If you've ever watched the Oscars and found yourself wondering exactly who decides which star or starlet is worthy of the shiny little golden man, then wonder no more as we reveal who votes for the Oscar winners.
In amongst all the intoxicating glitz and glamour of Hollywood's yearly red carpet parade of pomp and ceremony, it's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of emotive speeches and rousing movie clips and forget that the Oscars is basically an exclusive club of people congratulating one another on being great. The club that decides who exactly gets the little golden statuette is called the Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and there's never been a better time to find out a little bit more about what they do and who can join their prestigious ranks.
Members of the Academy
Whenever you hear the phrase "Members of the Academy" at the Oscars, it instantly conjures up Gandalf-like images of wise men with flowing beards and long white hair. Rare creatures who lounge around in their robes and endlessly debate the subtle nuances of each movie whilst sighing profusely at the majestic performance of some tortured thespian.
Yet, the academy members are not some strange species of Hollywood eternals who valiantly guard Tinsel Town's impeccable reputation for artistic quality and ethical conduct. No sir! They are merely mere mortals, who in their own words, "transport audiences to galaxies far away and to worlds long ago and who create the previously unimaginable."
Who can join?
The Academy doors are open to writers, directors, cinematographers, costume designers, composers, studio executives, publicists, and even actors and actresses.
Although in theory the 5,783 members who compose the Academy can come from all over the world, they are, by and large, a big gang of Americans.
You cannot buy yourself into this club and membership is by invite only.
The Board of Governors decide who is eligible on the strength of past Oscar nominations. Failing that, an existing member can always submit a name for consideration if they feel someone is worthy. And being deemed worthy is a big ask, unless you're Dakota Fanning who in 2006, at the age of 12, mysteriously received an invite. Why? No one knows.
Who's in the club?
Although the complete list of members has never been made available to the public, the Academy has become a lot less guarded in modern times. For example, we know that recent members have included Colin Firth, Harrison Ford, James McAvoy, Sidney Poitier, Cameron Crowe, George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Mike Leigh, Byan Adams, Eric Clapton, and The Edge. Interestingly, the Academy voting panel still faces much criticism for being overwhelmingly white, male, and over 50.
How do they vote?
This is the interesting part. Members are sent DVDs of every nominated movie to watch at their leisure before they cast their all-important vote. But the question remains - does everyone do their duty and thoroughly watch all the films they are sent "for their consideration." Or do the majority of members just settle back with a beer and watch the Best Picture nominees only?
It's something the Academy has obviously considered, because although their entire membership is eligible to vote in all categories, members must prove they've watched all the nominated films in the Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, and Foreign Language Film categories if they're to vote.
The final ballots are collected on the Tuesday prior to Oscar Sunday, and until the big night itself, just two people on the planet are apparently aware of the final results hidden in those famous little envelopes, which are capable of changing people's lives beyond all recognition.
[Featured Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]