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Oscars expand the best-picture race to 10 films

June 24, 2009 | 10:38 am

The next Oscars derby will be more heated – and crowded. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences just announced that the best-picture race will now include 10 contenders instead of five.

Between 1932 and 1943, that Oscars category usually spanned 10 films, but then switched to just five for the year covering movies released in 1944. The most famous top 10 back then was the impressive list for 1939 when "Gone With the Wind" claimed the prize. The other nine notable nominees: "Dark Victory," "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," "Love Affair," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Ninotchka," "Of Mice and Men," "Stagecoach," "The Wizard of Oz" and "Wuthering Heights."

Oscargold

In 1931-32, there were eight nominees and in 1934 and 1935 there were 12 contenders. The last time there were 10 nominees "Casablanca" won best picture of 1943.

"After more than six decades, the Academy is returning to some of its earlier roots, when a wider field competed for the top award of the year," said academy President Sid Ganis. "The final outcome, of course, will be the same – one Best Picture winner – but the race to the finish line will feature 10, not just five, great movies from 2009.

"Having 10 best picture nominees is going [to] allow academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize, Ganis added. "I can't wait to see what that list of ten looks like when the nominees are announced in February." Nominations will be announced Feb. 2.

Other film-award organizations announce top 10 lists these days, including the National Board of Review, Critics Choice Awards and the American Film Institute. The Golden Globes have traditionally nominated 10 best pictures, five in the drama race, five in the comedy/musical classification.

The Oscars are also following the lead of the Emmys, which announced earlier this year that the number of nominess for many categories will expand to six from the usual five: best comedy and drama series plus the races for lead and supporting series actors.

Photo: Los Angeles Times

RELATED LINKS

2010 Oscar bait: Top films in the upcoming derby

12 Greatest Oscar Best Pictures

Best and worst of 2009 Oscars

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Comments

The Oscar Oscars mean a lot. They're all about tradition & about honor.
But I think that the Academy is aggressively trying to make them into a meaningless TV event. First bringing the show
to February (from late March), which actually stops a lot of voters from having the time to watch the films and makes
surprises and upsets less likely. And now having 10 nominees in the best picture category? Why? Because they want
to be sure that voters won't skip WALL-E and The Dark Knight next time? Come on! Five is enough! Ten is too much!
Does the Academy care only about the telecast?! And having the viewers? It's insane! We want to have five nominees
in the best picture category. With ten nominees a film needs a mere edge to win. It enables lobby voting etc. etc. &
what's more important - some really unimpressive, unworthy films will sneak into the final five. It will make for a boring night and will actually diminish the prestige of the top award! And Academy, you should probably know that even with 10 nominees voters could have snubbed WALl-E and The Dark Knight this year!
Think of it: I bet Gran Torino would have received a single nomination -- for Best Picture. And it's an awful film. Mediocre at best. Doubt would have received a nomination, because actors loved it. And it's nothing like a film that deserves a best picture nomination. Are these films really best picture material? No, they're not. But they would have made it into the final five, so at the end we would have had mostly three-four good films and six-seven films that are nothing like best picture-worthy nominees.

We want FIVE nominees! We are for the tradition and for the prestige of the Oscars!

Would LOVE to learn who most lobbied for this. My vote would be the folks at Pixar who will NO DOUBT be the first happy beneficiaries of this.

But I'm thrilled to see that so many other Oscar enthusiasts are as nauseated as I am.

Best post above has to be Zach's. Just looking at what might have made it to a Top Ten list last year is reason enough to void this TERRIBLE idea.

I'm going to conduct my own poll and see how many times I've believed there have been FIVE excellent selections over the last decade or two. I think I already know the answer... "Not as many as I'd hoped."

I think this is great. Hopefully more good movies will get a nomination.

The math is simple: with 5 nominees, in a tight year a film can win with 23 or 24% of the votes--no runoffs in the Oscars.

The Academy would be loathe to disclose it, but how many Best Picture Oscars went to films that actually got 50% plus 1 of the votes? Possibly a handful, obviously not many. In a 5 picture field, most Best Picture films win with a "plurality," that is, the largest vote but still less than half.

But now with 10 nominees, a film--as another poster noted--can win with even fewer votes, certainly in the teens. Has the Academy considered the impact of selecting the Best Picture winner with 14% or 16% of the vote?

What this means is that a dark horse with a quirky but committed following can easily win BP.

The Oscars balloting has always relied on secrecy--actual vote totals are never disclosed. Now the Academy has adopted a structure that begs the question they most don't want to answer: So what are the actual vote totals, anyway????

Vivian Ward, played by Julia Roberts, said it best in "Pretty Woman," "Big mistake. Big. Huge." Wow. Let's take the bad ramifications one by one: If voting members get one vote, then a picture with 10% plus one vote can win. 89% of the voters can think the picture is horrible, but it could still win best picture. The vote splitting will assure that the winner will not get anywhere near a majority. Second, how will the nomination process be changed? Currently with the weighted voting system, a small niche of voters can be pursuaded by a niche studio with a PR hungry exec with a huge ego to put their number 1 vote for their picture. As you eat your Chocolat bon bon, consider how small a group will be necessary to block vote in unworthy films with 10 slots. Third, will the Academy require some "quality" rating similar to the tortured Music Branch? In case the Academy has missed it, the efforts by the music branch has been a failure to get even 5 nominations, much less 5 quality or even popular songs. Is today April 1st? Seriously. Big mistake. Big. Hug.

It reminds me of a Saturday morning in the neighborhood park as scores of parents attending their children's soccer games bellow in chorus: "You're all winners!"

One of the worst ideas ever! Dilutes the importance of a BP nom and gives inferior films "bragging". It's bad enough already with sub-par juggernauts sneaking into the Top 5 in the past. This will ultimately hurt the Oscars. Can't the "governors" see this or are they clouded by pressure from the studios? I mean, seriously, every major studio will have an Oscar BP nommed film this year. Ridiculous!!

Yes, ten nominees for BP is a bad idea. But splitting the award into comedy/musical and drama like the Golden Globes, is a great idea.

This really deludes the category and the meaning of the award. This is obviously little more than a marketing ploy as the film industry rides out harsh times.

I supported 'Hunger' last year which was all but ignored by the Academy. Had this new 10 nomination idea been implemented last year, it would have had a shot. Anyway, I'm cautiously excited about the change. But I also understand some people's concerns. This just allows lesser known but high quality films to be branded Oscar nominated films. That's not so bad.

What a bad, bad idea! The old system is back from when studios were churning out movie after movie and now studios have franchised off a lot of their efforts to television and "new media." Additionally, the profit-motive of the movie industry now as compared to 65 years ago ensures that a certain percentage of movies are now pre-ordained for a certain subset of the movie-going population (or at least what's left of it) rather than being focused on high quality story-telling, which is what I believe makes for a Best Picture worthy movie.

Yeah, this will dilute the importance of a Best Picture nomination. If people were outraged when "Chocolat" made it a few years back, they ain't seen nothin' yet!

I'd guess this was a response to two things:
1) The decrease in the public's interest in the Academy Awards (but I doubt this will do much to stanch the decline).

2) The surge in professional Oscar Prognostication. There are so few real surprises on Oscar night anymore--or on nominations morning; these moments were almost always a huge snooze. Maybe the thinking is that, now that a film could win Best Picture with as few as 10% of the votes plus one, you might have some greater dispersion in voting and thus some harder predictions to make.

As a longtime Oscar follower and red carpet reporter at a number of them, I hate this idea. Five is plenty. All it does is give bragging rights on a nomination to a number of films. It will still come down to one, two --no more than three that have a chance at winning. It will also turn off average viewer

Don't do it! It's an awful choice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You mean in any given recent year there have been ten good movies (let alone Best Pictures)?

I hope this will come with a better balloting system such as having voters rank the nominees (preferential ballot). Otherwise, a film could technically win with like 15% of the vote.

Could this be Oscar's response to the recession? (movies with a Best Picture nom always get a noticeable boost at the box office). The official explanation -- that there are too many good movies to pick from -- is laughable on its face.

I think this is cool but stupid at the same time. I think the Oscars will become less prestigious when there are 10 nominees for best picture. Is there really any good year where there are 10 worthy films for best picture?

Of course, the real reason they are raising the field to 10 is in order to ensure more Oscar television viewers, since more folks will have seen some of the nominees and will thus have a greater interest in seeing how they do.

Maybe Transformers now has a chance.

And did the membership have a voice in this change?

Wow the Academy is going with a top ten film list. Will this add another hour to the marathon broadcast?

This is without a doubt a reaction to The Dark Knight being snubbed.

I think it's a bad move and leaves the Academy open to the complaints about the Grammys--there are so many nominated, what's the big distinction. Why weren't members polled on this? Why the decision from "governors" chosen through the silly method used? Films themselves were new in 1939; 70 years later the newness has worn off. I think it's a cheapened way to get more viewers for an already over-awarded industry.

This is absolutely insane! There are going to be films with only a couple of nominations plus Best Picture. All indies that nobody will want to see! Can you imagine this last year? Yes, Wall-E and The Dark Knight would surely have been in, but what else? Doubt was good, but nothing else comes close to the scope and scale necessary for a Best Picture nominee. Frozen River probably would have made it!! Maybe Happy-Go-Lucky? In Bruges?? Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Revolutionary Road if they could sneak in without script nominations??

6 BP nominees is not a bad idea, and this will work well for the Emmys since there are a lot of good (genre) programs on TV. But 10 will return us to the era of the 1930s and 1940s where a lot of small movies got in and genre classics like King Kong still wouldn't be nominated. And let's be serious, every year there are a couple of major snubs or BP alternates, but when's the last time there were genuinely 10 worthy Best Picture nominees??? 1968? 1971? 1989?

 

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