- Associated Press - Monday, December 27, 2010

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. (AP) - The holiday season is high time for film fans. The year’s best pictures hit theaters, awards buzz begins and cold weather and extra days off make for perfect moviegoing conditions.

Still, some of the world’s biggest cinephiles might enjoy this season more than most: As the newest members of the film academy, they’ll be voting on the Oscars for the first time.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited 135 actors, animators, art directors, cinematographers, documentarians, producers, publicists, writers and other filmmakers to join its ranks in 2010, and their first-ever Oscar ballots were being mailed out Monday.

So will having a say on the outcome of the Oscars change the way these folks watch movies? And how did they end up in the film business anyway?

The academy’s class of 2010 considered these questions recently at a private party at the Margaret Herrick Library, where they were welcomed to one of Hollywood’s most exclusive clubs by president Tom Sherak, who called the event “rookie night at the academy.”

An academy member for 27 years, Sherak said he still feels like “the ultimate movie fan” _ and he still votes like one.

“When I go to a movie, even as an academy member, I go to be entertained, from crying to laughing to thinking to being angry to being happy,” he said. “I go as a fan first.”

His advice to new voters? “Vote as conscientiously as you possibly can.”

“This is something we do that the whole world pays attention to,” Sherak told the new recruits, “and we need you to take that seriously.”

He said that though everyone covets screeners _ those hard-to-get, watermarked DVDs of new films that studios send out this time of year _ Oscar voters should try to see movies on the big screen because “that’s the way they were made.”

He explained the two rounds of voting: First is the nominations ballot mailed out Monday, with the results being announced Jan. 25. Then the final ballots arrive in February, leading to the Oscar ceremony on Feb. 27.

“You do not have to vote if you haven’t seen all the movies,” he said.

New member Michele Robertson, who knew when she was 10 years old that she wanted to work in show business, doesn’t think her Oscar-voting status will affect the way she watches movies.

“I think I’ll view them the way I always do: What I respond to and what I really like,” said the inductee to the academy’s public relations branch.

Robertson’s mother, Jan, said her daughter was destined to work in film.

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