Even though we are still 90 days away from finding out the nominations for this year’s Oscars on Jan. 24, the process has already begun with Wednesday’s announcement of the 10 semi-finalists for Best Documentary Short. That is just one of the eight Academy Awards in which the nominees are determined by a system other than the usual method of first round voting which will begin on Jan. 5 and run for nine days.
As detailed below, a full one-third of the 24 competitive Oscar categories — Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, Foreign-Language Feature, Makeup & Hairstyling, Visual Effects, and the three Shorts (Animated, Documentary, Live-Action) — require viewing of contenders on either DVDs or at special screenings.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Voting on this award is done in two stages. First, branch members who volunteered to be on the screening committee watched the 61 documentary shorts submitted. Members scored each film from 6 (poor) to 10 (excellent) and the 10 highest ranked above 7.5 go on to the second stage. All members of the branch will be invited to screenings of these 10 semi-finalists and a preferential ballot will determine the five nominees.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT, BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
Short Films and Feature Animation Branch
Voting on these two awards is done in two stages. First, branch members who volunteer to be on the screening committees watch the animated and live-action shorts submitted; last year there were 60 and 144 respectively. Members score each film from 6 (poor) to 10 (excellent) and the 10 highest ranked above 7.5 go on to the second stage. All members of the branch are invited to screenings of these 10 semi-finalists and a preferential ballot will determine the five nominees.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Each branch member receives DVD screeners of the entries and is assigned to watch one-fifth of these but is encouraged to view as many as they can (last year there were 124 submitted). Members list their top 15 picks on a preferential ballot and those results are compiled and produce a shortlist of 15 contenders. All members are encouraged to watch the films on this list that they have not yet seen and cast preferential ballots with their top five choices.
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Makeup and Hairstyling Branch
Nominations are determined in two stages. First, upwards of 15 members of the branch who attend special screenings cast preferential ballots with the top seven vote-getters moving on to the second stage. Those members from the first stage and any other members who either attend screenings of excerpts from these seven semi-finalists or attest that they have seen them cast preferential ballots and the top three films are nominated.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual Effects Branch
The executive committee of the branch determines the 10 semi-finalists. All members of the branch are invited to a screening of excerpts from these 10 films at which potential nominees may discuss their work. Ballots are counted using a system of re-weighted range voting to determine the five nominees.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Voting on this award is restricted to academy members from any branch who volunteer to be on the screening committee and see at least two-thirds of the eligible films (last year there were 16, which meant they had to watch at least 11). Members score each film from 6 (poor) to 10 (excellent) and only those films with an average rating of at least 7.5 remain as contenders. If only one film merits such a score, it will receive a special award; otherwise, the five highest ranked above 7.5 will be the nominees.
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FEATURE
Voting on this award is restricted to academy members from any branch who volunteer to be on the screening committee. They are divided into groups and required to watch at least 17 of the 85 submissions for Foreign Language Film over a two-month period. They will score them from 6 to 10 and their top six vote getters will made it to the next round, as will three films added by the 20 members of the executive committee. The nine semi-finalists will be screened three per day beginning in early January by select committee members in both Gotham and Hollywood who will then vote for the final five nominees. The entire academy membership will get screeners of the five nominated films and can vote for the winner.
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. How do you think “Rules Don’t Apply” will do with academy voters? Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how this film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.