Acad rules change ensures full slate of nominees

The original song category at the Oscars will be assured of five nominees going forward, the result of a rules change instituted by the film academy’s board of governors.

In addition, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ board has approved a recommendation from the designers branch (formerly the art directors branch) that the art direction award be known henceforth as the production design award.

Rules designed to ensure the integrity of the song nominations often had the consequence of reducing the number of nominees in a given year. For the most recent Oscars, only two songs made the final cut — the fewest since Oscar began recognizing tunesmiths in 1934.

In the coming year, however, the five songs receiving the highest number of votes from the music branch will earn nominations. Voting members will receive a reminder list of works submitted for consideration and a DVD copy of the song clips. After watching the clips, the balloteers will be asked to rank up to five candidates in order of preference.

The rules change follows one for original song in June that enables a fourth songwriter for an individual song to be considered “in rare and extraordinary circumstances.” That change, while expanding the number of potential trophy winners, left unsatisfied those who were concerned about such occurrences as this year, when only “Man or Muppet” (“The Muppets”) and “Real in Rio” (“Rio”) were nommed.

That total represented barely 5% of the 39 songs deemed eligible from 2011 films. However, those two tunes were the only ones to receive a minimum 8.25 average ranking from voters– using a method that has now been set aside in favor of the preferential voting system.

Ric Robertson, the Acad’s chief operating officer, acknowledged that the changes in the song category were partly a result of last year’s dearth of nominees. “I’s not unrelated,” he told Variety .

In lieu of the point-ranking system introduced in 2005, “The music branch wanted to go back to the way they had selected the best song nominees for 70 years, when music branch members ranked their top five favorites,” he said.

The now-defunct point-ranking system, in which submissions were rated on 6-10 scale, required that a song score an 8.25 average among voters in the balloting process to make the cut.

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