There will never be another Oscar winner like “O.J.: Made in America.” Each year, a month after the Academy Awards, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences meet to debate and approve any rules changes for the next year’s Oscars. As expected, following the controversy over ESPN’s five-part, eight-hour documentary feature, the Academy is cracking down on multi-part or limited “series.”
As the Academy tries to distinguish itself from television’s Emmy Awards, no longer eligible for Oscars will be Netflix’s currently available “Five Came Back,” a three-part documentary about five A-list Hollywood directors filming World War II, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, Scott Rudin, and Barry Diller, or Amir Bar-Lev’s Grateful Dead documentary “Long Strange Trip,” presented by Martin Scorsese, which debuted in one four-hour screening at Sundance, but will be split into six parts on Amazon.
“I feel the Academy made the right decision,” said Mark Harris, who wrote “Five Came Back” based on his 2014 book. “I never assumed we were in the mix. We made this as a three-episode piece of television. That is how it was conceived and structured, and I’m proud of the work we did toward that end.” (Don’t expect everyone to be so sanguine.)
Courtesy of Netflix
And, for the first time, all eligible voters may participate in nominating Best Animated Feature Film. Before now, this was a category nominated by the Short Films and Feature Animation branch, although they often invited craftspeople from other branches to join the committee. (As of December 2016, it had only 479 voting members.) Before this, the only nominations open to the full Academy were the categories of Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film, neither of which have a specific branch.
The number of animated films submitted for consideration increased by 68 percent in one year — from 16 in 2015 to 27 in 2016. That growth is expected to continue, and this will open voting to a much wider group who will have to watch a minimum percentage of the films, based on the number of submissions.
The Academy will send nominating committee invites to all active Academy members. However, voting in the nominations round will now be preferential, like Best Picture, not based on a numerical scoring system as before. And unlike the first-round foreign nominations voting, which requires members in Los Angeles and New York to sign in to a theater or screening (and still uses a numerical ranking), Animation voters may view films during their theatrical runs or at screenings, at the Academy’s streaming site, or on screeners.
Presumably only people who are drawn to animation will join the committee, but a larger pool of voters could push distributors to seek more attention from festivals and press, spend more, and force them to move up their releases earlier in the year.
“Live-action big popcorn movies and commercial endeavors get less Oscar love than more thoughtful films,” said Gkids CEO Eric Beckman, whose New York-based distributor (“Secret of the Kells,” “My Life as a Zucchini”), with nine Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature, is the only non-studio distributor to compete with the studios. “If you take that and apply it to animation, that explains why Gkids has done well. Our films will stand on their own. We’ll figure out a way to get it done. The goal is getting a Best Picture win for animated film.”
In other changes, in the Best Picture category a producing “team” considered as one producer can only be comprised of two people — and that’s only after the Producers Guild has established their partnership. The Academy’s Producers Branch Executive Committee makes final determination of the qualifying producer nominees.In the Music (Original Score) category, if three or more equally contributing composers contribute to a score, the composers will be considered as a group and accept a single statuette.
Finally, in the nomination period Academy members may not accept an invite to any lunch, dinner, or event that promotes an eligible film for awards consideration without an attendant screening. According to the Academy: “This change is part of the continuing effort to address the issue of excessive campaigning and keeping the attention on the movies themselves.”
The 90th Oscars will be held on Sunday, March 4, 2018.