Sunday, June 28, 2009

Oscars Expand List of Mediocre Nominees

Here's an interesting news story from last week that seems to have been swallowed up and overlooked by Michael Jackson's death: Beginning next year, the Best Picture category at The Oscars will double from five nominees to a rather astonishing ten, something which was the norm back in the 30's, but which was last seen in 1943 when Casablanca won.

Ten nominees? Certainly there are some years in which outstanding films are controversially left out of the Best Picture race, but more often than not the list is already a bit on the thin side. I know this year still has six months left, but can you honestly name me five films thus far worthy of a Best Picture nomination? Try naming ten and you quickly get down to films like Star Trek and The Hangover---both entertaining, but neither worthy in the "Oscar tradition." The change in format, done largely to increase the show's sagging ratings of recent years, is being roundly criticized for fear that it will "diminish the award's value, encourage bloc voting for obscure titles and possibly yield a best picture that wins with less than 11% of the total votes cast."

I don't take the Oscars seriously and I don't get as excited about it as most people do. In fact, it's probably been a good three or four years since I watched the show at all. Even so, I fail to see how this populist approach to the Best Picture category benefits anyone except the producers of the Oscars and the producers of the five other films which would otherwise not have been nominated. I can imagine a scenario where you get a Cinderella-type movie that gets nominated out of nowhere and becomes "the little movie that could," generating lots of buzz and goodwill, but unlike the NCAA basketball tourney which thrives on game to game upsets, the Oscars doesn't really have that sort of build up and validation. There's not a bracket or a head-to-head showdown. If there was, THAT would certainly boost ratings. But I guess that's not classy enough for Oscar. Yet.

One other change the Oscars announced, one which I do endorse, is tighter regulation on which songs are eligible for Best Song. Based on the new rules, it's possible there may be no songs nominated in a given year (fingers crossed).

A few years ago, in order to make sure songs that were actually in context of a film were recognized versus just closing credit tracks, the Academy forced their music committee to watch all the submissions in context during a number of screening events. However, because these are limited screening events, not all members could attend and it created some strange omissions such as Bruce Springsteen's track for "The Wrestler" this year. Now, the Academy is making it even harder for songs to get in. If a track doesn't get an 8.25 vote overall it will not be considered at all. This could lead to only two nominees or even -- god forbid -- none in a calendar year.

It's official---modern dance is out of business.


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