Announcing full tallies would add excitement
Speaking as a non-Academy member whose favorite movie of 2012 doesn’t have a prayer of a best picture nomination at the Oscars, I’m wondering what actual voters do in the same situation.In essence, it’s my Green or Libertarian or Peace and Freedom Party question. Do you vote your beliefs if your beliefs have no chance of being ratified, or do you put your vote where it can have the most impact? With the period for Oscar nomination voting opening today, a number of the 5,856 voting members of the Academy will be faced with that dilemma as they rank their preferences in the various categories. Not only do they have to juggle whether film X is better than film Y, some have to decide where to place film Z, which they know will be an also-ran. I imagine that if my favorite were out of the running but my No. 2 was in the thick of the competition, I’d move the runner-up to the top of my list. That seems a shame — though no one will ever know the difference. There’s something the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences could do to address that unfortunate compromise — and also fulfill the ongoing desire to brew more interest in the Oscars themselves: The Academy could release and publicize the full voting results. Throughout the ages (history began when “Wings” won the first Oscar for best picture, right?), AMPAS has generally guarded the results of the Academy Awards vote more carefully than any state secret. The names of those who will receive the statuettes are kept secret until the night of the telecast, but the results for those who don’t are kept secret forever.The logic, I suppose, is that it does no service to a contestant to show how much he lost by. But that’s the wrong way to look at it. For many, just getting recognition from Oscar voters is a victory. They say it’s an honor just to be nominated — by the same token, it’s an honor whenever you get any votes at all. Admittedly, the Academy’s preferential voting system (in contrast to a simple tally) makes this a complicated issue. And if you’re an A-lister or someone who entered awards season with high expectations, you might be embarrassed if meager vote totals were made public. But for filmmakers at large, there has to be something cool just about being counted rather than disappearing from the conversation. In baseball (something I have a passing familiarity with), balloting is the opposite of secret. We know that Barry Larkin got 495 votes for the Hall of Fame 11 months ago; we also know that Eric Young got exactly one. In the most valuable player races, we not only know everyone who got a vote, we know exactly how many times they were ranked first, ranked second, ranked third … all the way down to 10th. However humbling it might be for a few, it’s something to cherish for the rest. There is consolation in finishing second, third or 14th in the world at something. Moreover, there’s a historical record that fans will be able to refer to for years to come. It would be rather boring, to say the least, if each U.S. presidential election revealed only who the winner was while keeping the vote totals hidden. At some level, doesn’t everyone who has invested time in the awards process, who has been inundated with campaigning or who even just watches the kudocast, have a right to know the complete results — or at least something more than nothing? If AMPAS released a more detailed Oscar vote, it would be doing a service not only to history but to those underdog filmmakers whose films operate in relative obscurity. It would encourage those who find hidden gems to go all the way with their support instead of turning away when it counts. Say what you will about Roseanne Barr, but she got 67,314 more votes for president than I did. That counts for something.