Oscars: With Voting Underway, Academy Members Say So Many Films, Too Little Time to See Them All

"There are just way too many movies this cycle that opened at the very end of the year," says Sony Classics co-chief Michael Barker, while The Weinstein Co. co-chief Harvey Weinstein calls for an extension of the end of voting from Friday through the end of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day long weekend.
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Oscar ballots now are in the hands of voters.

Oscar nomination voting began Thursday, Jan. 5, and runs through next Friday, Jan. 13, so The Hollywood Reporter decided to check in with a cross-section of Academy members to see how it's going and what they're breaking for — and found that, above all else, many feel they simply do not have enough time to see all of the movies they're supposed to see.

This year, Oscar voters actually have more time, because of a later due-date, than any other year in recent history — last season's nomination voting period ran from Dec. 30 through Jan. 8. But that doesn't seem to have lessened the sense of a time-crunch, because it's been a rather deep year for awards-caliber movies.

I would argue that a diligent Oscar voter would not file his or her nomination ballot this year without having seen at least 35 movies: Among them, 13th; 20th Century Women; Arrival; The Birth of a Nation; Captain Fantastic; The Edge of Seventeen; Elle; Fences; Florence Foster Jenkins; The Founder; Hacksaw Ridge; Hell or High Water; Hidden Figures; I, Daniel Blake; I Am Not Your Negro; Jackie; Kubo and the Two Strings; La La Land; Lion; The Lobster; Loving; Manchester by the Sea; Miss Sloane; Moana; Moonlight; Nocturnal Animals; O.J.: Made in America; Paterson; Patriots Day; Queen of Katwe; Rules Don't Apply; Silence; Sully; Toni Erdmann; and Zootopia.

Many voters, however, have seen fewer than 20 so far. 

"There are just way too many movies this cycle that opened at the very end of the year, so I've ended up scrambling to see everything I need to see," says Michael Barker, co-chief of Sony Classics (distributor of Elle and Toni Erdmann) and a member of the executives branch. "I'm having a big difficulty, which I normally don't. I just think there are many more movies that people are recommending this year that need to be seen."

"It's been overwhelming, I have to tell you," adds Rabbi Marvin Hier, a two-time Oscar winner who is a member of the documentary branch. "There was an overwhelming amount of good films this year, and it's been almost physically impossible to watch all of the ones that are in the running. Maybe part of the problem is that we've all been so distracted by the 24/7 coverage of the presidential election, but even with that I was busy doing my best to turn off the television and fulfill my obligations."

Carol Connors, a twice Oscar-nominated member of the music branch (she co-wrote the Rocky theme song), concurs: "I think there's an unusual intensity this year, maybe because the animated and documentary and foreign and short movies are really coming into their own. Because of the mainstreaming of them, one really has to navigate a lot of films, and I'm just dancing as fast as I can, seeing as many films as I can and just doing the best I can, and hopefully giving the films a fair shot, because they deserve it."

Barry Morrow, a member of the writers branch who won an original screenplay Oscar for Rain Man, says, "Every year I have trouble keeping up — many years I don't vote because I haven't seen enough movies in time and careers are on the line and it's just not fair to — and this year is even more daunting than most. It feels like there was suddenly a deluge at the end of it. You do your best to catch up, but if anything in your personal life happens, you end up really behind. Unless you are retired, you can't do it. I think the process is broken."

And Harvey Weinstein, co-chief of The Weinstein Co. (distributor of The Founder and Lion) and a member of the executive branch, agrees — and has a suggestion for how to repair it right now. "There are so many great films to see this year but, for the first time, I can honestly tell you that I haven’t had time with my schedule to see everything," he says. "I love Annette Bening, but I haven't seen 20th Century Women. I'm going to do my damnedest to watch everything, but it's tough, and it would be such a shame for great films to be overlooked. I'm concerned about Michael Keaton's brilliant performance in The Founder, which should not be missed, but somehow many people are overwhelmed and haven’t had time to see it yet. The same might be true of other end-of-the-year releases like Fences, Hidden Figures and even, dare I say, Martin Scorsese's Silence. Why not give us MLK weekend and extend the deadline from Friday to Tuesday? This might be a little more work for the Academy but, believe me, I'm sure the studios and independents will split the overtime cost, if there is any."