10 Best Picture Nominees? Good Thing I Have That Many Fingers

So as you may have heard, yesterday the Oscars (or AMPAS, if you prefer) announced the decision to increase the field of Best Picture nominations from five to ten.

With various reactions around the internet (Spout always does a great job rounding up the consensus), I find myself mostly liking the idea. Why, you ask? Let’s make a list.

1. Nothing Should Get Skipped Over Now, Finally


Some years we’re lucky enough to get well more than five films that deserve inclusion, but usually we only see three of them make it, while the rest get skipped over for whatever the studios have politicked into the field (like The Reader last year, or Juno the year before).

Now, theoretically, nothing should be relegated to the perennial sixth contender.

2. The Ratings For The Telecast Could Improve

Everyone seems to think this move is in response to the outrage over The Dark Knight’s snub last year, but honestly anyone who was really mad about it was probably the type of person who still watched the Oscars anyway (like I was, and did).

I would bet that this is more of an inclusive way to cast a wider net for the telecast- if they were worried about just certain films getting overlooked, they could have gone with six or seven nominations, or made the number conditional on some sort of voting rubric (both of which make more sense than randomly doubling the total).

But by increasing it to ten, AMPAS is more or less guaranteeing that a random moviegoer will have seen at least one of them.

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3. It Doesn’t Really “Dilute The Prestige” Of A Nomination

Just saying. Actual films nominated for Best Picture since 1990: Ghost, The Godfather Part III, Scent Of A Woman, Four Weddings And A Funeral, Babe, Jerry Maguire, American Beauty, The Sixth Sense, In The Bedroom, The Hours, Seabiscuit, Ray, Sideways, Crash, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, and The Reader.

Now, clearly this is all my opinion, but not one of those screams “Best Picture” to me, even though they’re pretty good (except Crash and The Godfather Part III, which are awful by all accounts).

If you insist on thinking that a nomination is now half as noteworthy, then at least undeserving nominees are only half as egregious. Those who have the free time already decide which of the five nominees are also-rans as soon as the field is announced, now they just have five more to add to that list.

4. It Makes Me More Excited For This Year’s Oscars

Hey, it’s the first time since Casablanca that this has happened! At least it’s novel. Plus, with no frontrunner at this early stage, it’s fun to imagine the possibilities. As many speculate, this seems to push things like Star Trek and Up into the “likely contenders” category, instead of crowd pleasers that would certainly have been neglected.

Now I have to completely revise my likely Best Picture nominees list, which has just been in my head until now. For fun, here it is after yesterday, in no particular order:

Invictus (Eastwood film about Nelson Mandela)
The Informant (Soderbergh film starring Matt Damon)
Shutter Island (Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCaprio)
The Road (Pulitzer-winning book made Viggo Mortensen movie)
Biutiful (Javier Bardem starrer from the director of Babel)
Star Trek
Broken Embraces (Almodovar/Penelope Cruz collaboration du jour)
Brothers (Jake Gylenhaal vehicle from the director of In America)
Avatar (James Cameron’s new Sci Fi epic).

And I had to actually look things up to think of ten! That’s the crazy part. This is to say nothing of films that I am iffy about (for BP, anyway) that become contenders if the reviews are good, like Public Enemies, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Lovely Bones, Nine (the musical, not the CGI rag-doll apocalypse thing)- and even the crazy longshot odds for Where The Wild Things Are must’ve just doubled.

So you’ve got a tentative thumbs up from me, Academy, but I was already gonna watch anyway. Hopefully such a major move makes you less afraid to overhaul categories that need it even more, like Original Song, Original Score, and Foreign Film.

My only real “aw” thought is how sad it is for the entire field in 2007, the only year that I’ve been following this stuff that could’ve sustained ten real nominees. You had the Academy’s five, which included two masterpieces (No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood), one near-masterpiece (Atonement), an awesome throwback thriller (Michael Clayton) and the fun but happy-to-be-there Juno. But it was such a great year that it would have been nice to add The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, Sweeney Todd, Zodiac, Away From Her, and something actually popular like The Bourne Ultimatum or Ratatouille.

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