Secrets the Oscars don't want you to know

It's no surprise that an unimaginable amount of work goes into the Oscars long before the presenters fumble through reading the list of nominees and the winners thank the Academy for the 100th time in their acceptance speeches. However, as with anything in regards to Hollywood, there is definitely a bit of smoke and mirrors when it comes to the iconic award show. From vague voting rules to voters who don't even watch the nominated movies, here are a few secrets we will definitely not be thanking the Academy for keeping.

And the award for least diversity goes to …

One of the reigning Twitter hashtags during the 2016 Oscars was #OscarsSoWhite. And it's not as if the lack of diversity among the nominees was a one-time issue – the same hashtag took center stage during the 2015 Oscars as well. Celebrities like Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee even boycotted the ceremony to take a stand against the second year of zero non-white acting nominees. Although the award show has historically been criticized for diversity issues among actors and films alike, the 2015 Oscars were the first in two decades that did not feature a single acting nominee of color .

The first Academy Awards were held in 1929, but it was not until 11 years later at the 12th Academy Awards that the first non-white actor actually won an Oscar award — which she had to accept she from a segregated table. Hattie McDaniel won Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role as Mammy in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind. The 1940 Academy Awards were held at The Ambassador Hotel, which was segregated. McDaniel was unable to sit at the table with the rest of her cast and instead was forced to sit with her escort and agent at a small table against the wall. In fact, a favor had to be called in by the producer of the show, David O. Selznick, for McDaniel to even be able to attend the show at all.

It seems the diversity issue starts at the to,p as over 90 percent of the Academy is white, according to a 2012 study conducted by the Los Angeles Times. Since the 1st Academy Awards, there have been 1,668 acting nominations but only 6.4 percent of those have gone to non-white actors. We can only hope a new, more positive hashtag will be trending this year in place of #OscarSoWhite.

The rules for eligibility are confusing

Every award season there are films that are total Oscar bait and are all but guaranteed to receive at least one nod from the Academy. Then there are films we've never even heard of that end up on the nomination list. That confusion is elevated when the lesser-known films win. And who do we have to thank for this for these random nomination and winner selections? Once again, we get to thank the Academy.

Over the years, numerous attempts have been made to explain the voting process, but we might be here all day trying to untangle that web. There are three major pieces of information that are absolutely essential to understanding the voting: (1) The 6,000 plus members of the Academy belong to one of 15 branches, (2) each of the branches is able to select nominations for its corresponding category, and (3) anyone in the entire Academy can vote on the actual winner. So basically what all of that means is that there are actual directors nominating directors, which is all fine and good. However, when it comes to the name or film title that's going to end up in the winner's envelope, anyone (and we mean anyone) in the Academy can vote. That means there could be makeup artists voting on the winner for Best Foreign-Language film — and while they might have completely valid opinions about the film, it's just not really in their area of expertise.

After 88 years, we would think the Academy would have pulled it together and figured out a voting system that's a little less convoluted, but hey, where's the fun in that?

Foreign-language films require a bit of extra homework

While the Academy may be lax about who can vote for most catagories, that's not true for foreign-language films. There is a price to pay to be a part of that elite voting pool.

According to the official voting rules, only Academy members who have attended an official Academy screening or paid to see the movie are eligible to vote for the winner in this category. Since there are probably a lot less people who want to sit and read subtitles than who want to see Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone be the cutest non-couple, couple of all time, the number of voters for this category is understandably smaller. A smaller pool means less variety in the diversity of the voters — which can potentially be problematic.

The rule was temporarily suspended in 2013 and the entire Academy was able to vote for the winner of the category for the first time since 1956. It was allowed so they could gain a larger voting pool, but ultimately ran on the honor system that all members had actually taken the time to see the films. Clearly, that didn't work, as the rules for the 89th Academy Awards once again include the stipulation that the final voting will only be open to "active and life Academy members who have viewed all five motion pictures nominated for the award" tough crowd!

There's a secret "In Memoriam" snub team

Every year there are numerous snubs when it comes to Oscar nominations and winners, alike. However, perhaps some of the biggest snubs are toward those who aren't even in attendance. The "In Memoriam" portion, which has been a part of the show since 1994, traditionally generates some of the biggest controversy of the night by leaving out the deaths of notable celebrities from that given year. One of the biggest post-mortem Oscar snubs in recent history was Joan River's noticeable absence from the obituary reel during the 2015 show. The Academy released a statement saying they were "unable" to include Rivers in the segment during the show, but that she was included in the "In Memoriam" gallery on their website.

Apparently, even in death, the Academy still has a say in who's who. According to the New York Times, there is a committee who determines which celebrities will be memorialized each year. Of course it's no easy feat to whittle down a year's worth of celebrity deaths into a three-minute montage, but someone has to do it — they just don't have to face the public. Tom Sherak, former president of the Academy, notes that it's one of the most difficult committees to be on and the names of the members of this committee are never disclosed. According to Ric Robertson, the Academy's chief operating officer, celebrities who are included do not have to be Academy members — but it probably doesn't hurt. There's also an attempt by the Academy to focus on including celebrities who primarily had roots in film, but a snub is a snub nonetheless.

There was so much star power lost in 2016. Hopefully, this year's committee will give each of the celebrities one last chance to take center stage and shine.

Even the envelopes have an understudy

The Oscars are one of the biggest nights of the year for the Hollywood elite, which means that the age old saying, "the show must go on," is more relevant than ever. That means that show stops for no man — or envelope? Every year the fate of Hollywood hangs in the balance of the 24 envelopes that reveal the winners of each category. However, it seems even the Oscar envelopes have an understudy — this is showbiz after all. In addition to the 24 envelopes we see on-screen, there are not one but two more sets of envelopes created in case of an emergency for a total of 72 envelopes each year.

Unfortunately, the other envelopes are not shipped out like the t-shirts of the losing Super Bowl team. According to Marc Friedland, the designer of the current Oscars envelope, the extra sets are actually destroyed. It's basically like throwing $200 in the trash, which apparently is preferable to an undeserving eBay users entering a bidding war over the coveted envelopes.

Voters haven't necessarily seen the films

A majority of the people who tune in to the Oscars probably haven't seen every single film that is nominated — and that's okay because it's not their job. Even Academy members haven't seen every nominated movie. However, when members of the Academy haven't taken the time to watch the movies that they are specifically tasked with voting on, that's when things become problematic.

In an anonymous interview with Entertainment Weekly, one voter complained about the number of movies to watch, calling it "unreasonable". According to the Los Angeles Times, there were two Oscar voters who admitted to not watching the 2013 winner for Best Picture 12 Years a Slave, but voting for it anyway. One Academy member even went so far as to reveal they didn't watch any of the movies nominated for Best Animated Short. It also isn't unheard of for voters to just plain refuse to see a nominated movie. Notably, esteemed actors Ernest Borgnine and Tony Curtis publicly denounced Brokeback Mountain, which was nominated for Best Picture in 2006. They had no problem sharing that they hadn't seen the movie, despite the fact that they were both members of the Academy at the time.

While we aren't completely shocked by these revelations, it is a bit concerning that people who are given the responsibility of selecting the best films of the year aren't actually watching the films. If they don't want to do it anymore, there are probably quite a few Netflix binge-watchers who would be more than happy to take their place.

Even the "losers" don't truly lose

Sure we were upset for Leo after years of Oscar snubs, but to be fair, he really wasn't going home empty-handed. At the Oscars, even the 'losers' win. Last year's gift bag was worth upwards of $232,000, according to Harper's Bazaar. It costs about $400 to make an Oscar statue so, if you think about it, who's really getting the better deal here? We would take that consolation prize any day.

Among the luxurious gifts was a lavish 10-day VIP trip to Israel ($55,000), personalized M&Ms ($300) and a Vampire Breast Lift ($1,900) — just casual goodie bag items. However, it seems the gifts weren't casual enough for the Academy, who actually ended up filing a lawsuit against Distinctive Assets, the marketing firm that put the bags together. The company is in no way affiliated with the Oscars and the Academy was definitely not pleased with false marketing indicating that the two entities were related. To be honest, we don't blame them for not wanting to be associated with Vampire Breast Pumps.

The secret life of seat fillers

The award ceremony is known for having a packed house year after year, which is no easy feat seeing as the Dolby Theatre has 3,400 seats. Sure, award shows are popular, but that's a lot of celebrities to corral into one room and to keep seated for the entire duration of the show. So how does the Academy do it? The answer is, they don't. When you see a unfamiliar face in the audience it's quite possible you are looking at a celebrity featured in an obscure, foreign film that you've never seen – it's also possible they are a seat filler. The job of a seat filler is certainly an interesting one that could be equated to tackling an obstacle course while wearing formal evening wear.

The goal is to make it appear as if no celebrity ever goes to the bar, the bathroom or outside the theater to take a selfie. Of course the Academy wants to keep this as hush-hush as possible because seat fillers would suggest the show wasn't entertaining enough to keep an audience for three hours. A secret to spotting these undercover Oscar agents? By the end of the evening, the fillers look a little less than polished as the they have been in position hours before the first celebrities even arrive at the theater. These unsung heroes of the night don't get paid enough for what they do. Well actually, they don't get paid at all. However, getting to rub elbows with the likes of Meryl Streep and Ryan Reynolds is probably payment enough.

Studios pick the category placements

In a perfect world, movies and actors alike would be nominated for an Oscar based solely on artistry and talent — but alas, that's just not the world we live in. In Hollywood, pre-award show season is a time for movie studios to throw Oscar nom suggestions at the Academy in the form of "For Your Consideration" ad campaigns and pray that something sticks — but it's all a matter of perception. Just because a studio thinks one of their actresses' should be the one with 20 Oscar nominations instead of Meryl Streep doesn't necessarily mean that should be the case. While some studios' glossy attempts to woo the Academy are classy and straightforward, others seemingly throw together a hodgepodge of random suggestions for everything from Best Picture to Best Makeup. And every once in a while, there will be a FYC that is totally out of left field — here's looking at you, Paramount Pictures. The generally accepted term for these delusions of grandeur suggestions is "category fraud." In cases of category fraud, actors and movies are pushed into unexpected (and sometimes underserved) categories, with the hope that voters will fall in line.

Sometimes category fraud is set in motion by the unclear division between similar categories, but some nominations are simply a shot in the dark. In some cases, this Oscar nom strategy secures a win for the studio. Take for instance, Alicia Vikander's Golden Globes and Oscars nominations for The Danish Girl. Although Vikander was placed in the Best Actress category for the 2015 Golden Globes, she was campaigned in the category of Best Supporting Actress for the Oscars — and she ultimately ended up taking home an Oscar. However, some placed in incorrect categories are not as lucky — just ask Keisha Castle-Hughes. Although she was campaigned for as Best Supporting Actress for her role in Whale Rider, she was nominated by voters as Best Actress at the 2014 Oscars and ultimately lost to Cate Blanchett. It just goes to show that you can't always get what you want — especially when it comes to Oscar noms.

Ellen's impromptu selfie was totally planned

It's hard to say whether celebrities at the 2014 Oscars were more concerned with taking home an award or making it into Ellen DeGeneres' iconic Oscars selfie. Despite the fact that the picture appeared to be very spur of the moment, with only Jared Leto's left eye making a cameo and Lupito Nyong'o barely peeping her head in, the "spontaneous Ellen selfie" was actually a total advertising move. DeGeneres opted to use a Samsung smartphone for the iconic selfie, and it did not go unnoticed that Samsung just so happened to be a major sponsor of the award show that year — how convenient. Detracting from the purpose of the night, to celebrate achievements in film, with publicity stunts and commercials might be the wave of the future, but we can't help but feel it's all a bit "selfie"-ish.

Over the course of the past few years, the Oscar have become more about the money than the movies themselves. The Oscar statue itself has all but been reduced to a glorified paperweight — a paperweight desired by the likes of the Hollywood elite, but a paperweight nonetheless. And viewers aren't tuning into the show as much as they used to. There has actually been a downward trend in viewership since 2000. So wait, why are award shows like the Oscars still a thing? One word: advertising. Advertisers are more than eager to secure an ad slot during the most-watched show of award season. According to Jon Swallen, the chief research officer for Kantar Media, the homogenus nature of a show that presents the best of Hollywood movies and fashion will inevitably "attract and sustain higher ratings". This is why ad slots during the award show have reached Super Bowl ad price insanity with a 30-second slot going for around $2 million during the 2015 Oscars. Where these studios are finding the money to pay for production, campaigns and ads, the world may never know.

Sometimes, nominations—even wins—get revoked

If you thought the pressure was off following a nomination or the big "And the Oscar goes to…" reveal, think again. While most movies, actors, directors, etc. who walk away with the golden statue have eternal bragging rights and the right to do with the award what they may, there have been a handful of cases where nominees and winners have been snubbed after receiving a nod from the Academy. One of the most recent nominations revoked occurred before the 2014 Oscars. The Academy decided to disqualify the song, "Alone Yet Not Alone," from a Christian film of the same name, from the Best Original Song category. The reason for the revocation? The song's composer, Bruce Broughton, began campaigning for his song by sending e-mails to Oscar voters before the nomination for the song was even announced. Broughton was actually a former executive committee member of the music branch of the Academy, as well as a former Academy governor. He basically used his powers for evil which is a total no-go.

The only movie in Oscar history to have an award revoked is Young Americans. The movie had initially won for Best Documentary in 1969, but because it had played at a theater in October 1967, it was technically ineligible for the 1968 award season. And we thought the award-winning drama was only coming from the films.

The winners might be boring for a reason

Although the Oscars do showcase new movies along with up and coming actors and actresses every year, the show can still feel a bit been there, done that. According to Gabriel Rossman, a UCLA sociologist, in an interview with The Atlantic, there is a certain level of predictability when it comes to the batch of winners each year. Two things the winners usually have in common is that they debut toward the end of the year, and they tend to be dramas that deal with serious or historical content. When it comes to prepping for Oscar season, studios essentially crank out movies more geared toward the Academy than to audiences. This results in a strange situation where audiences tend to dislike the very movies vying for an Oscar nom. Basically, if trying to watch this year's nominees puts you to sleep, don't sweat it — they're pretty much designed to.

The bar at the ceremony is a cash bar

There are many perks to being rich and famous, but apparently those perks do not extend to an open bar on one of Hollywood's biggest nights. It is not out of the ordinary for Hollywood's elite to arrive to the Oscars cashless, which is none to helpful when cocktails at the Academy Awards' bar are known to go for $14! With all of the other freebies being given away, it's no surprise there's a price to pay for the second most desired thing of the night — after an award, of course. As it turns out, celebrities are just like us, they have to pay for their own alcohol – they just get to do it inside of the Dolby Theatre.