This doesn’t surprise me in the least, but I personally don’t believe it’s a good idea. The Hollywood Reporter is reporting the Academy is considering a move back to only five Best Picture nominees after opening the field to ten nominees back in 2009 when then Academy president Sid Ganis said, “Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going to allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize.” The decision came shortly after films such as The Dark Knight and WALL-E did not receive Best Picture nominations at the 2009 Oscars.
The THR report says a large portion of the Academy’s governing board has been pushing for the change behind the scenes, arguing that having too many best picture nominees has watered down the prestige of a nomination and has not boosted TV ratings as was expected. Of course, you have to ask yourself, is a ratings dip due to the fact there are ten nominees or due to the movies themselves? Other than American Sniper, which currently sits at $331 million domeestically, the second highest grossing domestic release is The Imitation Game at $87 million. In fact, Sniper accounts for more than half of the total domestic box office gross of all eight of 2014’s Oscar nominees ($640.8 million). Would it have been any better if there were only five nominees?
The main competition for Best Picture this year was between Birdman (which won) and Boyhood with, I’d argue, films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel, American Sniper and Imitation Game making out something of a “top five” contenders list. But does that then mean multiple Oscar winners Whiplash and The Theory of Everything lower the “prestige of a nomination”? As a matter of fact all eight Best Picture nominees went home with at least one Oscar and once you go back to five the politics of the awards season getting even more shady, which is why I believe the Weinstein-led Imitation Game would have beat out a film such as Whiplash for that fifth and final slot.
While the move to ten nominees was thought to bring in a few more populist films into the Best Picture mix, as THR notes, “rather than add blockbusters to the mix, Academy voters have simply opted for more art-house films.” The question is, since 2009, what blockbusters should have been nominated? Last year Gravity, American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street were all nominated, each grossing more than $100 million. A year earlier six of the nine nominees grossed over $100 million. The 2012 Oscar nominees looked a lot like this year’s crop with The Help being the highest grossing feature at $169 million, but a year before that you had Toy Story 3 ($415 million), Inception ($292 million) and even Black Swan ($106 million). Oh, yeah, remember 2010’s Oscars, the one that had Avatar, the highest grossing worldwide release of all-time along with Up ($293 million), The Blind Side ($255 million), Inglourious Basterds ($120 million) and District 9 ($115 million).
Was anyone expecting (or even arguing for) a nomination for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Transformers: Age of Extinction or Maleficent last year?
I imagine there might be some support for Guardians and/or Captain America, but would those same people suggest those two films are on par with the likes of Inception or The Dark Knight? If some think The LEGO Movie deserved not only a Best Animated Feature nomination but a Best Picture nomination, how does it compare to the likes of WALL-E, Up and Toy Story 3? I’m asking, not judging, perhaps there is a faction that believes those films deserved nominations this past year, though I’d argue so did Nightcrawler and Gone Girl or if we’re talking best blockbusters, I’d add Edge of Tomorrow to the list.
In that same timespan since the Oscars moved to ten nominees, if we’re going to talk Oscar ratings, we also saw the debacle of Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosting, Seth Macfarlane certainly didn’t light everyone’s candle and this year’s show was scrutinized as soon as the opening number ended and even included Lady Gaga singing a tribute to The Sound of Music. Ummmmm, maybe that’s one place to look if you want more people to tune in?
I like the idea of ten nominees, or what is technically the idea of anywhere from 5-10 nominees as it currently stands. It opens the door for some surprises and hell, while a movie like Whiplash might not make a ton at the box office, it is doing so well on Blu-ray, Amazon ran out of stock in the first couple days after its release. Going back to five nominees just because you didn’t see some massive boost in Oscar show ratings or this so-called junk about watering down the prestige of a nomination is to essentially ignore the problems, which is the show itself and the fact the blockbusters over the last couple years just haven’t been up to par.