Writes Tom O'Neil at the LA Times:
I admit that "Basterds" probably won't get the most first-place votes, but a weighted ballot is being used this year. Academy members are ranking all 10 contenders. While chatting with many voters, I hear widely divergent opinions of "Avatar," "The Hurt Locker," "Precious" and "Up in the Air," but support for "Basterds" is strong and consistent. That's why it is the most formidable contender of all.This is also the view at InContention.com:
As you surely know, this will be the first year the Academy uses preferential voting in the Best Picture race, determining the winner based on rankings rather than single votes. This ostensibly favors the most broadly liked (or least resented) film in contention. It could be that an “Up in the Air” benefits more from the system than a polarizing oddity like “Basterds,” but visible support across the branches can only help.And that's the idea behind IRV: in the political context, when many candidates run, you want to make sure the winner is someone that the most possible voters can live with, rather than elect someone with a tiny plurality who is hated by the vast majority.
Over at the Movie Blog, the point is well understood as to why the system had to change:
To make this abosultely clear, it doesn’t matter [under the old system] if 82% of the Academy dispise the movie, if it gets more votes than any other, it is the Best Picture. Even though there’s rarely really a five-horse race in the category, it’s kinda depressing if you think that any of the movies to receive the honour may only have received the thumbs up from a fifth of the membership. Well, either that or it helps explain strange victories like Shakespeare in Love. Maybe it only got 22% of the votes!While yours truly is a big fan of Shakespeare in Love, actually, the point is well taken. It seems like Crash, for example, was an odd duck winner in 2006 considering that the multiple-award-winning Brokeback Mountain was also in the mix--but who knows what would have happened with a little instant runoff to settle the question. We'll get to find out for this year's crop.