Thoughts on Oscars doubling Best Picture nominations to 10

June 27, 2009 in Entertainment by pacejmiller

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The first time I saw this reported in the news I thought it was a hoax, but I’ve seen the headline too many times now to know it’s for real: the Oscars are doubling their nominations for Best Picture from 5 to 10.

This begs the question: why?

This is not a new invention.  I wasn’t aware of this before, but the Academy used to have 10 Best Picture nominees all the time back in the 30s and 40s.

I’m not sure this is such a great idea though.

According to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Sid Ganis, “Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going to allow Academy voters to recognise 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.”

I guess that means it will allow more animated, foreign and documentary films to make the Best Picture list, but is that really necessary?  The whole point of having separate categories for different types of films is to recognise the fact that there are different types of films.  And if an animated, foreign or documentary film is truly good enough, then it ought to be nominated in the Best Picture category as well (and there are precedents for this, such as Life is Beautiful and Beauty and the Beast).  But doesn’t this just dilute the prestige of the Best Picture category?

Sure, there are controversies every year, such as when The Dark Knight missed out on a nomination this year.  However, doubling the nominees won’t do much to help because there will always be films on the fringe that just miss out.  And let’s be honest – what are the genuine odds of an animated or documentary (and to a lesser extent, foreign) film actually winning the Best Picture category?  Yes, nomination equals recognition but personally I prefer to see a field of nominees where ALL have a chance of winning.  I suppose the counter argument is that we already have the problem of there being 1 or 2 ‘favourites’ every year out of the 5 that almost always end up taking out the award, so simply adding a further 5 nominees with no chance won’t make much of a difference.  But you see where I’m coming from.

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Was The Dark Knight's Best Picture snub the reason?

This also potentially increases another problem – if an animated, foreign or documentary film gets nominated for Best Picture, how does that affect the animated, foreign and documentary film categories?  Does it mean the film will automatically win the award for that category?  It wouldn’t quite make sense if a film is considered a candidate for ‘Best Picture’ overall and yet fail to take out its own category, would it?  Note this problem already exists now, but doubling the number of nominees means we’re more likely to see it occur.

I’m sure studio executives would welcome the move, because it essentially doubles the odds of being able to put ‘Best Picture Oscar Nominee’ on a movie poster or DVD cover, which certainly wouldn’t harm sales.  But from the perspective of the casual (or avid) movie fan, this change feels somewhat puzzling.