OSCAR WATCH: Ballots in the Mail!

Let the voting begin. Ballots for the 72nd Academy Awards were mailed out today to 4,164 actors, producers, writers, directors and others so blessed with the power to dole out shiny, bald gold guys.

Other (additional) ballots went out as early as Friday. Those ones went to Academy members in exile (i.e., those who don’t live in California). The in-house Golden State types were on today’s mailing list.

So just what is an Oscar ballot?

According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it’s a batch of stapled-together pieces of letter-sized paper. (Ah, glamour.) Voting is as high-tech as circling your picks. (Who needs space age AOL/Time Warner megamergers when humans still possess the power to circle?)

The ballots — circles and all — are due back at the Academy’s Beverly Hills, Calif., offices Feb. 4 (by 5 p.m. PST, to be precise). Nominations are scheduled to be announced Feb. 15 (at 5:30 a.m. PST, to continue with that precise thing).

This year’s ballots reflect the 244 feature-length films (everything from docs to “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo“) declared eligible for voting. (To qualify, your film must have run in a Los Angeles-area commercial theater for at least one week during the ’99 calendar year. And, sorry, no video and/or apparently digital flicks allowed. Academy rules call for eligible films to be screened in either 35mm or 70mm film format.)

The only category that all Academy members get to vote on is Best Picture — the rest of the races are divvied up according to your position on the Hollywood food chain (directors vote for directors, actors vote for actors, etc.).

In case you’re worried about glitches — Y2K or otherwise — affecting voting, the Academy says don’t. It says it numbers each ballot to ensure against theft or perhaps an extra-enthusiastic member attempting to vote more than once.

Oscar night’s March 26. The live ABC telecast is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. PST with a half-hour’s worth of red-carpet arrivals.