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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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