“OMG – the Academy has robo-called me twice, sent two texts and two emails TODAY alone! This is bordering on harassment!” reads a text I received Monday from one Oscar voter who still hadn’t voted and didn’t plan to until sometime today, which happens to be the last day of voting. “Gotta watch more tonight,” was this voter’s response when I asked yesterday afternoon about their timetable to fill out the ballot.
It is not uncommon for many hundreds of ballots to come in at virtually the last minute to meet the AMPAS deadline, which strikes at 5 PM PT today. After that you are out of luck, but with the dawn of online voting at the Academy in recent years, you probably can wait until about 4:45 PM to start and still make it in by the deadline. Of course, the Academy would discourage that, hence the barrage of emails and robo-calls to those who haven’t weighed in. Most of these voters are not trying to decide at this point between La La Land or any of the other eight Best Picture nominees. Instead, it is that group of foreign and documentary features plus three categories of shorts that have these diligent members scrambling to watch everything before casting a ballot. The Academy began streaming all these particular nominees almost immediately after nominations were announced and then sent out their handsome DVD box set of all of them the week of February 6, but there is a lot to view. One documentary feature, O.J.: Made in America, runs 7 1/2 hours on its own, so for those so inclined to check everything out before checking off their ballot, it is a time-consuming proposition.
On the DVDs, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences strongly urges members not to vote in any category where they have not seen all five nominees. Since opening up voting to all eligible Academy members in all 24 categories, these lesser-seen contenders now are available to any voter who wants to jump in. Just how many actually vote in these categories — previously done by voting at special screenings or proof that you have seen all entries — is a question mark since the Academy does not provide numbers in any aspect of Oscar voting, but it is still clearly a much smaller percentage of members who participate in this aspect of the Oscars despite the Academy’s attempts to give them every possible opportunity to see the shorts, foreign and docus.
Meanwhile, campaigners are out there pushing their wares right up until the end, with nonstop expensive TV ads for the likes of La La Land, Hidden Figures, Fences, and Manchester by the Sea being the most overtly visible on the tube in recent days. There’s also the hot animated race focusing on Disney’s Zootopia with a terrifically effective and timely new spot, and Focus and Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings trying to upset it with a big spend (the latter energized by its surprise BAFTA win). Deep-pocketed Netflix has been unleashing its cash heavily for its Documentary Feature nominee 13th from Ava DuVernay. Judging by the recent spate of full-page newspaper ads, Sony Pictures Classics thinks it has a real shot in Best Actress for Isabelle Huppert in Elle, that French film’s only nomination.
Fences and Manchester by the Sea both are nominated for Best Picture, but that eight-page spread for the former in The New York Times on Sunday and a four-page ad by Amazon for the latter in the L.A. Times mostly underlies the suddenly fierce Best Actor contest between Denzel Washington and Casey Affleck, especially since Washington’s surprise SAG win late last month. Not to be outdone, the Weinstein Company continues to push the importance of Lion’s message in light of the new anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration with its ads, as well as a guest column by none other than Salman Rushdie here at Deadline on the last day of voting.
Just a few hours to go until the campaigns stands down for another year, only to then wait just a few days to find out if it was all worth it. The difference could be up to you, procrastinating Oscar voters. The clock is ticking.