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Make the New Oscar Rules Count

The announcement that there would be 10 Best Picture nominees in 2009 ricocheted around the movie world late last week, only to be pretty much snuffed out as a conversation topic by the news of Michael Jackson’s death.

I’ve had it on the mental backburner this past week and am still have mixed feelings about it.

Primarily, it seems aimed at elasticizing the category in order to get more populist films in there and boosting the ratings.

With 10 slots, the argument goes, “The Dark Knight” and “Wall-E” would’ve been in there and that would’ve drawn a bigger TV audience.

Here’s some late-breaking news: They were already represented.

“Wall-E” was up for “Best Animated Film” so hard-core Pixar fans would’ve tuned in to see it take that.

And as far as “The Dark Knight” goes, Heath Ledger’s posthumous nomination was arguably the night’s biggest award, with Batfans tuning in to see it even though it was a lock.

Now that next year’s going to feature 10 flicks it’ll be interesting to see whether there’s more than just one animation and one well-reviewed blockbuster included in the honors list.

Would studios and voters actually have the balls to get behind some of the year’s best-critiqued genre offerings as serious contenders?

There’s “Up," of course, which is already a safe bet, sitting at 97 per cent “Fresh” on the Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” aggregration of reviews.

But how about Duncan Jones’ acclaimed sci-fi “Moon," which is sitting on 86 percent?

And then there’s J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek," rocking 95 per cent (as a comparison, this year’s winner “Slumdog Millionaire” only managed 94 percent), Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell” at 93 percent and Henry Selick’s “Coraline” at 88 per cent.

Best Pic nominees don’t always enjoy this sort of consensus, with the “The Reader” getting just 62 percent thumbs-up ratings last year and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” managing only 73 percent.

And we’re still to see how “Inglourious Basterds," “Wolfman," “The Lovely Bones," “Jennifer’s Body," “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Avatar” will fare with critics.

While I’m not arguing that “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” or “Terminator: Salvation” deserve anything other than technical awards, I do think that if Oscar wants to go genre and include fanboy films, it’ll need to do so on the merits of individual films, rather than setting aside token slots.