If you’ve ever felt that your favorite movie got robbed of a best picture Oscar nomination, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is here to help.
Beginning in 2010, as you know by now, they will be expanding the number of best picture nominees from five to 10.
Truth is, this change isn’t about you. It’s about the pursuit of the almighty dollar. For the last decade, the Academy has been under pressure to get better ratings and keep ABC, which broadcasts the ceremony, and its advertisers happy.
The theory goes something like this, according to Sid Ganis, AMPAS president: "Having 10 best picture nominees is going to 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."
The Academy argues that they’re simply honoring an earlier tradition. Back in the 1930s and 40s, the best picture category welcomed 10 nominees. In 1931/32 there were actually 12 nominees. The 16th Academy Awards (1943) was the last year to include a field of that size, with "Casablanca" being named best picture for the year.
Too bad we don’t have the quality of films of say, 1939, when the nominees were "Dark Victory," "Gone With the Wind," "Goodbye Mr. Chips," "Love Affair," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Ninotchka," "Of Mice and Men," "Stagecoach," The Wizard of Oz" and "Wuthering Heights." Now that’s a Top 10 list!
Such a move might have made sense back in the 1960s and 70s but today the American film industry makes few great films. Just look at the theater marquee — I wonder where the Academy will even find 10 worthy films this year.
This really is the "Dark Knight Rule" because it’s in response to the blockbuster’s awards snub. That came back to bite the Academy in credibility and in the ratings.
But the Academy has never been about recognizing action-adventure films and box-office smashes (the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy being the recent exception). They simply don’t resonate with voters. With so many more dramas released every year compared to popcorn films, this rule simply makes it easier for the Academy to include niche dramas (think "The Wrestler") that wouldn’t have had a chance otherwise.
I think this move undermines the integrity of the Academy Awards. Whether you agreed or disagreed with the five nominated films each year, there was a cachet around being nominated.
But there’s a little less luster on Oscar now … and five extra montages during the telecast next year.