According to the annual Oscars poll, American Sniper would win the Oscar for Best Picture by a landslide if “ordinary” Americans were given a vote(I quote marked ordinary because it isn’t my adjective, that belongs to the source). The poll found 22% of respondents backed Clint Eastwood’s controversial movie, starring Bradley Cooper as the legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.

The Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma was the second most popular choice with 8 percent.

Since we ordinary Americans don’t have a say, supposedly, it got me to wondering – who DOES the actual nominating and voting for the Oscar winner for best picture? There exists two very contrasting opinions. Old white guys, according to one study – and Hollywood hot-shots to another.

According to an LA Times study of Oscar voters, which claims there are 5,765 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a list of names which is a closely guarded secret in it’s entirety, the makeup is 94 percent white and 77 percent male, with a median age of 62 years old. People younger than 50 constitute just 14 percent of Academy voters but that study seems to be in direct conflict with the notion that past Oscar winners and Hollywood elitists mostly comprise the secret rolls of “the members of the Academy.” Among those listed as vote casters you’ll find George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson, Dakota Fanning, Viola Davis, Casey Affleck, Anne Hathaway, Scarlett Johansson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emily Blunt, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Will Smith, Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Aniston.

According to the oscars.org website:

NOMINATIONS VOTING PROCESS

Regular awards are presented for outstanding individual or collective film achievements in a wide variety of categories. Most categories are nominated by the members of the corresponding branch–actors nominate actors, film editors nominate film editors, etc. All voting members are eligible to select the Best Picture nominees. Nominations voting is conducted using both paper and online ballots, with online voting being the preferred choice for the overwhelming majority of Academy members.  Voting for nominations begins in late December, and all votes are tabulated by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Nomination results are then announced at a live televised press conference in mid-January at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

Final Balloting Process

Finals voting is also conducted via online and paper ballots. During finals, all Oscar categories are on the ballot for voting members. After final ballots are tabulated, only two partners of PricewaterhouseCoopers know the results until the famous envelopes are opened onstage during the Oscars telecast.

Also according to the Oscars website, you’ve got to be among the “most exceptionally qualified names” of those who have “achieved distinction in the arts and sciences of motion pictures,” which would lead one to suspect it’s mostly composed of past winners and other Hollywood A-listers rather than the “grumpy old white men” the LA Times’ study found.

I know Chris Kyle is best remembered for his years of military service but his book, American Sniper, which is Kyle’s autobiography and what the movie is based upon, is also a true masterpiece – which adds another layer of sadness to the fact that we lost Kyle, who was also an accomplished author, so soon after discovering him.

Editorial Reviews of the book American Sniper:

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER (No Source)“[My] favorite book of the year. Chris Kyle’s American Sniper is an amazingly detailed account of fighting in Iraq — a humanizing, brave story that’s extremely readable.” (PATRICIA CORNWELL, New York Times Book Review)

“In the community of elite warriors, one man has risen above our ranks and distinguished himself as unique. Chris Kyle is that man. A master sniper, Chris has done and seen things that will be talked about for generations to come.” (MARCUS LUTTRELL, former USN SEAL, recipient of the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism under fire, #1 bestselling author of Lone Survivor)

“The raw and unforgettable narrative of the making of our country’s record-holding sniper, Chris Kyle’s memoir is a powerful book, both in terms of combat action and human drama. Chief Kyle is a true American warrior down to the bone, the Carlos Hathcock of a new generation.” (CHARLES W. SASSER, Green Beret (US Army Ret.) and author of One Shot, One Kill)

American Sniper is the inside story of what it’s like to be in war. A brave warrior and patriot, Chris Kyle writes frankly about the missions, personal challenges, and hard choices that are part of daily life of an elite SEAL Sniper. It’s a classic!” (RICHARD MARCINKO (USN, Ret.), First Commanding Officer of SEAL Team Six and #1 bestselling author of Rogue Warrior)

“Eloquent … An aggressively written account of frontline combat, with plenty of action.” (KIRKUS REVIEWS)

“Reads like a first-person thriller narrated by a sniper. The bare-bones facts are stunning. …. A first-rate military memoir.” (BOOKLIST)