In case you hadn’t heard, the 69th annual Academy Awards will be presented March 24. Everybody will be making predictions and all theories will sound informed. However, this year’s nominations made clear that it’s time to retire several untrue truisms about Academy voting.* Not enough people saw that film. Every year, people love to speculate on who will be nominated and every year, people praise some film but say, “It hasn’t a chance, because nobody saw that film.” This year, many praised the performances of Emily Watson in “Breaking the Waves,” Billy Bob Thornton in “Sling Blade,” Diane Keaton in “Marvin’s Room,” but suspected they were not seen by enough voters. The moral of the story: Don’t underestimate the power of the videocassette mailings. * Did the film direct itself? The best pic nominees and best director nominees have been the same only three times in 69 years. Everyone expresses astonishment that one or two directors of the best-pic nominees were overlooked, without acknowledging that two different groups vote on the nominations; it’s like being surprised that Massachusetts voted for one candidate but Montana voted for a different one. * Two great performances in one film will cancel each other out in the voting. Peter Finch in “Network,” Jack Nicholson in “Terms of Endearment,” F. Murray Abraham in “Amadeus,” Cloris Leachman in “The Last Picture Show,” Dianne Wiest in “Bullets Over Broadway” won Oscars, even though they were competing with a fellow performer from their films. This year, pundits announced flatly that Keaton would not be nominated for “Marvin’s Room,” because she and Meryl Streep would cancel each other out. (Similarly, they announced a few years ago that Streep would not get nominated for “Postcards From the Edge,” because she and Shirley MacLaine would cancel each other out. Streep was nominated.) * This year’s nominees indicate a new trend. Every year, journalists try to find a pattern to the voting and declare that this is a new direction for the Academy, and the following year they ignore the fact that this new “trend” is nowhere to be found.
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