Shake-ups abound this awards season


Earlier this year, B-movie king Roger Corman learned he would finally get some A-level respect from Hollywood in the form of an honorary Academy Award.

Then came the disappointing news: the Academy's Board of Governors had decided to bump the honorary awards presentation from the Oscar broadcast to a nontelevised event on Nov. 14.

"I actually agree with that decision," Corman says of the effort to create a sleeker, more ratings-friendly telecast. "It's just unfortunate that the year I get an award is the year they decide to switch away from putting these awards on the program."

The move is one of several major shake-ups this year.

The Film Independent Spirit Awards are celebrating their 25th anniversary by moving from a shabby-chic tent on the beach in Santa Monica, where they've been held since 1996, to an outdoor location at L.A. Live. The show also is abandoning its traditional time slot of Saturday afternoon before the Oscars in favor of a live telecast the night before at 8 (11 p.m. on the East Coast).

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"Airing the show during primetime, we can better fulfill our mission, which is to get more people learning about these terrific independent films," says Dawn Hudson of Film Independent.

The Academy also is dealing with the repercussions of a change to its voting procedure for best picture. Traditionally, the award has gone to the nominee with the most votes, as it does in all other categories. But doubling the number of noms from five to 10 meant that a film could win by garnering slightly more than 10% of the votes. So the Academy is using the preferential voting employed in the nomination process.

Now voters will be asked to rank their favorites from one to 10. If one film gets a majority of the first-place votes, it's the winner. If not, the film with the fewest number of first-place votes is eliminated and the No. 2 choice of the people who voted for that film is counted. The process is repeated until one film has picked up a majority of the votes.

"It remains to be seen how that plays itself out," says Cynthia Swartz of 42West. "When you think about the mathematical permutations, your brain freezes."

The voting rules also have been altered for Oscar's best song category. In recent years, three to five songs could be nominated, provided they received a minimum average rating of 8.25 (on a 10-point scale) from the 233 voting members of the music branch. The rules didn't specify what would happen if fewer than three songs rated 8.25. Now, two to five songs can be nominated. If only one song rates 8.25 or better, the next highest-scoring song will be nominated to compete against it. If no song gets 8.25 or better, there could be no Oscar awarded.

The biggest change is the Academy's decision to move the ceremonies back two weeks to March 7 to avoid the Winter Olympics. It also shifts the date nomination ballots are due in January.

For director Sacha Gervasi, it means another week on the road with the metal band Anvil promoting doc "Anvil! The Story of Anvil." But he doesn't mind.

"I don't think the novelty of being on the road with a man who wears a bondage harness and uses a marital aid to play his Flying V guitar is ever going to wear off," Gervasi says.