Today, the Academy announced that next year’s Oscars would have ten best picture nominees rather than it’s usual five. I, for one, am taking the news as a mixture of positive and negative attributes.
The report I saw did not say why this change was occurring. I have several guesses. Essentially, these guesses boil down to two items: Oscar broadcast ratings and promotion for the films themselves. The Academy will probably explain that much of it does have to do with ratings. After all, The Dark Knight was virtually shut out completely last year. This was the only film the general population cared about. Even Hugh Jackman was making light of the fact that Knight was not nominated and The Reader was. When the Academy’s choices are openly mocked by the host, they must know they are in trouble.
In addition, studios can use the opportunity to plug their films with even more praise. I have a feeling the extra nominees will be nominated not on merit, but on the studio sending as much bribe money to the Academy as possible. Not happy with the box office of your film about the dwarf with bipolar disorder? Have the Academy nominate it for something and then watch the turtlenecked intellectuals claim that it is an overlooked masterpiece. Never mind the central character; the prudes just didn’t see what the Academy saw. But what the Academy saw was money. Lots of studio money.
On the other hand, at the end of each year, critics usually feel obligated to name the ten best films of the year, rather than the five best films. Perhaps the Academy feels that ten would be easier to help reflect the mood of the voters. They could also use it as an easy way out. Ten nominees would have been great to have in 2005, when the two big winners were both mediocre to bad films. Another few nominees may have helped tremendously.
In addition, maybe ten will offer more of a variety. Usually, the winners are drama. Perhaps ten will allow for comedy, action, any number of underrepresented genres. At least, one can only hope. And maybe the best actor winner won’t be someone from a biopic. And maybe pigs will fly and the oceans will run red with blood. OK, it will probably be more of the same. But at least more deserving films will be considered.
So, ultimately, is this a good move? I honestly cannot say until I see the Oscars next year. My initial reaction is that all of the nominees will cram the pool so that the winners will be far more controversial then they have been in the past. Of course, this can lead to some exciting moments, rather than the Oscars where you can pretty much guess who the winners will be. Then again, the decision may lead to far more disagreeable choices and even more of the shameless “Nominated for x Academy Award” plugs. I do look forward to the decision with optimism. Hopefully this leads to better drama and an actual “best picture” winner.