That's why it's hard for certain types of films and certain types of performances to win. Comedies and musicals are often runners-up. And critics loved the latest Bond film, "Casino Royale," but academy voters didn't.
"There is a good case for the fact that that is an extraordinary film that is a serious film in a lot of ways. It's a real movie," Edelstein said. "But do you think the academy would ever in a million years nominate a James Bond film? Forget it. It is not serious enough. They couldn't show their faces."
Films like "Chicago," which won for best picture in 2002, and 1998 best picture "Shakespeare in Love" are exceptions, each with its own X-factor.
"'Shakespeare in Love' had the Shakespeare, right?" Edelstein said. "It was a period film set in England with English actors, largely. … And 'Chicago' -- people were just really hungry for a musical. And [Miramax producer] Harvey Weinstein and Miramax just did crazy promotion, selling that movie so hard and still almost lost."
When it comes right down to it, it's a secret ballot, and academy president Ganis says its members vote with their hearts.
He points to the fact that even industry favorites like Martin Scorsese -- five nominations, no statues -- can lose.
"I think we're all subject to emotion, or we wouldn't be able to vote for anything," Ganis said. "Yes, there's gonna be emotion in it, [but] it's still gonna be about the work."
Edelstein insists that politics is still the defining factor.
"There are so many hoops you have to jump through and so many different constituencies that you have to appeal to," he said. "You really do have to look at the Oscars not as a measure of artistic worth, but as a question of who is able to insinuate her or himself into the minds of this extremely select votership."