The awards season is in full swing, and now we’re entering the final stretch: the People’s Choice Awards are tonight, the Critics’ Choice Awards are the next, the Golden Globes are this coming weekend and—drum roll please—the Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early tomorrow morning.
For those trying to decide whether to tune in to the announcement broadcast, here’s one thing to consider: joining actress Emma Stone to read the list of names and movies will be Seth MacFarlane, the first Oscar host to make the announcement since 1972.
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And the announcers won’t be the only excitement. With up to 10 movies nominated for the big Best Picture prize, there are sure to be at least a few surprises in the mix. Richard Corliss’s comprehensive theory about the relationship between awards given by film critics and the Oscars predicts that earlier wins by Zero Dark Thirty (National Board of Review, New York critics, Boston critics) and Amour (National Society of Film Critics and Los Angeles critics) could be good signs for those movies, along with Argo, The Master, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Life of Pi—but that leaves open slots. Slots that may be destined for losers, if the theory holds, but slots nonetheless. (Check out the full metric for Corliss’ predictions in the other categories.)
Another possible wrench in the works of Oscar predictability comes in the form of this year’s new electronic voting system. The Academy introduced the option of online voting for its members just this year. When the initiative was announced a year ago, it sparked worries that such a high-visibility vote would be a prime target for hackers, according to Deadline, and, more recently, that the speed with which online votes can be tabulated would encourage the Academy to compress the awards season and shift the Oscars to January, a move that some Academy members believe would compromise the quality of their decision-making process but that, Variety points out, seems likely given the dearth of 2014 February Sundays that won’t be dedicated to the Superbowl or the Winter Olympics.
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This year, however, the problems with e-voting stemmed not from hackers—so far, knock wood—but from the very strict security measures taken to prevent such interference. The complicated system of log-ins and pass codes proved glitchy even for computer-savvy Academy voters. The nominating process had to be extended, with the deadline moving from Jan. 3 to Jan. 4, after many complained that they were unable to vote in time. Provisional paper balloting at Academy locations was also allowed (which has always been the case, according to The Hollywood Reporter). A lengthy analysis of the e-voting process by The Hollywood Reporter found widespread discontent and a system that didn’t recognize the passwords voters had set or reset. But, while the Academy skews older, the problems with the voting system were not confined to those members who would stereotypically have computer problems: “It’s not like it’s the first time I’ve ever logged on to a computer,” documentarian Morgan Spurlock told THR after he encountered trouble trying to cast his ballot. Which means that even the unpredictability is unpredictable: if electronic voting does end up affecting the nominations—a result that would be extremely hard to measure in any case—it won’t necessarily be to tilt favor toward “younger” movies.
Luckily, all that wondering—at least about the nominees—will end soon. Check back here for a full report on the nominations from TIME’s Richard Corliss, after the announcements are made at a 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time press conference. The Oscars will take place on Feb. 24.
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