As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences adds more access for its members via online Oscar screeners, this year marks the first time all voters will be also able to join the committee voting on the foreign-language shortlist, in time for the 2020 awards season. Los Angeles screenings have already begun for such films as Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite,” and “Pain and Glory” from Pedro Almodóvar, two early favorites for the renamed Best International Feature Film Oscar.
Documentaries, animated films, and shorts have already been made available for viewing on the Academy’s screening site. The Academy is now adding narrative features via their own app, which will be on Apple TV. The exception right now is foreign-language films: Most of these films have no North American distributor. With a record 93 submissions this year, the international feature screenings will take place, as before, in Los Angeles, with participating voters signing in for a minimum of 15 Academy screenings (they can also see films in theaters or at festivals). Last year, overseas voters could screen the shortlist online, and all Academy voters could watch the final five nominated films online and in theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and London.
The change is that once the shortlist of 10 (up one from the prior nine) has been selected from the 93 submissions, for the first time the entire Academy will be able to watch those films online to pick the final five nominees. The shortlist will be announced on December 16, followed by a marathon weekend of screenings in Los Angeles, London and New York from Friday, January 3, 2020 through Sunday, January 5, 2020.
“We wanted to have a more international voice in this category,” said international executive committee co-chair Larry Karaszewski. “We were already streaming the final 10. We asked the question: should we make that list available to all Academy members, so that once again we could add more diverse voices? There are lots of Academy voters in Chicago, and all around this country, who would love to be part of this and can’t be. If we were already there, why not open it up?”
Karaszewski and his co-chair Diane Weyermann were also concerned about the Oscar calendar. “We were dealing with an abridged time span,” said Weyermann, because everything is contracted into a shorter period of time. With the change of the awards date [February 9], it was the difficulty of being able to screen.”
The international film category is now the last, in fact, to require films in contention to be seen on the big screen in Phase One.
“It’s important to keep that going as long as we possibly can,” said Karaszewski. “In Phase Two, even people who are part of our committee may have seen eight of the finalists, and miss two, and some will not have U.S. distribution, so this way they can see all 10 movies in order to vote.”
The Academy wanted to make sure those who live outside Los Angeles, New York and London also had a crack at voting. “We know members care passionately about this award and want to participate,” said Weyermann. “The movement is toward trying to be more inclusive while also holding onto the cinema experience.”
Here’s a bit from one of the Academy emails on the subject, sent to members.
There are always healthy debates about rules changes at the Academy. “Rules may change and may stay the same,” said Karaszewski. “There are big questions about the whole industry!”
“We are all always adjusting,” said Weyermann.