As promised, new Academy president John Bailey, a long-time and passionate voter on the foreign language committee, has pushed through some long-awaited changes in the voting rules. It’s meant to be simpler; here’s how the new system works.
By the October 2 deadline, the Academy expects some 90 foreign entries. These will be divided into multiple lists (the number is TBD; last year, there were four); committee participants (volunteers from all 17 Academy branches) are each assigned a list. They are required to watch all of the films on their assigned list at one of two screening rooms in L.A. They can see as many films on other lists as they like, and will receive full credit for each movie they screen. (Previously, a committee member had to watch a given percentage of films to qualify for voting.)
The Academy acknowledges that many questions about the actual breakdown of lists and votes remain to be determined.
Publicists and distribution and marketing executives who are affiliated with any given contender are now welcome to vote. This is a positive change, because so many of the people with the most knowledge of the foreign-film world are the ones involved in releasing and promoting these Oscar contenders. Now the likes of Fredell Pogodin and Nancy Willen, to name a few, can also vote.
Some things haven’t changed: Screenings are still in Los Angeles only. (Broadening the pool on a global basis via the internet is still far down the pike.) But in the second phase, after the shortlist of nine is chosen, there may be changes in how a wider group of committee members see the films in order to pick the final five. (On the documentary side, streaming is already happening.) I’m curious to see how that plays out.
In other Oscar changes, two popular fall festival hits have changed their release dates for awards season. Craig Gillespie’s sports comedy “I, Tonya,” starring Margot Robbie as skater Tonya Harding and Allison Janney as her mother, was picked up out of Toronto by Neon and will open December 8. And A24 has pushed up the limited release of Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” starring two other likely Oscar contenders, Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, from November 10 to November 3.