June 24, 2009

Now, there will be 10 nominees for the Best Picture Oscar.

It's pretty obviously a bid for TV ratings:
In a question-and-answer session that followed the announcement [Sidney Ganis, the academy’s president] said, "I would not be telling you the truth if I said the words ‘Dark Knight’ did not come up.

IN THE EMAIL: Christopher Althouse Cohen writes:
The most obvious pros and cons for either decision is that 5 slots are probably not enough to nominate every great movie in a given year, but on the other hand 10 slots is almost certain to lead to some pretty crappy movies getting nominated. Also, having 10 best picture nominees sort of lowers the value of a given nomination. A movie getting nominated at all right now seems like a really big deal for that movie, but it might not if there were 10. But you will be a lot more likely to see your favorite movies nominated with 10 slots.

Here were the nominees in 1943, the last time they had more than 5 nominees:

For Whom the Bell Tolls
Heaven Can Wait
In Which We Serve
Madame Curie
The Human Comedy
The More the Merrier
The Ox-Bow Incident
The Song of Bernadette
Watch on the Rhine

I don't know enough of those movies to know if they deserved it (I think I've only seen two), but the fact that they were nominated doesn't make me want to run out and see all of them. Kind of looks like one really major classic, and then a long list of pretty good movies.

Now, here are last year's five nominees, which apparently will be the last time, at least for a while, that there are only five (along with their box office grosses before getting nominated):

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ($104 million)
Frost/Nixon ($8.8 million)
Milk ($20 million)
The Reader ($8 million)
Slumdog Millionaire ($44 million)

Only one had a significant gross pre-nominations, and that one wasn't even a box office success given its $150 million budget. And here is an overview of the ratings for the Oscars since 1990 from Wikipedia. The ratings peaked with 57 million viewers the year Titanic came out, and has had somewhere in the 30's each of the last four years, so it's in a low streak.

And, coincidentally, the two best-reviewed movies of the year in 2008, based on Top Ten lists, were also the 1st and 5th highest grossing movies of the year: WALL-E and The Dark Knight. Both had some Oscar hype but failed to get nominated, and both would likely have been nominated if there were 10 slots. They were also big budget, ambitious movies that had fans who were really excited about those movies.

It seems pretty clear that this is a response to the decline in ratings and the possibility that its ratings decline has something to do with the fact that the small prestige movies have been getting all the nominations.

I do think the bigger movies are also more likely to win the award with 10. People push for their favorite little movie and put it in the #1 slot on their list when they vote for the nominations, because they want to help it and the big movies already have plenty of attention. Maybe a lot of those people who voted for The Reader and Frost/Nixon for nominations would have voted for The Dark Knight for the actual award if there were more nominees. So, I could see a movie in 6th-10th place for the nominations actually winning for this reason.

You'd also probably have some really unworthy prestige movies sneaking in without living up to their hype: movies like Rachel Getting Married, Doubt, or Che. But then you might have some little movies that deserved it but normally wouldn't have a chance, like Frozen River or Vicky Cristina Barcelona. That would be nice. It could go either way.


SteveR said...

Won't work for me.

Beth said...

It's an honor just to be nominated.

Kensington said...

This doesn't make me even slightly more interested in watching.

Get Megan Fox and the yellow flower kid to host. Then maybe I'll consider watching.

OldGrouchy Doug Wright said...

What does this Oscar announcement have to do with Reality TV?

traditionalguy said...

This is big news. There will be twice as many actors/actresses,et al. in attendance to laugh and clap until they lose.

Synova said...

With five give away slots some popular movies might be in the running... but they still won't win.

It's still going to go to the movies that make actors and movie makers feel like they are doing something gravely important.

(ie. NOT entertaining.)

Emily Carson said...

People don't want to watch it if they don't have a horse in the race.

They should quit nominating the obligatory gay movie of the year that has been seen by 847 people and instead nominate movies that people actually like.

Albatross said...

The Oscars are still around?

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

I think it'll be interesting to see what movies that could never have otherwise gotten nominated will get nominated this year. Up genuinely goes from having almost no chance to being a shoo-in. But what else? Everyone's saying Star Trek, I'm saying Bruno.

John Stodder said...

Pixar will dominate this league.

Synova said...

Spike TV Men's Choice awards were on the other day... my husband (a flipper... drives me NUTS) flipped past just as Jason Stathom took the stage to accept his award.

Award shows obviously get enough attention to justify putting on yet another one. If the Oscars or Academy Awards or Golden Globes are hurting, maybe something is up... maybe they've just over-reached.

Brent said...

You have it backwards Ann.

Rachel Getting Married was wonderful movie making.

Vicky Christina Barcelona was another Woody Allen therapy picture - boring and a waste of time and good film stock.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

This also means more studios have a shot at making more money, since now 10 of them can say that their movie is up for Best Pic. I stopped taking the Oscars seriously a long time ago and just watch them for fun now, so more movies (probably) will equal more fun. Good move.

P.S. Rachel Getting Married was the worst movie of 2008.

Sy said...

If either Wall-E or The Dark Knight were nominated last year, one of them would have won it. Sure, Slumdog was good but it wasn't as popular as TDK or Wall-E.

For this year, I think "Up" will win if it gets nominated.

froggyprager said...

it is not about TV ratings, the big money is the boost to the hollywood movie makers who will cash in on each of the movies that gets a nom.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

Quick- which movie won the Oscar for best picture in 1977?

"Kramer versus Kramer". When was the last time you watched it? I myself, not a real movie buff, have never seen it.

I'll bet you that more people have seen "Smokey and the Bandit" TWICE than have seen KvK ONCE.

I agree with Synova- the Oscars have become a party so actors can pat themselves on the back for being 'edgy'; it has nothing to do with whether or not it is actually a GOOD film.

Compare last year's nominees with 1939: http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Years/1939/academy-awards

Movie making sure has gone downhill in the last 70 years

Jennifer said...

How many movies hit theaters every year? I'm curious what percentage of that 10 represents.

Best number I can google up with is about 600. So, we're talking about just under 2% will be nominated for best picture. I guess that's not unreasonable. But, it sure seems like it will water down the prestige.

Marcia said...

What will happen with the people who make a point of seeing every best-picture-nominated film? My guess is they won't be happy about this, as some bourgeois fare will undoubtedly make the top 10.

Some will likely give up the goal of seeing all the nominees. But I would expect that more will pony up the bucks to see a movie or three that they otherwise wouldn't have.

Dark Eden said...

I just don't buy it. This strikes me as trying to sucker in the rubes to watch the Oscars again. They could have tried to actually nominate some movies someone other than an arthaus left wing, pseudo intelligentsia type would want to see, but no. There will still be five of those types of movies nominated every year. Now there will also be five 'rube' movies, the movies actual human beings enjoy watching.

I doubt they'll stand any chance of actually winning anything, but it'll get the rubes watching for a year or two before they catch on that the game hasn't changed at all.

Aaron said...

Haven't cared for years and i am not going to start caring now.

Orson Scott Card, in his forwards, does a great job excoriating the problems with intellectualism in literature. The same problem exists in movies. The vain intellectuals have control of the academy so that movies with genuine artistic merit, but nonetheless carry the "stench" of popularity, are ignored. The travesty of excluding the The Dark Knight last year is only the most recent example.

The correct view is that one's assessment of the quality of movies should have nothing to do with its popularity. but instead too many times they confuse that sentiment for a sentiment that only the least popular should be nominated.

Look over your DVD collection at home. How many of your absolute favorite movies, the ones you have watched 10 times, weren't even nominated? And then look at some of the dreck that has won. For instance, recently i found American Beauty for $5 at Walmart and said, "what the heck, i'll watch it." apparently i paid too much. i have never seen such a seethingly hateful movie, and such an emotionally immature one, either. indeed much of the writing is simply awful, Keven Spacey's character coming off more like a petulant teenager.

Anyway, a long time ago i liberated myself from even caring about the oscars. and this won't change a thing.

bearbee said...

Oh boy.....will the broadcast be 2x as long? How 'bout 2x in all categories?

Take my hand
Come with me
Double your pleasure
Double your fun
It's the right one

Double your

MadisonMan said...

Grade inflation meets Oscar.

Freeman Hunt said...

This is also a bid to sell more DVDs. Now you have double that advertise as "Nominated for Best Picture."