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If film critics can issue Top 10 lists, why not Oscar?

June 30, 2009 | 11:37 am

I think it's hilarious reading all the blog rants against the Oscars' decision to expand the best-picture list to 10, written by the same film critics who issue their own Top 10 lists every year.

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I cheer Oscar's decision. As the telecast confronts declining Nielsen numbers, this is a great antidote since it will draw in more viewers rooting for their flicks to win. Oscar's Top 10 list will probably include lots of popcorn pix snubbed in the past like "The Dark Knight" and comedies like "Borat." Also, animated gems like "Toy Story" that were so neglected previously that the academy had to create a separate race for them eight years ago. Will that category be eliminated ahead? Maybe, in a few years, if "Up" and other worthy entries get in. As things stood up till recently, if socko comedies like "Tropic Thunder" and musicals like "Dreamgirls" and "Sweeney Todd" continued to get skunked, the Oscars might have been forced to launch a separate new best-pic race for comedies/musicals like the Golden Globes.

Actually, the Oscars are not only just now catching up with list-making film critics and the Golden Globes but other film groups like the National Board of Review, the Critics' Choice Awards and even the American Film Institute, which hail 10 film finalists every year. And with Oscar himself, since the motion-picture academy frequently had far more than five nominees in the 1930s and 1940s.

Since then, once the Oscars' restricted the best-picture race to five, all of the following classics failed to be nominated for the top prize: "The African Queen," "East of Eden," "North By Northwest," "Now, Voyager," "Psycho," "Singing in the Rain" (No. 10 on the AFI list of greatest movies ever made), "A Star Is Born" and "2001: A Space Odyssey." AFI lists "Some Like It Hot" as the 14th-greatest film and the best comedy ever made, but it failed to make Oscars' high five.

Decades ago, the Oscars frequently nominated popcorn pix like "Airport," "Jaws" and "The Towering Inferno," but pretentious Hollywooders have gotten awfully highfalutin lately, so this expansion of the race should fix that.

Bottom line: Oscar snobs like you and me won't be fooled by the expanded category. While it will include 10 films, there will still only be five up for best director and, as every Oscarologist knows, the best-picture winner usually needs to have a corresponding bid for helming. Thus, predicting the winner will pretty much be the same game as before. Yes, there have been three exceptions – "Wings," "Grand Hotel" and "Driving Miss Daisy" – but those first two were before 1933.

There's a lot of ridiculous buzzing in the blogosphere about the Oscar using this change as a chance to bump the awards for best shorts or sound editing off the prime-time telecast. Blasphemy! Aren't the Oscars the High Holy Event of the film realm? Isn't attending church supposed to be long and boring? It's good for the soul.

Furthermore, the Oscars are supposed to be sacred in another sense. They aim – ideally –   to rise above commercial concern to champion the best of film, period. Why punish the little people and the shorts? Aren't the shorts the flicks that need exposure most? The Oscars must resist such cyber-whining by chowderhead bloggers who already have an awards show that puts a premium on staging an entertaining telecast: the MTV Movie Awards. Does anybody care what wins those? Does anybody remember? (Hint: "Twilight" won best picture this year, "Transformers" last year.)

Photos: United Artists, Paramount, Warner Bros.

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