OK, So Maybe We Don’t Wanna Pick TEN

This news is nearly a week old now, but it’s something the non-enthusiasts may have missed, and too earth-shattering for my poor little Academy-obsessed brain for me to let pass without comment.

So we all know by now (or at least, you know this if you’re my friend) that two years ago, the Academy expanded the number of Best Picture nominees at the Oscars from five to ten, probably in an attempt to bring in more popular fare after the snubs of “The Dark Knight” and “WALL-E” in the ’09 race. Well, perhaps because the move hasn’t provided the expected ratings bump, or perhaps because the field of ten solidified more quickly than anticipated, or perhaps because the bigwigs just thought “127 Hours” and “Toy Story 3” didn’t really need/deserve to be Best Pic nominees, the Academy has shifted the nomination rules again. Now, instead of a set number of nominees, like five or ten, the Best Picture category will now consist of anywhere FROM five to ten, depending upon the percentage of number one votes contenders receive during the ballot-counting process.

Specifically, a film must receive at least 5% of first-place votes to qualify for the Best Pic race. Theoretically, assuming the Academy keeps these rules around for at least a couple years, this means we could have different numbers of nominees in different years, i.e. six nominees next year, eight the year after that, five the year after that, depending on how many Academy voters deem worthy. One does wonder what the exact implications will be: what happens, for instance, if a film ends up on the vast majority of voters’ ballots, but mostly in second or third place? Could you have a broadly popular film that doesn’t still doesn’t make the cut because not enough people loved it so much as to pick it as their #1 of the year?

But other than that possible hitch, I’m actually really excited for this change. It seems like a nice compromise between the harsh exclusivity of five nominees and the diminishing honor of ten. It’ll also be interesting to see what the Academy really thinks of any given year in film: if they only pick five, we can assume they kind of thought the year sucked, whereas ten would mean they were really blown away by Hollywood’s output. And, of course, it makes things much more interesting for those of us in the prediction business; we now not only have to guess the Best Picture nominees, but we have to guess how many of them there will be in the first place. Now, if all the other awards groups (especially the Producers’ Guild) decide to change their rules to match the Academy’s, this will probably become boring again; but if things stay as they are now, there’s a lot more wiggle room. We probably won’t have the same people predicting the same movies at the same time the way we have for years now.

What do you think? Good move on the Academy’s part? Are you any more interested in watching the Oscars now? Less interested? Don’t care about any Academy news unless it involves beautiful people like James Franco?

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