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Five seemed like too few. Yet 10 seemed like too many. But nine Best Picture nominations? That’s just ridiculous. This experiment has to stop, Academy. You are embarrassing yourselves.
I understand why you did it. We all do. In 2008 – the year before the Academy switched from five Best Picture nominees to 10 – the category was populated by little-seen films like The Reader ($34 million in the U.S.), Milk ($31.8M) and Frost/Nixon ($18.6M). Good movies, but not the crowd-pleasers that potentially could translate into all-important Oscar viewers. Specifically, Christopher Nolan’s beloved The Dark Knight, which earned $533M and across-the-board positive reviews, was snubbed.
So in 2009, Oscar opened its doors a little wider, making room for 10 Best Picture nominees that allowed massive hits like Avatar, The Blind Side and even the offbeat District 9 to call themselves Best Picture nominees. Yet one year later, as Academy members were falling over themselves to praise The King’s Speech, pundits realized that it was a struggle to fill slots eight through 10 with worthy BP noms. Winter’s Bone and The Kids Are All Right are just that … alright. Would they make the cut in a field of five, topping Speech, The Social Network, Black Swan, Inception or Toy Story 3? Unlikely.
The Academy wasn’t happy. But instead of putting its collective foot down and admitting their mistake – which would be the grown up thing to do – they introduced a new wrinkle to the Best Picture race: An undetermined number of Best Picture nominees that could be as few as five or as many as 10, though we wouldn’t know for sure until the choices were revealed on Oscar nom morning.
The new nomination process reportedly relies on a preferential voting system where films that receive more No. 1 votes from Academy members rank higher than their competition. This probably explains why an Oscar-bait movie like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close got into the BP race over a widely-adored comedy like Bridesmaids, which Academy voters might have liked but wouldn’t put in a No. 1 slot. Still, very few people either inside or outside of the Academy likely could explain the intricacies of the new voting system, so why bother beating it to death here.
This is my main problem with 10, 9, 8 7 … whatever number you want to put out there. The race always boils down to two films. So why not go from five, like it used to be, to three. The Academy went in the wrong direction when it implemented its new change in 2009. Instead of more nominees, we need less.
Really, focus the Best Picture odds to three heavyweight contenders who each have a legitimate shot to win. No offense to Moneyball, which I adore. It was my favorite movie from 2011. Honestly. But it has no shot at winning Best Picture. Not a chance. So why is it even in the race? So Sony can put “Best Picture nominee” on the DVD cover? Is that going to convince you to rent it a few weeks from now?
Tell me you wouldn’t be way more invested in Sunday’s telecast – at least in the final minutes of Sunday’s telecast – if The Artist, The Help and The Descendants were the only films Academy members could have voted on. That race could go in any direction! Instead, with a shallow but far-reaching pool, voters can scatter their support to the wilds and The Artist -- the likely winner – can emerge victorious.
Which is fine. It’s a good film. Heck, I’d argue it’s a great film. I really loved it. But I hate 9 nominees, particularly when six or seven of them are also-rans in their own category. At least I can take comfort in the fact that the schizophrenic Academy’s bound to make another change in a year or two, probably expanding the field to 64 so we can have a March Madness-style playoff between Oscar contenders. Come to think of it, that’s not such a terrible idea.
(Oscars image via Konstantin Sutyagin / Shutterstock.com)