As we discussed last summer, the Oscar for best picture is moving from a field of 5 to a field of 10, and the vote is done by instant runoff. Here's the 2009 best picture nominees, vs. IMDB's "Top Rated Titles".
The IMDB list is a little truncated, since they only list by decade, and only the top 50 of the decade, so its hard to find IMDB's best 10 films for any one year (maybe they don't want to step on the Academy's toes). You'll note, there's a good amount of overlap this year, which isn't too surprising since the nomination step uses a "name five" approval-style ballot, in which each voter names up to five films, without ranking them. The ten most-often-named films become the nominees. Top-5 is mathematically similar to IMDB's score-based voting system; at least, the two are more similar to each other than either is to the instant runoff voting (IRV) used for the final round.
But which picture will win? It's tempting to say Avatar, since it's IMDB's top rated film of the year, but we know that IRV has somewhere between a 5 and 15% chance to exhibit non-monotonic behavior, in which the true first-choice is eliminated before the final round. And that's with three strong contenders; the odds get worse the more there are, and I think at least four of these can be considered "strong contenders".
But what does "true first-choice" mean? For me, it means consensus. If you put all the Academy voters in a room and told them to watch a movie, which movie would engender the greatest total happiness for the crowd? That's the question that score voting (and IMDB) asks. But supporters of IRV instead speak of something they call "core support"; they say that it's most important for a winner to have a large following of fanatics, voters who like them best of all. They don't use the word "fanatic", but it's appropriate. Instant runoff repeatedly removes the choice with the fewest fanatic followers and shuffles them off to their next favorite group; it's fair to call them fanatics because other options that you may also like are never considered until your number-one is eliminated. In other words, IRV doesn't offer you much of an opportunity to offer a compromise, because its almost always the compromise that gets eliminated by non-monotonic behavior. So the question is, is Avatar a compromise? Does it make everyone mostly happy, or does it make only a few people very happy? Luckily, IMDB records that data too! Maybe we'll examine that next time.
Also, remember that the Academy hates science fiction, and animation. In which case, maybe Inglorious Basterds has a good chance...