The B!tch Replies: Well, now you've done it. You've spurred an answer so complicated that weaker minds cannot look directly upon it without their faces melting like that Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Let me hammer this home: Cameron Diaz would look at the following answer and become more of a quivering mass of silliness than she already is.
Let me break it down into several, less harmful morsels:
Academy voters alone decide who gets nominated for lead versus supporting. If the Academy thinks that Beyoncé was the lead in Dreamgirls—see enough posters for the movie and you might agree—then, in the eyes of Oscar, she was the lead. Jennifer Hudson, in turn, may take up the whole screen—physically and otherwise—but that doesn't matter. Neither does the number of lines an actor has, or the amount of screen time, or what the studios want, or, thank God, what Michael Medved thinks.
Within the Academy, only actors nominate actors, only directors nominate directors, et cetera. In other words, director Martin Scorsese had no say over Mark Wahlberg's Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor this year in The Departed. Although, of course, Scorsese is an intimidating little fireball of a man. Any Academy member can make a nomination for Best Picture.
Nominations do not work like the final voting process. Final Oscar winners are chosen by a straight-up majority vote of every Academy member. But nominations are determined by something called a preferential voting system. Nominating members list their top five choices for, say, Best Actress, with number one being their favorite. Same with Best Actor and both supporting categories.
Then the nyurds at PricewaterhouseCoopers tabulate the results in a complicated round-by-round system until the nominees are finally "teased out," according to one Pricewaterhouse guy. Once an actor is determined to be a nominee in one category, the candidate is immediately eliminated from the other.
"It's very complicated," the Pricewaterhouse guy told me. I believe him. "We're figuring out who is getting the broadest, deepest level of support."
The nomination ballots are write-in ballots. That leads me to believe that Michael Douglas can spell.