Oscar 2009 Rule Changes

by Alt Film Guide

At a June 17 meeting, the governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences approved the rules for the 81st Academy Awards. As per the Academy's press release, the only “significant changes” were in the Music – Original Song and in the ever-evolving (sometimes devolving) Foreign Language Film Award categories. Other modifications consisted of “normal date changes and minor 'housekeeping' changes.”

As per the release, there were three noteworthy modifications in the Original Song category. They are:

“While there continues to be no limit on the number of songs from a given film that can be submitted for consideration, no more than two songs from any one film may be nominated for an Academy Award. [In 2008, three songs from Enchanted were nominated.]

“Also, in addition to the annual screening event at which members of the Music Branch view clips featuring the eligible songs as they appear in the films and vote, DVDs of those same clips will be made available to branch members who are unable to attend the screening; ballots will accompany the DVDs and must be returned by mail.

“Music Branch members who have one or more songs in contention for nominations do not vote in that phase of the balloting. They remain eligible to vote on the final ballot to select the winner.

The major change in the Foreign Language Film Award “is a procedural one rather than one in the rules per se.” The procedure in question is a result of the brouhaha that followed the foreign-language Oscar voting members' leaving out of this year's list of semi-finalists the acclaimed 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Stellet licht, Persepolis, The Edge of Heaven, and Secret Sunshine. (The 2008 best foreign-language film Oscar winner was the mundane The Counterfeiters.)

According to the release, “for the 81st Academy Awards, the two-phase process by which the nominees are selected will remain intact. However, the Phase I committee – which is open to any voting member who views a minimum number of the eligible films – will now vote to determine only six of the nine films that will ultimately go to the Phase II committee. The other three titles will be determined by those members of the 20-member Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee who have qualified to vote in the category. The executive committee's selections will be made after the Phase I voting has been tallied.”

In other words, the Executive Committee will have to a say in the Phase I list so as to ensure that the foreign-language film voting members' much-criticized choices aren't the only ones up for an Oscar nomination. Once again, the Academy has opted to use a band-aid to cover up that category's gaping hole.

Complete rules for all categories can be viewed online at www.oscars.org/rules.

Academy Award nominations in all categories will be announced on January 22, 2009. In the United States, the 81st Academy Awards presentation will be telecast live by the ABC Television Network on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009.

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