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DID YOU READ

An Idiot’s Guide To The New Academy Award Rules

An Idiot’s Guide To The New Academy Award Rules (photo)

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Just two years after switching their decades old structure of five Best Picture nominees, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, has announced another major shakeup to the nominations process, starting with the 2012 Academy Awards. Now instead of a fixed number of nominees, the Best Picture category will be determined by the percentages of votes received. This excerpt from the official Academy press release explains:

“With the help of PricewaterhouseCoopers, we’ve been looking not just at what happened over the past two years, but at what would have happened if we had been selecting 10 nominees for the past 10 years,” explained Academy President Tom Sherak… During the period studied, the average percentage of first place votes received by the top vote-getting movie was 20.5. After much analysis by Academy officials, it was determined that 5% of first place votes should be the minimum in order to receive a nomination, resulting in a slate of anywhere from five to 10 movies.

“In studying the data, what stood out was that Academy members had regularly shown a strong admiration for more than five movies,” said [retiring Academy executive director Bruce] Davis. “A Best Picture nomination should be an indication of extraordinary merit. If there are only eight pictures that truly earn that honor in a given year, we shouldn’t feel an obligation to round out the number.”

Uh oh. That press release has math. I specifically got into the movie game so I would never have to think about math. So what does this mean in layman’s terms? That five Best Picture nominees is still considered too few, but ten is now considered too many. So the new plan is to try a system that can expand or contract on a per year basis depending on the quality of films and the number of votes they receive.

This new system reminds me a little bit of the completely unscientific, but totally fascinating measure that J. Hoberman invented for use in the Village Voice‘s annual film poll: The Passiondex. It’s calculated by dividing a film’s total points by the number of critics who voted for the film. Then that number is multiplied by the number of first place votes the film received (ugh, more math! Worst blogging day ever). Hoberman believes The Passiondex “enables us to make a distinction between those movies that have true partisans and fervent lovers, and those others which, inspiring fraternal good wishes, are the consensus choices that typically appear toward the bottom of many lists.” And that’s basically what this new Oscar system does: reward the movies that are ranked first by Academy voters. If a movie is widely liked, but not deeply loved — if it appears as the #5 film on every ballot, but as the #1 film on zero ballots — it won’t make the cut.

So why the change? Over at Deadline, Pete Hammond says the new plan stems from “the feeling is the Academy has to do something to reinvigorate its contest, which has been losing the suspense factor due to the large number of pre-Oscar awards shows…by the time Oscar noms roll around near the end of January, everyone is tired and the race predictable.” That was the essential argument of my 2011 Oscar wrap-up piece; instead of blaming the mediocre Oscar telecast on the scapegoated hosts or the lame comedy bits, the real problem was the lack of surprise. (“When we remember our favorite Oscar moments,” I wrote, “we don’t think of planned material. We love the crazy spontaneous moments.”) I’m not sure how this new system improves the actual Oscar show itself — since all the suspense comes before the nominations are announced — but it at least throws a fresh wrinkle into the mix.

Now that the two year experiment is over, it’s pretty clear that the 10-nominee system, was doomed to fail from the start. It was implemented, we were told, to spread the box-office boosting cache of the “Academy Award Nominated!” tag to more movies, and to encourage Oscar telecast viewership by allowing more room in the Best Picture category for popular, mainstream fare. But both of those benefits were ultimately self-defeating. People go see Best Picture nominees sight unseen because with just five movies every year, that designation feels special. Doubling the field makes the industry happier, but it also tarnishes the Oscar brand for quality. And even with twice as many Best Picture nominees, the race still came down to a fight between two films.

Though I’m curious to see how this development affects next year’s nominees, I’m a little worried about this flurry of changes to the way the Oscars work. To me, the number of nominees is ultimately less important than the consistency of the awards. We like the Oscars in movies for the same reason we like stats in baseball: as a way to measure success and to compare the past to the present. Because of statistics we can compare the baseball players of today to the ones in the Hall of Fame. We used to be able to do that with the Oscars, by looking at which movies made the cut and which ones didn’t. Without consistency, that’s tough to do. And now the Academy seems intent on a system, its third in four years, that is defined by inconsistency.

Do you like the new Academy Award rules? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter!

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.