When animated films began to flourish, the Academy addressed that with an additional category, Best Animated Feature. With that category, it became more and more rare that an animated film COULD be nominated for Best Picture. That is, until they expanded their nominations to ten nomination slots instead of five. They did that in 2009 and 2010 before quickly reverting back to voting for five nominees in 2011. They still could name more than five for Best Picture, but voters could only pick five nominees.
What you saw was not more films that were popular genre movies or animated films. Instead you saw eight or nine of the exact same kind of movie. The Oscar movie. The movies “they” like. Sure, every now and then one would sneak through like Get Out last year but more often than not the rule is: no genre movies allowed. At least, not unless they’re also grown in the hothouse of Oscar season.
As ratings began to dip, as people mostly tuned out the Oscars, as Netflix and Amazon began pushing at the edges – the Academy again needed some kind of change. They had three choices. Expand again to 10 nomination slots, create a new category for films that Academy voters would never choose as their top 5, OR do nothing. But doing nothing wasn’t a viable option so that left them with two choices. They’ve tried one of those. Now they’re trying another. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, they’ll drop it.
When I started in 1999, I did so because I didn’t understand why How Green Was My Valley beat Citizen Kane when the latter was (and still is) considered the greatest film of all time. I argued for years that the Academy needed to value films that were considered best by the standards of critics as well as by the public. The first movie to win Best Picture back then at the beginning of Oscarwatch/AwardsDaily was Gladiator. In the years since, film criticism has evolved to no longer really be what it once was. Now it’s 200-300 Rotten Tomatoes folks giving a consensus score. The public no longer matters where the Oscar race is concerned. In fact, often times a movie is decided upon without it ever even reaching a general audience. That, to me, was the pendulum swinging too far in the opposite direction.
Ideally, the Oscars should represent both films that are critically acclaimed and high achievements as well as films that represent what those who buy tickets like. So I thought I’d go back through the past ten years and offer up a list of movies that might have gotten in if they had either expanded the list to 10 nomination slots or created a new category that would honor films that were high quality and popular, but also films that had no shot at a Best Picture nomination. And as you can see, the number of movies that would qualify increase as we head towards 2018 – because, as I said, you can’t stop what’s coming and Hollywood is most definitely changing. So here we go:
The Dark Knight
Burn After Reading
2009 (ten slots meant movies like Up, The Blind Side, Avatar all got in so this sort of doesn’t count)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Julie and Julia
2010 (ten slots, ditto above including Inception, True Grit, Toy Story 3, etc)
How to Train Your Dragon
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
The Hunger Games
End of Watch
Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Star Trek Into Darkness
World War Z
The Great Gatsby
Edge of Tomorrow
Guardians of the Galaxy
Captain American: The Winter Soldier
The Lego Movie
Big Hero 6
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Fault in Our Stars
The Force Awakens
Straight Outta Compton
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Captain America: Civil War
The Conjuring 2
The Last Jedi
Beauty and the Beast
The Greatest Showman
War for the Planet of the Apes
Blade Runner 2049
Avengers: Infinity War
A Quiet Place
Ready Player One
A Wrinkle in Time
I Feel Pretty
Two good things I could see coming out of this:
- With the new category, Hollywood might significantly up its game where “popular” movies are concerned, thus making “popular” movies better for audiences, thus making Hollywood better overall. Reaching for higher quality across the board is always better.
- If you love a movie but can’t fit it into your top 5 it can go there, potentially, unless they make it an audience award and if they do that – well all bets are off.
Maybe it can work. Maybe it won’t. Who knows. But doing nothing wasn’t an option.