Tuesday, June 30, 2009

FotM: The news is out all over town . . .

Last week, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its decision to increase the number of nominees in the Best Picture category by 5. Yes, you heard me right. Instead of the Academy selecting 5 films to duke it out for the American film industry’s top prize, there will now be 10.

I think this is one of the most lame-brained strategic moves that an organization whose sanity is already in question often enough has made in years.

First of all, this move is extremely political. You could even say that it’s all politics. Academy President Sid Ganis has stated that the reason for the change was due to the fact that 2008 had just too many good movies to choose just 5. He also said that The Dark Knight being snubbed was a significant factor in the Board’s decision. You know what I think? That’s baloney, hogwash, el stupido reasoningo, you name it. Any time that you have a competition with that many potential nominees, there are, by necessity, going to be hard choices that have to be made.

Sure, I thought The Dark Knight was one of the year’s best films. That said, I thought The Reader was spectacular, and, while I really thought that Batman probably was going to get his first Oscar nomination in the big dance, I penciled Kate Winslet’s WWII film in as a possible upset. For my money, a really good film ends up in the top category either way. I understand that a lot of people were upset that it ended up being The Reader, but hey, that’s just the nature of competition. You can look back over the past several years and and just COUNT the snubs. City of God in 2003. Cold Mountain in 2004. Spider-Man 2 and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in 2005. Dreamgirls in 2007. Children of Men and United 93 in 2007. Into the Wild in 2008. Need I go on? The point is simple: hard choices are the just the name of the game.

Second, adding more films to the category devalues what it means to have a Best Picture nomination. Essentially, I'm concerned that the field will be chosen from a compilation of what's on the most Top 10 lists at year's end. What's more, what I really hate is that the films that are chosen may be chosen as "token" films to represent their particular genre instead of being chosen for their overall quality. For example, while I feel that dramatic films will still dominate the category, it could easily play out like this: anywhere from 4-6 films will be dramas, then throw in a comedy or two, an animated film, a low budget art house film or two, a foreign film, and at least one big-budget summer movie.

Look, I understand the complaints that have been leveled against the Academy, but is increasing the number of nominees really the answer? Are we so paranoid in this country that we are unable to tell someone, "No, what you had to offer just wasn't good enough"? Think back to the golden age of blockbuster films. Films like Jaws, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark all had the benefit of being some of the first films that fit into the summer blockbuster mold that we know so well. Each of these films, in its own way, captured the imagination of the whole world. You know what else they have in common? They all received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Can you think back to the last time you saw a summer blockbuster as good as any of them? Didn't think so.

To get back to the political side of things, this decision feels like a way to boost ratings by nominating more comedic films and more big budget blockbusters, because more people would have a vested interest in watching to see if a movie they liked might win. I'm not against the possibility of more comedies getting Best Picture nominations. I'm not completely against the idea of a big summer movie getting a Best Picture nod. Heck, I welcome the idea of animated films and foreign films getting a greater percentage of Best Picture nominations. But what I want to see is all these types of films EARN their way into the top 5. Hey, I think the Academy's getting younger. It's not just made up of older, more conservative people to the degree that it has been in the past. Even Dakota Fanning is now a member. The possibility for a shift in future Oscar races already exists. If a change has to be made, why not add one more nominee to the category, making 6 the magic number? If more drastic change is required, why not adopt a similiar system to what the Hollywood Foreign Press uses with the Golden Globes by having two Best Picture categories, one for Drama and one for Musical/Comedy? Additionally, I don't like the idea of a small group of people making a major decision without consulting those they represent. I've done some perusing of the comment boards of both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and found Academy members not just decrying the move, but upset that they hadn't been consulted.

Do you realize what's now possible? Someone on one of those comment boards made a very valid point. It's now possible for a film to get 11% of the vote and WIN Best Picture. OK. Take a moment and read that sentence again. . . finished? That's an incredible thought. Potentially, there could be a film that 89% of the Academy despised, and it would still win. That just ain't right.


Senor Granto said...

I guess time will tell as to how successful this decision will be.

I'm worried about the "token" nominations as well but I guess they've had to deal with that in recent years when they've included more actors/actresses of color in the major categories to be more racially inclusive.

Megan said...

I think it all comes down to a matter of opinion. 10 films is still so mall a percentage of the films elegible for nomination that I don't see it being a big deal, especially when other awards shows already have that many "best" films nominated.

You also have to remember, 10 nominees may mean that 1 film wins even if 89% of people hated it, but now a film can still win if 79% of people dislike it - that's not that big of a shift, especially when if you look at all the factors one film ALWAYS emerges as the front runner REALLY early. Was anyone shocked Slumdog, Crash, No Country for Old Men or Departed won? No, because by the time the Oscars rolled around they'd already won most of the other awards in the industry.

Adam said...

I'd recommend taking a gander at the link below. It really seems to me like the current tendency in American culture to try to placate everyone so that no one feels like they're not good enough is coming into play here.


Adam said...

Also, technically, Crash and The Departed were upsets. In 2005, the big movie that had won the vast majority of awards was Brokeback Mountain. (which, while I haven't seen it, probably was a lot better than Crash) Additionally, in 2007, the big one looked like a race between Babel and Little Miss Sunshine until The Departed snuck in at the last minute. Obviously, everyone had expected Marty to win Best Director, but the film taking Best Picture was a surprise. It certainly hadn't been cleaning up on the awards circuit.