Most people want to see the Academy Awards be what they once were. Not everyone, of course. After trying out the expanded ballot for 13 years, I think it’s time for them to dump the preferential ballot and go back to the simple plurality vote. There is a way out of the mess they’re in and it’s pretty simple: more categories, fewer slots per categories.
If you look at the below mash-ups for the films of 2021, it is not that hard to see just how different the Oscar race is from the movie ecosystem overall. What purpose does it serve? It serves its own industry, for sure. But they could have more impact for upcoming generations if they start to think about adaptation.
All ten of the films in this year’s Best Picture race are exceptional. They are all great movies to my mind. But there is something inherently odd about choosing them, deciding them long before they ever hit theaters. Movies are not made for critics or Oscar pundits or even Oscar voters. They are made for people. Out there in the dark. Shouldn’t there be some sort of attempt to include them?
Generation Z doesn’t see much difference between theatrical, streaming, and video games. To them, it’s all media content that they consume in different formats. They don’t have the same sort of moral line that, say, my generation does for MOVIE movies. To them, a Netflix movie or a Hulu movie is the same as a movie they’d watch on the big screen. The only thing they care about is whether it captivates their attention.
They will watch what is most easily available to them. What I think the Academy should do is have two categories for Best Picture, as they did in their first year of existence. One would be large canvas theatrical and the other would be mixed media. Their “major motion picture” category should include five entries for Best Picture which would allow a plurality vote that would support the passionate choice for Best Picture.
The other “mixed media” category could be more expansive and even have ten nominees, though I think keeping it at five makes the competition more exciting. It could include any film on streaming or even alternative platforms like Youtube or TikTok. In order to qualify for the large canvas theatrical, the film would have to play a certain number of markets, not just New York and LA but broadly throughout the country.
I have been urging the Academy to expand to ten from their previous method of a variable number between 5 and 10, but that was in hopes of expanding their reach beyond their particular comfort zone (actor-driven character dramas). Maybe things will change in the next few years, but if this year is any example, the expanded method has, quite simply, failed. The films that should ideally be in this race would be Spider-Man: No Way Home, No Time to Die, A Quiet Place II, and The Last Duel. But none could find a foothold because they don’t fit the requirements the Oscar pundits use to pre-select the Best Picture contenders.
Having five “major theatrical” Best Picture nominees forces the Academy, and the pundits, to widen their scope of what films to look for. It also begins to set the bar higher for major releases, which benefits everyone. It might not solve every problem, but it is certainly worth a try if this year proves to be disappointing.
The preferential ballot only sometimes allows for passion to play a part, if a film wins on the first round. We don’t know whether any of them have since they don’t release their voting tallies. I have a disagreement with Ryan on this point as he doesn’t think the same films won the first round that I do. But I think if a movie wins the DGA, the PGA, and SAG ensemble, that’s a pretty good indicator the film won the first round. So in the era of the expanded ballot, that would include:
The King’s Speech
I think it’s likely Parasite won on the first round in 2019, given that it won Picture, Director, Screenplay. But we have no way of knowing for sure.
We’ve probably seen multiple rounds of counting, wherein a film comes in second place on the first round but then overcomes the number one film by collecting second and third-place votes. I expect this happened the year Moonlight beat La La Land. While having more nominations is more inclusive without a doubt, it also sets up a muted finale for the Oscars, rather than a sweeping surge of a popular film.
Anyway, here are a few mash-ups I found, which really do show how wide an array of films were on offer this past year. Some of them are Oscar movies and some aren’t.
What do you think, Oscar watchers? Keep the ten or go back to five?