How the Academy’s Members Decide on Who Gets an Oscar, and What Oscar Bait Is
Every year, millions of movie fans literally freeze in front of TV screens and watch the Academy Awards ceremony for several hours. Not only does this feature the awards for the best roles, but it also serves as public recognition for filmmakers and their hope for high earnings in the near future. And its red carpet, in its turn, has become a true runway for demonstrating fashionable outfits.
We at Bright Side were always curious about who chooses the winners of the Oscars. That’s why we took a risk and held a small investigation, and we found many interesting facts. The bonus at the end includes the opinions of spectators who also like to talk about today’s movies.
The destiny of each Oscar nominee is decided by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). It was founded almost 100 years ago, in 1927, and included only 36 workers in the movie industry at that time.
Today, more than 10,000 people from different countries are members of the Academy. All of them are filmmakers whose works were released to the public. One can get onto the list of those who choose the best movies only through the recommendation of 2 current members of AMPAS.
The academy members are split into 17 different “branches,” from scriptwriters, directors, and actors to makeup artists and computer graphics specialists. Every member is allowed to vote for the winner in all categories.
The full list of the Academy members is not on their site, however, they often publish the list of new members there. Thus, in 2020, actresses Zendaya Coleman (Spider-Man: Far from Home) and Yeo-jeong Cho (Parasite) became new members of the Academy.
And Jennifer Lawrence, the star of The Hunger Games, has been selecting Oscar winners since 2012. In one TV show, the actress even told a story about how her mom received the ballot and tried to fill it in and send it herself, unaware that it was Lawrence who was supposed to do it. Fortunately, for the actress, her mom sent it back to herself, and the actress got the chance to change her choices.
They vote for the best movie, best actors, best original screenplay, best film editing, and even best makeup and hairstyling. The results of this process are counted by the auditor’s company, PricewaterhouseCoopers. The winners among those nominated have to get more than 50% of the votes.
After processing the ballots, only 2 representatives of PricewaterhouseCoopers know the results of the vote. They keep the secret until the famous envelopes are opened on stage during the Academy Awards ceremony.
There is a theory that the suitcase with envelopes is handcuffed to the hand of a PwC employee during transportation. Also, the envelopes with the names of the winners are made in 2 copies, and both representatives of the auditor company deliver them on different routes accompanied by a guard.
In order to prevent the information from getting into the media before the ceremony, the statuettes initially have empty bases. Before 2010, winners had to return their Oscars to the Academy and wait several weeks for their names to be engraved on plinths. Now the engraving can be put on the plates right after the ceremony during the party that is arranged in honor of the winners.
Look at the photos that were taken right after the award-giving. None of the statuettes have the names of the winners on them. They will be put there a bit later.
Since 2002, the Academy Award ceremony has taken place in the same spot, the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. It was designed especially for holding this ceremony. The Dolby hall has art-deco-style columns — many of them have the names of the winners of the Best Movies written on them. A part of those columns still has no plates with names on them.
In between the ceremonies, the theater doesn’t remain empty — various award ceremonies, symphonic orchestras, and other events take place here throughout the year.
Getting this award is not that easy. Not to mention, the “Big Five” award, which is given for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay, something creators of modern movies can only dream about.
About 40 movies have been nominated in all 5 categories over the course of Academy Award history. But the “Big Five” has been awarded only 3 times. Its winners were It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
There are some patterns that can be identified in the Best Movie category. Jury members rarely vote for adventure films, musicals, fantasy, action, and westerns. And the only horror film that received worldwide recognition was The Silence of the Lambs, filmed at the intersection of horror and crime drama.
At the same time, jury members love long historical epics, dramas, and biopics, especially ones where characters bravely overcome challenging obstacles. Thus, movies like Gone with the Wind, The Godfather, Forrest Gump, and Titanic made it onto the list of Oscar winners.
Some directors and producers even started to cheat a bit and create films seemingly specifically for receiving the famous award. Those who work in the movie industry even came up with the term, “Oscar bait.” Usually, such movies are released at the end of the calendar year to keep the status of a new movie, and their creators invest tons of money into advertising campaigns.
The most common genres for such “Oscar bait” are historical dramas or biopics. The media even started to release articles with ironic headlines, like “Wanna Win Best Actor? Be in a Biopic.”
Bonus: Viewers have their opinions too.
- I think one important role of awards of all kinds is to shine an extra light on deserving works of art. Would I have seen Parasite if not for the award buzz it was getting? I don’t know that I would. Did I enjoy it? Yes, it’s one of my favorite films from the past 10 years. © Tom Salinsky / Quora
- Superhero films are made differently than a lot of the films that get Oscar recognition. They are tent-pole pictures, so their opening dates are often set years in advance. That means they are always rushed. Jennifer Lawrence has the capability to provide an Oscar-worthy performance as Mystique in the X-Men films, but she can’t put the time and effort into that role. The rushed schedule means less rehearsal, and when you’re wearing full-body makeup that melts off in a few hours and your scenes involve expensive pyrotechnics, you don’t get as many takes as you might like to find a scene. © Robert Frost / Quora
- Most action and comedy films actually don’t make it to the Oscars and many don’t even submit because historically, the Oscars are most about dramatic films — serious films. The top Oscar awards go for the finest critical films. © K Grace-deLily / Quora
- Tell me something: do you really like Picasso’s work? He’s famous because he did something no one had ever done before. Moving on to movies. Many “unknown” movies provide a new take on worn-out genres or incorporate themes that haven’t been done before. They need to be awarded, otherwise, no one would even watch them. Many of these will probably become movie classics, and they will inspire other, more mainstream movies, therefore, starting a new theme or genre. © Luís Graça / Quora
Do you watch Oscar-winning flicks? Or does a movie’s number of awards not matter to you?