The Hollywood Reporter has suggested that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is considering yet another shift to its Best Picture category: returning to just five nominees. They said no official proposal has been placed before the Academy’s board of governors, but that could change as soon as March 24, which is the next time they’re meeting. At which point — I beg of you Academy — don’t do it!
1. It’s too soon.
It’s only been six years since the Academy switched from five nominees to 10, and then to that 5-10 sliding scale deal three years later. This is already too much change, too soon. Does the Academy want to start looking like the Emmys? Just let things settle a bit. Switching things up so often erodes the respectability of an institution already under fire for just that.
2. It seems desperate and lazy.
Isn’t there a more creative solution? The whole reads like “so I guess this isn’t working, let’s just go back to how we did things before.” But that wasn’t working either, Academy. That’s why they switched things up in the first place! If I were on the Board of Governors, I’d be much more inclined to fight for what the Oscars really need — better writers, a better host, and a better produced ceremony. And maybe a couple new categories (Best Ensemble Cast, which goes to both the actors and the casting director, perhaps?).
3. It’s not going to change the ratings.
It seems the primary motivation for this tired switch-em-up is that the ratings were down more than 15 percent from last year. Reducing the nomination count for Best Picture will have no effect on changing that, just like it didn’t when the Academy expanded. The audience doesn’t care how many nominees there are for Best Picture. But they might be suffering from awards season fatigue when the Oscars roll around. What about giving them a bit of a breather first? One switch the Academy did make that seemed to effect ratings was then they moved the ceremony up to February (in large part so it could be a part of February sweeps). When the awards were held in March, the ratings were consistently higher. Who knows if the timing was the reason for that, but if there’s a big change to make, maybe the date is the more promising option. That would also give voters and audiences a few more weeks to actually see the films…
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4. The expansion has made for great exposure for smaller movies that needed it.
There’s so many great little films that made the Best Picture lineup thanks to expanded list. It’s all but certain that “Whiplash,” “Winter’s Bone,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Selma,” “Her,” “A Serious Man,” “Amour” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” would not have made the cut if there had only been five nominees. The fact that they did surely gave them a much larger audience than they would have got otherwise, which is a very good thing.
5. The number of nominees isn’t the problem… it’s the quality of the movies.
The fact that so many indies are getting in seems to sadly be a selling point for reducing the count back to five. The reasoning behind this is that since too few people have seen these films, they won’t tune in to root for them. This past year, for example, only one Best Picture nominee — “American Sniper” — was a studio film or a film that grossed over $100 million. But had there only been five nominees, “Sniper” would have potentially not even made the cut. So reducing the nominees isn’t necessarily going to make them more mainstream. What would make them more mainstream is if Hollywood would step up and start making better studio movies. There were plenty of failed hopefuls this year — “Unbroken,” “Fury” and “Into The Woods” — and they failed simply because they weren’t that good. Don’t blame the independent film industry for simply being better at making movies… Tell Hollywood to get their act together instead.