Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oscars expand Best Picture category to 10 nominees

So, the inevitable debate begins. Is the Academy doing this to make up for snubbing The Dark Knight and Wall-E (and In Bruges while we're at it) last year? Is this for ratings?

Academy president Sid Ganis (who's about to leave his position anyway) was really excited, regardless of the reason:

“Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize.” [Variety]
This just opens up the floodgates. If you think the Oscar campaign at the end of the year is a circus, just wait until this year's campaign. In a typical year Star Trek would just be placed in the tech categories in For Your Consideration ads. Now it'll be right up there with everything from The Hangover, to Bruno, to Invictus, to Bright Star.

I like the idea. At least for now. It's easy to love something before the actual nominations. That could all come crashing down if something insane happens like Transformers getting nominated. Where there are pros to this move, there are also cons.

The good thing about this announcement is that at least the Academy recognizes that it has a problem. Over the last decade, the Academy has gotten more and more insignificant and out of touch. For a body that has nominated a Star Wars movie and an Indiana Jones movie, snubbing all the Bourne films and the The Dark Knight is just sad. So, now we get a greater number of films, and hopefully greater diversity, which means more mainstream films, and maybe more people will actually have a movie they've seen to root for.

The problem with opening the floodgates is that the pool of films could end up being just mediocre. Yes, there were ten nominated films during the 1930s and 1940s, but that era arguably had better films to choose from. I expect that there won't be nearly as many blockbusters as people are hoping for because, let's be honest, most of them suck. Outside of Start Trek and The Hangover, is there a mainstream movie so far that anybody really gives a damn about? And with Transformers and G.I. Joe approaching, I expect mostly middling films on the blockbuster front. The smaller movies, I suspect, even if they aren't spectacular will have an easier time of slipping in, especially if they have vocal advocates. Instead of one Juno-like film we'll get three (ugh!) But, there are awful films nominated when there are just five slots, and seeing as how that won't change with ten slots, one can hope that some great stuff slips in too. If this had existed a few years ago maybe The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada or Children of Men would have gotten some well earned recognition. We could also get an animation film in, and even a foreign film.

There's one thing that I don't agree with when people argue against this move. Some say that having ten films will only remove the prestige and luster of the actual winner. Sorry, but I don't buy it. I think if anything, it'll dilute the films that win in years with five nominations. Why? Because, it mathematically just looks better if you beat out nine other films, rather than four. But in the end, nobody will care. Casablanca and All About Eve are both brilliant films - does anyone remember which film beat out nine other films and which film beat out four? Besides, most critics release a top 10 of the year, and the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs leave room for ten nominated films, so it isn't as if the Academy is doing anything particularly shocking.

And oh, the possibilities: Bright Star, Shutter Island, Up, Precious, Broken Embraces, Avatar, Where the Wild Things Are, Nine, Invictus, The Road, Amelia, Brothers, The Lovely Bones, The Hurt Locker. Hey look, 14 movies and I haven't even gotten to the blockbusters yet.

Whether folks like this move or not, this certainly keeps things interesting. Now my predictable little best picture list has been thrown totally out of wack, and I kind of like it. And, at least we're talking about the Oscars again (and in June!).

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