It should come as no surprise that winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards is no easy feat. As the barriers to enter into the film world continue to lessen, thanks to affordable cameras and editing software, more films than ever are being released, with competition growing yearly. Even award-winning director Steven Soderbergh shot his film Unsane on an iPhone. That’s a lot of choice. So how difficult is it for one of these films to snag the coveted Best Picture Oscar? In a new video breakdown by Vanity Fair, the magazine reveals how many things must line up to be the film that takes the stage for the final award of Oscar night.
First, there’s narrowing down the eligible films. Vanity Fair reports that in 2017 there were 341 films eligible for Oscar nominations. Removing what VF considers the obvious no-gos, including action films, buddy cop flicks, and bad rom coms, that leaves a smaller pool of possible nominees.
Then, there’s deciding which films are Oscar-worthy. Each decade seems to have its own theme, with the 1970s favouring gangster films, while the 1980s celebrated dramas set around the world. Fast forward to the 2010s and we’ve seen a new trend called ‘The Film Festival.’ Looking at the past seven winners from this decade, including Moonlight, Spotlight, Birdman, 12 Years a Slave, Argo, The Artist and The Kings Speech, all films debuted at film festivals before opening in cinemas.
Next, it’s time to promote the film. Once a film has debuted to critical acclaim, the marketing campaign begins. This can range from offering members of the Academy A-list access to screenings to capitalizing on what’s happening in the world. In 2016, Lion was nominated for Best Picture and was initially framed as a film about a young boy finding his way home. After the US election, the studio pivoted and centred the discussion around Lion on Trump’s immigration ban.
Now, onto the Academy. Made up of 8,000 members, the Academy is split into 17 branches based on the members’ occupation, including Directors, Actors, Casting Directors, Cinematographers, Costume Designers, etc. Each branch has its own requirements for membership. For example, directors must have two directing credits within the past decade. Members are only allowed to nominate in their own branch, which means Make Up Artists are the only members allowed to nominate Best Make Up, etc. The nominated film or individual with the most votes wins the Oscar in that category. That’s the case for all categories except for Best Picture.
Here’s how Best Picture differs:
- When it comes to Best Picture, all Academy members can nominate a film.
- A film needs at least 5 per cent of the vote from the Academy to earn a nomination.
- Once a film has secured a nomination, preferential balloting comes into effect.
- Voters rank all the nominated films. If a film does not receive 50 per cent of the votes, the lowest ranked film on a voter’s ballot is dropped and that vote goes to the next choice on their ballot.
- Films continue to be ranked and dropped until one title receives 50 per cent of the vote plus one per cent extra.
Like in politics, the popular vote won’t win you a Best Picture Oscar, but it will win you Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Lighting, and everything else you can win an Academy Award for doing on a movie set.
Watch the 2019 Academy Awards on Sunday, February 24 at 8 p.m. ET on CTV.