The Academy will likely soon announce that they’ve decided to go back to five nominees. According to Hollywood-Elsewhere, the Board of Governors is meeting tonight to discuss their future plans. My bet is that they will do what they’ve wanted to do all along: move back to five nominees. There are plenty of people who think this is a good idea but we here at Awards Daily stand with those who don’t.
So, herewith, the top the reasons the Academy should have ten nomination slots and ten Best Picture contenders.
1. They should follow the Producers Guild model. The Producers Guild has decided the Best Picture winner for the past eight years, since 2007. The PGA picks ten nomination slots and ten Best Picture contenders – their system is far better than the Academy’s current system — anywhere from 5 to 10, which was supposed to include films that got close to being nominated but didn’t. But that proved a failure this past year because all it really does is expand “The Oscar movie” without really expanding the kinds of films that get picked.
2. Academy needs to diversify their choices and break free from “The Oscar Movie.” How do you define that in 2015? Good men doing good white things and the women helping them. They keep it a (mostly white) boys club by preferring films with characters they most identify with. The culture and the industry is growing like healthy weeds around them. In 2009 and 2010 that was not the case because they had ten nomination slots and could broaden their peculiarities.
In the two years the Academy had ten slots for nominating Best Picture their most diverse selections were on display – films directed by women, films about women, films about people of color (a few), animated films, genre films. With ten, they aren’t forced to only go with their hearts but with other organs as well. Maybe they don’t care – their attitude is (going by the few I’ve been in contact with) WE know what defines a great picture and no one else does. Well, that would be fine if they moved with and were connected to the times. But they don’t, not really, except when forced. Look at 2010’s offerings with Black Swan, Inception and The Social Network for starters. Then compare the films that got shut out this year – Nightcrawler, Foxcatcher and Gone Girl – easily the three best films of the year. Why did they get nocked off? Because they didn’t appeal to the hearts of Academy members. Is that how we’re defining best? Because if so, why not just call them something appropriate like the “Good Will Among All Men” awards. Sure, Wolf of Wall Street and Django Unchained both got in under the current system but those are very rare.
3. The business is only moving in one direction. While the independent film scene still makes films Oscar voters like, for the most part, the big business of Hollywood is moving in a different direction. Is Best Picture supposed to only honor films that appeal to a shrinking demographic? In other words, 5 to 9 doesn’t solve the Dark Knight problem but a solid 10 does.
4. Ten nominees makes for great box office.
As you can see from the following graphs, things were doing okay when the Oscars were held later and the public was more involved in the kinds of films they chose. That was then. Once they pushed their date back and the choices became more insulated from the general public, and largely decided by “the people in this room” before the films hit theaters. Most of the time, most Americans watch the Oscars without having seen any of the movies. This year’s exception was American Sniper. As you can plainly see, 2009 and 2010 represented a much more profitable Oscars overall and more engaged film community, money-wise.
Yes, ten films means more dollar amounts overall but think about – you could have movies like Up, Avatar and District 9 nominated alongside A Serious Man and The Hurt Locker.
5. Like it or not, the awards race is bigger than the Oscars now. They are the final word on the season. On the one hand, they will blame the drop in ratings or lack of interest in the Oscars on awards season fatigue – it is exactly the opposite of that. The public is watching the Academy and waiting for a dramatic finish. Perhaps that is wrong, morally, ethically and in every other way imaginable. It isn’t a reality show, after all. But to deny what the culture has become is yet another way the Academy dominates both its presence and its prestige. Ten nominees opens up more options for the Academy, which means many different pockets of interest helps keep the film industry thriving.