high box-office levels that “Gravity” has achieved are causing experts, critics, and Oscar voters to take a second look at the outer space drama.
In addition to the two flicks just mentioned, “American Hustle” is a lock for a nom. “Hustle” has a cast of Oscar and critic favorites and is inspired by a true story from the recent past, a concept that Academy members are quite fond of and one that is reminiscent of last year’s “Argo.”
“Nebraska,” a unique take on aging, and “Captain Phillips,” a real-life pirate action thriller, are likely to receive nominations as well.
Other movies that could garner nominations include “Her,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Fruitvale Station,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Philomena,” “Blue Jasmine,” “August: Osage County,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” and “The Book Thief.”
The Academy uses a preferential voting system to determine the nominees for nearly every Oscar category. However, the organization has altered the process for Best Picture to allow a range of 5 to 10 Best Picture nominees, which are determined under the rules described below.
The entire Academy votes for Best Picture. Each member ranks his or her five choices numerically from 1 to 5. Each ballot is then categorized into groups based upon the No. 1 selections.
A “magic number” is determined by dividing the number of overall ballots by the number of total nominee slots + 1. This number is then used to qualify the Best Picture nominations. Any film that receives #1 votes equal to or greater than the “magic number” becomes a Best Picture nominee.
The Academy also has a “surplus rule.” If any films under consideration receive 20% or more in No. 1 votes over the magic number, the ballots are redistributed based upon each voter’s next eligible choice.
The math gradually becomes more complex, but in the end it results in a slate of 5 to 10 Best Picture nominees. As a by-product of the process, though, and as a result of the number of films under consideration, some highly regarded movies will inevitably be overlooked.
The Best Actor category is full of potential nominees, and Hollywood sentiment will likely play a big role. Chiwetel Ejiofor, the lead for “12 Years a Slave,” is tied with Robert Redford, whose work in “All is Lost” puts the 77-year-old in contention for his first acting Oscar. Both are set to receive nominations along with Bruce Dern for “Nebraska” and Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club.” Also in the running is Tom Hanks for “Captain Phillips,” Joaquin Phoenix for “Her,” Leo DiCaprio for “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Michael B. Jordan for “Fruitvale Station,” Christian Bale for “American Hustle,” and Forest Whitaker for “The Butler.”
The Best Actress category is generally highly competitive, but this year some of the veterans who have won in the past are dominating the nomination scene. Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”) and Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”) are out-front favorites and will certainly receive nominations. Additional expected nominees are Emma Thompson (“Saving Mr. Banks”), Judi Dench (“Philomena”), and Meryl Streep (“August: Osage County”).
Amy Adams, who is deserving of a nomination for her work in “American Hustle,” is more likely to be slighted than the aforementioned.
The Best Director category, which typically generates some rebuffs, simply has too many contenders this year. Bet on Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”), David O. Russell (“American Hustle”), Alexander Payne (“Nebraska”), and Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) to make the nomination list. And struggling but not to be overlooked are Martin Scorsese (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) and Joel and Ethan Coen (“Inside Llewyn Davis”).
Sure-shot predictions for those who will go home with trophies on Oscar night include Angelina Jolie, Steve Martin, and Angela Lansbury. All three are receiving Honorary Awards from the Academy.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
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