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."
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