The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — also known as the People What Give Out the Oscars — announced yesterday that effective next year, they’re expanding the number of Academy Award nominees for Best Picture from five to ten. Said Oscar Big Kahuna Sid Ganis: “After more than six decades, the Academy is returning to some of its earlier roots, when a wider field competed for the top award of the year. The final outcome, of course, will be the same – one Best Picture winner – but the race to the finish line will feature 10, not just five, great movies from 2009.”
I’m not sure how I feel about this development; recognizing more quality movies is very much A Good Thing, of course, but I’m wondering how this change will work out in practice. Will it mean that we’ll get to see more of a diversity of the kinds of movies which get nominated for Best Picture — movies that surely won’t win because they’re just not the kind of film to which Hollywood wants to give its top prize, but still deserve some commendation? And by that, of course, I specifically mean: will we see more comedies nominated for Best Picture? Or more big-budget (but well-done, of course) action movies? If this rule had been in place last year, I think we can safely assume The Dark Knight would definitely have gotten the Best Picture nomination it deserved. (Hell, if they’d expanded to ten, even Iron Man could possibly have slipped in there.)
And what about animated movies? Are they still stuck in the three-nominee Best Animated Feature ghetto? Let’s look at Up, which is already a mortal lock for a Best Animated Feature nomination, if not a victory: can it get both nominations? I think a great many critics would agree that Up will likely be one of the ten best movies of the year, and I’d wager more than a few will have it as the best. So let’s say it does indeed get a Best Picture nomination — if it’s then ineligble for Best Animated (and please note that this is purely my speculation/concern right now; I have heard no information to indicate it’s true ) and loses Best Picture…and then something else wins Best Animated Feature…well, that just seems kind of wrong to me. Up (or any future Pixar movie you care to imagine) would sort of end up screwed (for some very loose definition of “screwed”), and that would be a damn shame.
We’ll have to see how it shakes out, of course. We still have more than six months before the Academy announces the first expanded batch of nominees. But I’m sincerely hoping it allows for more diversity in what gets honored rather than simply doubling the number of pretentious piles of Oscar-bait we already get.