A whole galaxy of Hollywood stars will be in attendance, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin will share hosting duties, and at some point, somebody’s bound to show up on stage painted Avatar blue. (My money’s on Robin Williams.) But this year’s Academy Awards telecast boils down to one simple question. It’s the same question that comes up every year, and it’s the only one people actually care about: Who’s gonna win?
Sure, viewers are curious to see the outfits and hear the speeches. But this is the Academy Awards, and we wanna know who wakes up the next morning with a tiny naked gold man by their side.
While categories like Best Costumes and Best Original Song make for fine appetizers on the way to the night’s main course, they’re not the sort of thing people will be talking about come Monday morning. The only category that truly weighs on everyone’s mind is Best Picture. Declare a film the best one of the year, and we can debate it for months to come.
This Sunday boils down to a Best Picture / Best Director fight between James Cameron’s Avatar and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. It’s a juicy battle, all right. We’ve got the $700 million blockbuster vs. the micro-budget indie. We’ve got the effects-filled fantasy vs. the serious drama. We’ve got nine noms vs. nine noms. Heck, we’ve even got a knockdown, drag-out between exes. (Cameron and Bigelow were married from ’89 to ’91.) But it’s The Hurt Locker that will take home top honors.
Why? Well, for the first time in almost 70 years, 10 films have been nominated in the Best Picture category. That’s not all that’s changed this year, either. For this go-around, members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were asked to rank all 10 nominees in order of preference. For the first round of voting, everything will be tallied up. A plurality ain’t gonna cut it. The film with the fewest number of first-place votes will be dropped from the ballot. All those who picked that film will then have their second-place choice counted as a first place vote. This process will continue until one film lands at least 51 percent of the vote.
This elimination process heavily favors The Hurt Locker. Lesser contenders like An Education and A Serious Man are likely to drop off the ballot almost immediately. Academy voters who picked those micro-budget indies aren’t likely to have Avatar in their runner-up slot. That means those votes will probably add to The Hurt Locker’s tally. It’s a bit like one Republican running against nine Democrats. Eliminate one of the Democrats in a race toward simple majority and those votes are far more likely to go to another Democrat. ... Now if we could just get the Academy working on Presidential elections.