The 82nd Oscars telecast is brewing as the perfect storm to attract its biggest audience in years.¬†¬† The combination of Adam Shankman’s TV-popularity, the two co-hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, and most importantly, the popularity of the films involved all seem designed to bring those eyeballs to TV sets all over the country, all over the world.
The Best Picture ten seemed designed to broaden the Academy’s reach to include the general public’s opinion in their choices, something they had abandoned in previous years, going simply for quality and critical acclaim. Unfortunately, a good portion of the viewers had not even seen the films represented so why should they watch the awards show — for the stars only? Stars ain’t what they used to be. This is a sad fact of the modern age. Our stars now are non-pros who stumbled into the limelight – the Kim Kardashians and the Kate Gosselins. How do you make people turn out for those people without losing all of your self-respect in the process? You can’t. Conversely, you can expect people to watch the boring old Oscars with the boring old stars when Dateline NBC is doing a tell-all on Tiger Woods’ latest sex revelation? No popular movies, no big stars (not even Tom Cruise can bring them in anymore) – what is the AMPAS to do?
Expanding to ten allows them to choose both the critically acclaimed, and the popular — it just so happens that a lot of the popular films this year have also been critically acclaimed. So maybe it’s a win-win. Either way, the glass bubble has been shattered. And people will come.
It is now time to start talking about breaking the rules.
With five Best Picture nominees, a film needed that crucial Eddie nod to win Best Picture. That is because directing is so closely related to editing they are almost the same craft. Not quite but almost. So one’s first thought might be, Inglourious Basterds failed to get an editing nod that kills its chances for Best Picture. But my first thought was whether the editing rule would still apply with ten nominees. The Eddies have ten, but they are divided into drama and musical/comedies (like the Globes). We have no way to compare since the Academy discarded their ten nominees rule back in the late ’40s. The Cinema Editors wasn’t even founded until 1950.
We can also look at the crucial SAG ensemble vote — any film that wasn’t one of their five — Up in the Air, Avatar — can still win Best Pic. With five Best Pic nominees, this would feel very nearly impossible – not quite, of course. The Hurt Locker, it’s worth noting, has hit every marker, every guild, and won every critics’ award: this is a very popular, well-liked film. The other film that has hit almost every marker is Precious. Clearly, Avatar, Up in the Air and Inglourious Basterds are following in kind.
But what films are creeping through and finding their place on the top ten? Three come to mind right now: District 9, Star Trek and believe it or not, The Hangover.¬† When one imagines American viewers tuning in to the Oscars to see those films represented? It becomes a whole new ball game, doesn’t it? There might be a few that no one will have seen.¬† And those films will get added exposure with more interest in the race in general. This can only be good for the film industry, actors, and especially the Academy.
Ten allows them to choose films they liked, along with those they know they “should” vote for. That is how The Hangover could get in. It is looking very likely that all three Sci Fi films will be included: District 9, Star Trek, and of course, Avatar.
So how might our top ten look right now?
Here were the critics choice nominees:
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
Up In The Air
Two of these must get dislodged to make room for District 9 and Star Trek. So you might say Nine and Invictus. And that’s possible. I think it could be Up, actually, only because it has its own category already. But it’s hard to imagine Up not getting in. That would leave Invictus as the weak link, given its lack of showing in the guild awards. I feel like Invictus is in because the film itself, while not fanboy fare, is moving and memorable, and easily one of the best films of 2009, whether it is popular or not. But that might be wishful thinking on my part. I might also be crazy in thinking that Nine still has a shot. But I do think it still has a shot – the reason is that it got a SAG ensemble nod – that means it has a lot of actors behind it, a lot of actors IN IT, thus, a lot of actors voting for it.
At any rate, I feel these are a fairly solid eight:
The Hurt Locker
Up in the Air
And two slots that could be filled with two of the following: Up, Invictus, A Serious Man, The Hangover, Julie & Julia, It’s Complicated, 500 Days of Summer and Nine. All in all, I’d say that expanding to ten has been good overall for the Oscar race. For one thing, it has shaken up an established pattern of rules that ended up with the same films winning over and over again. So it had become locked and predictable. The AMPAS took a lot of heat for this decision, but, as I said when they first announced it, I admire them for not digging their heels in and having to be “right” all of the time. I admire them for trying something different to shake things up. We’ll have to see where this goes from here.