• James Kunovski

If You Could See the Oscar Vote Count…

The Academy never reveals the results of voting. The winner is said and that is that. Only the folks at PricewaterhouseCoopers really know the numbers. Sometimes it’s a damn shame, especially when an unexpected winner comes along. How much easier it would be, if the votes were publicised, to analyse award politics. If I had to pick, let’s say quite a few historical wins, in order to reveal the vote count, who would I go with…?

Rocky wins for Best Picture (1977)

In 1977, The Academy had its fair choice of pictures that dealt with a slice of America. They just went for the more uplifting one. The patriotic Rocky, which arrived on America’s bicentennial year, beat out the politically explosive All the President’s Men, timely Network and gritty Taxi Driver. The Academy sparsely embraced the New Hollywood drive that those last three films embodied but is there any ballot evidence in favour of those realistic social explorations?

Forrest Gump wins for Best Picture (1995)

The sentimental favourite went against heavyweights like Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. I would expect to see a heavy lean towards Forrest Gump which won six Oscars, but did any members actually enjoy The Shawshank Redemption which famously won nil?

Shakespeare in Love wins for Best Picture (1999)

Oh, the infamous battle between Weinstein’s 'actor drama' and Spielberg’s superlative war epic, Saving Private Ryan. Campaigning was a mess, mostly punctuated by Weinstein’s tactics which involved none other than piling as much fabricated rubbish against Spielberg’s work. Hounding members with screeners and dissing Saving Private Ryan’s content past the Normandy Invasion worked to effect, but how many voters went against his bullish campaigning?

Crash wins for Best Picture (2006)

Crash vs. Brokeback Mountain. Whilst the tally may have been close, given the restrained but fair adulation for both films that night, what piques my interest would be checking out the votes for the other overlooked nominees, Capote, Good Night, and Good Luck and Munich. Did any Academy members truly go against the grain, and what may have persuaded them? The most plausible solution — unable to choose between the two frontrunners (again, seems unlikely) they split their own vote.

Green Book wins for Best Picture (2019)

How many votes impeded Netflix, and streaming’s first win for Best Picture? Or, how many votes prevented the, then-first, non-English Best Picture winner? The lack of distinction for a clear favourite paved Green Book’s win, but how many numbers separated it from its contenders? We could assume that Roma was not trailing far behind but BlacKkKlansman should not be discredited. The case for A Star is Born, which awards trail ran out of steam, and The Favourite would also be interesting to analyse — the latter, a rightful winner in the perfect world, would have alienated repeat viewers with its morose.

Robert Donat wins for Best Actor (1940)

Donat plays Mr. Chips in Goodbye, Mr. Chips with tenderness but he also managed to win in Hollywood’s greatest year. He was up against the classic performances of Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind, Laurence Olivier in Wuthering Heights and James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Marlon Brando wins for Best Actor (1973)

Brando would famously refuse to accept his win for The Godfather, but did Academy members unanimously lean in his favour, or did some prefer the beautifully theatrical and triumphant dual-leads in Sleuth — Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier. Nino Rota’s celebrated score for The Godfather had its nomination revoked with the Academy citing the evidence of reused material. It would find its slot filled by John Addison’s score for Sleuth. So, did we come close to seeing this again in one of the night’s most pivotal awards?

Art Carney wins for Best Actor (1975)

This remains one of the more contentious wins in Oscar history. How many votes would have lead Carney, nominated for his cross-country cat-wielding post-mid-life adventure in Harry and Tonto? Carney dishes a strong-enough performance, and one with “the most heart” as critics pointed out, but you would be remiss to think that Carney delivered a show for the ages when he won against Al Pacino in The Godfather: Part 2 and Jack Nicholson in Chinatown. Well, one could say this is a pretty strong case for why film shouldn’t be judged.

Judy Holliday wins for Best Actress (1951)

While the media was fixated on the contest between two returning champions, Bette Davis in All About Eve as Margo Channing, the master of sass, and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard as Norma Desmond, the glamorous yet effected star of yesteryear, they unknowingly let Judy Holliday from Born Yesterday slip through the cracks. Subjectively speaking, Davis or Swanson manage the stronger performance of the trio but there comes an indecisiveness between choosing those two. It’s fairly plausible to suspect that Davis and Swanson split the vote, and Holliday came out better for it, but which of those two received more votes, and do the sum of those two beat out Holliday? I need to know.

Grace Kelly wins for Best Actress (1955)

Kelly won her only Oscar for her portrayal of an alcoholic’s wife in The Country Girl. Had it been any other actress, the Academy might have brushed the film off, but Kelly’s turn away from glamour into a more modest, straight-laced character was a big enough deal that earned its share of media attention. Kelly beat Judy Garland who was expected to win for her bold cinematic return in A Star is Born. Garland had just given birth to her son Joseph, so television crews were stationed in anticipation for her speech… Groucho Marx sent her a telegram — “the biggest robbery since Brinks.”

Anne Bancroft wins for Best Actress (1963)

Well, ladies and gentlemen, this is the notorious win that manages to encapsulate the sensibility of that classic Hollywood period. Here’s a quick summary: the behind-the-scenes kerfuffle on the set of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? between co-leads Bette Davis and Joan Crawford forayed onto the Oscar stage when only Davis received the coveted Best Actress nomination. Bancroft, nominated for her career-defining turn in The Miracle Worker, could not attend the ceremony and entrusted Crawford to accept on her behalf, so in the end Crawford took to the Oscar stage, in a way, with the Best Actress award. Davis led the media to believe that she was pretty close behind, so was she? Bonus round: where did Crawford end up on the nominating ballots? Sixth, presumably.

Katharine Hepburn & Barbra Streisand win for Best Actress (1969)

This one seems like a rather strange inclusion because we know that Hepburn (The Lion in Winter) and Streisand (Funny Girl) tied the vote. How high was that tie and did any members commend the other three much-less talked about nominees? Those other nominees included Patricia Neal (The Subject Was Roses), Vanessa Redgrave (Isadora) and Joanne Woodward (Rachel, Rachel). It’s a pretty remarkable lineup and a much-deserved tie.

Olivia Colman wins for Best Actress (2019)

Even though the Golden Globes remains one of the worst award prognosticators in the lead up to Oscar night, usually the acting awards go to either one of the comedy/drama winners. So when Glenn Close won for The Wife and Olivia Colman for The Favourite most people were thinking the same thing… This ensures a Close victory on Oscar night. When Close tied with Lady Gaga at the Critics' Choice Awards, some were crediting a Gaga win. It didn’t turn out that way but Colman was the right winner. She embraced simultaneous humour and melancholy in a surreal film whereas Close carried a strong performance in an otherwise uninteresting feature. Seeing the votes would establish if Colman held a clear lead. How did this unpredicted yet delightful win happen? A popular theory (as outlined by bkrewind) — The Favourite was the most nominated film of the year (alongside Roma), meaning Academy members had most definitely seen it, while The Wife’s only nomination was for Close. Another one — the Academy just assumed that other members would vote Close to a win, so they went with their “favourite.”