An expanded field of 10 movies are vying for honours on Sunday at the Oscars, where a complex new voting system will be used to determine the winner of the coveted best picture prize.
In a move designed to boost television ratings for the Academy Awards, organisers last year doubled the best picture race from five to 10 nominees, allowing for the inclusion of crowd-pleasing films on the Oscars shortlist.
The decision followed the controversial omission at last year’s awards of 2008 Batman blockbuster The Dark Knight, a much-admired movie that many in Hollywood felt was deserving of a best picture nomination.
The expansion of this year’s race has led to the inclusion of a number of box-office hits, with James Cameron’s record-breaking science-fiction epic Avatar leading the field of mainstream nominees.
But the crowded field has forced the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to revise the vote system used to settle the big picture race.
In previous years, a film needed only to secure the biggest number of votes to win according to the “first-past-the-post” system. Had that system been used this year, a film with only 11 per cent of the votes could win.
This time a preferential ballot will be used in order to more broadly represent the collective judgment of the nearly 6,000 Academy voters.
“Instead of just marking an ‘X’ to indicate which one picture they believe to be the best, members will indicate their second, third, and further preferences as well,” Academy President Tom Sherak said.
If no movie wins more than 50 per cent of the ballot in the first round, the film with the fewest number of first-choice votes is eliminated. The film’s votes are then allocated to movies ranked in second place. The process is continued until one movie emerges as the clear winner. Though Avatar and The Hurt Locker are seen as the favourites, some pundits believe Inglourious Basterds may be a popular second choice.