Pete Hammond

In speaking with various Academy members this week, I have noticed a good number of them had yet to vote. Consider it fair warning that all 5,783 ballots are due back to PricewaterhouseCoopers by 5 PM Tuesday. Complicating matters this year is that Monday is President’s Day, a national holiday designed to sell mattresses but also a postal holiday. That means ballots mailed after Saturday are not likely to get to those accountants offices until Wednesday — too late to count. Of course, with the Academy’s planned move to electronic voting next year this won’t be a problem in the future. But the snail mail process they still have in effect this year could be. Now if you just can’t decide among Clooney or Pitt or Dujardin or you are perplexed by which film to vote for in the Sound categories, you can conceivably have your ballots dropped off directly to the Pricewaterhouse offices at 350 S. Grand Ave. in Los Angeles on Tuesday before 5 PM.  In years past, consultants have told me anywhere from 100-300 ballots might walk in on the last day.

Last week I was talking to a very prominent former Academy officer and board member who is also a nominee this year (who had voted right after receiving the ballot). This person said Academy intel indicated that normally there’s a large wave of ballots that come in right after they are sent out and a large wave just before the deadline, but not as much in between. Judging from the voters I canvassed, many are not aware of the holiday before the deadline. I would say there was a sizable number of ballots still out there, at least at mid-week. Some voters have even told me they don’t plan to vote in every category because they have yet to see everything. There are still private screenings set up through the weekend, but most of those films seem to be for Weinstein Company titles like The Artist, My Week With Marilyn, The Iron Lady and even Madonna’s Costume nominee W.E.

Meanwhile, even though we still have this weekend’s American Cinema Editors, Writers Guild, Cinema Audio Society and Golden Reel ceremonies along with the Oscars next weekend, the DGA, PGA and SAG awards are already looking to next year and have jumped the gun by planting their flags on select dates for their 2013 awards shows. The PGA will be on January 19th at the Beverly Hilton, the DGA will go January 26th (venue TBA), while the Screen Actors Guild awards will go live from the Shrine on TNT on January 27th, almost identical to the same dates the three guilds had this year. Clearly they aren’t expecting the Oscars to attempt to make a move to late January as had been rumored. As I have previously written, my Academy sources tell me the earliest Oscars could go in the next two years is a mid-February date, and that is obviously still to be determined because they still have this year’s show to worry about.

With ratings for last Sunday’s Grammys sky-high (the second-highest ever and larger than most recent Oscarcasts) the Academy Awards, normally always the No. 1 entertainment special of the year, is in danger of coming in second this year. This is quite possible with a lineup of Best Picture nominees that with the exception of The Help did not even cross the $100 million mark at the box office. The Academy is hopeful that perennial favorite host Billy Crystal’s return for the first time in nearly a decade will help draw viewer interest. And today’s announcement that Cirque du Soleil will assemble their largest-ever cast for a special “one-time-only performance” during the show is also a signal they are looking to produce something spectacular on the Kodak (or whatever it is called) stage. The troupe appeared on the show 10 years ago at the 74th Oscars when the Academy first moved into the Kodak facility, and this is also obviously an opportunity for Cirque and the theater to try and pump up sales for their own show, Iris, which is the current occupant of the Kodak when the Oscars aren’t in residence.

In a bid to try and quiet rampant (and justified) Internet complaints that the paltry two nominated songs — particularly Man Or Muppet – will NOT be performed on the Oscars (as first revealed by Deadline), the Academy announced today that Kermit and Miss Piggy have been asked to be presenters. I’d still rather have the songs.

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.