Culling the Contenders
We discussed our favorite 95th Academy Awards shortlist inclusions in the last column but for those who, like my colleague Slim, are just coming up to speed on how it all works, I asked my other colleague—Hollywood insider Brian Formo—for a bit of context around how and why shortlists get made. Why can’t Academy voters just watch all the movies?
Essentially, Brian explains, the shortlist is where various boards of the Academy convene to condense certain categories (like hair and makeup, sound and visual effects) to a more manageable size for the larger voting body of approximately 9,500 Academy members—“kind of like culling an out-of-control Letterboxd watchlist”. (I wouldn’t know anything about that.) Almost a thousand new feature films were released in 2022, and for them to be Oscar-eligible they must have had a qualifying US theatrical release in more than one city. These requirements narrow the field, but that’s still hundreds of movies to sift through.
It gets even more complex as we dive into—gulp—math, which comes into play in the original song and score categories. (If you’re curious about the history of those Oscar contenders from 1934 to now, Letterboxd member Rik Tod Johnson has the lists you need: song nominees and winners, score nominees and winners and many more awards lists besides.)
For categories like original song, the piece must be featured in the film for a certain threshold of time, as well as be an original commission with intelligible, audible lyrics. The rules have been tweaked here and there over the years; today a maximum of two songs from a film can be nominated, and the final number of nominations depends on the number of submissions, which is why the category varies from year to year.