It’s generally agreed that the Academy’s new Best Picture tabulation system (i.e., a film must earn at least 5% of the first-place votes to earn a Best Picture nomination) does no favors for those “very good but not quite creme de la creme” contenders that might have landed Best Picture nominations in ’09 and ’10 as one of the “lower five,” so to speak. Movies like A Serious Man or Blue Valentine or The Kids Are All Right or Up In The Air.

TheWrap‘s Steve Pond has now proven the point by measuring the strength of various Best Picture nominees from ’09 and ’10 within the new rules framework. The smaller, less mainstreamy films that might have become one of the bottom-five Best Picture contenders under the “old rules” are now facing a tougher situation. You could even call it a stacked deck. According to Pond, a bit less than 30% of all the 2011 Best Picture nomination ballots won’t even count because their first-choice picks probably won’t result in a 5% tally.

“Using the old system, my 2010 simulation” — using critics votes from Movie City News — “took 11 rounds to produce 10 Best Picture nominees,” Pond writes. “At the end of those 11 rounds, only 10 ballots (six percent of the total) had been discarded, because those critics opted entirely for films that ended up out of the running. The new system, though, uses just one round of counting and redistribution to come up with the nominees. Using that system, a full 43 ballots, representing almost 28 percent of the total vote, ended up having no impact on the slate of nominees.

“Critics who voted for The King’s Speech or The Social Network [in the simulated vote] helped their top choices get nominated. Ones who went for Biutiful or Shutter Island had their ballots redistributed to help out another pick. But the ballots of critics whose top picks were True Grit, Blue Valentine, The Kids Are All Right and 17 other films were left sitting on the table. That’s because they voted for the 21 films that fell into the gap between one and five percent of the vote.

In other words, “Because they voted for films that narrowly missed being nominated, they were unable to influence the outcome the way they would have under the old process, when those films would eventually have been eliminated and the ballots redistributed to help each voter’s other selections.

Pond did the same kind of simulation with MCN’s 2009 critics’ lists “and the results were similar,” he says, “with the number of unused ballots going from well under 10 percent to more than 25 percent.

“Certainly, you can’t draw direct comparisons between tallying 156 critics lists and 5,000 Oscar ballots; the critics, for one thing, are more likely to champion obscure films than Academy members, which might well lead to higher levels of unused ballots. And Davis insisted that Academy figures place their number of unused ballots at less than 10 percent under the new system. But my demonstration makes it clear that stopping after one round will increase the number of Academy voters whose ballots don’t affect the results, and Academy [honcho] Bruce Davis did not dispute that finding.”