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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.