Wednesday, June 15, 2011

AMPAS Changes Best Picture Rules

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided once again to change their Best Picture rules again, a mere two years after expanding the field of nominees from 5 to 10.

Now, there can be anywhere between 5 and 10 nominees. Rather than using 10 as an arbitrary number, only the number of nominees deemed appropriate by the Academy will be nominated. So if voters only believe there were 6 deserving nominees in a given year, only 6 films will be nominated. AMPAS executive director Bruce Davis explains:
“In studying the data, what stood out was that Academy members had regularly shown a strong admiration for more than five movies. A Best Picture nomination should be an indication of extraordinary merit. If there are only eight pictures that truly earn that honor in a given year, we shouldn’t feel an obligation to round out the number.”
Here's how it will work according to the Academy's press release:
During the period studied, the average percentage of first place votes received by the top vote-getting movie was 20.5. After much analysis by Academy officials, it was determined that 5% of first place votes should be the minimum in order to receive a nomination, resulting in a slate of anywhere from five to 10 movies.
I can see both the pros and the cons about this. I like the idea of not being obligated to nominate 10 films if there aren't 10 deserving nominees, which could curb the presence of head scratching nominees like 2009's inclusion of The Blind Side among the Best Picture nominees. It would solve the problem of making the field more inclusive of smaller fare, while retaining the air of exclusivity. A Best Picture nomination must be earned.

At the same time, it seems like yet another stunt to try and maintain interest in an aging (some would say archaic) institution whose influence is waning. I will always respect the air of class and prestige associated with the Oscars, even if my tastes have becoming increasingly estranged from theirs as they have matured. I kind of wish they'd just settle on a number and be done with it rather than play this silly guessing game. It also seems to defeat the purpose of expanding the field in the first place, which was to give smaller films with smaller bases of support an opportunity to break through, as well as open up the field to animated films and documentaries.

In an added twist, the actual number of nominees will remain unknown until the nominations are announced. That sound you heard was a hundred Oscar prognosticators' heads exploding.

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