"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 AMPAS 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." In the '30s and '40s the Academy recognized between 8 and 12 Best Picture nominees each year.There are pros and cons draped all over this story, and our little gold friend.
-Obviously, it makes the whole thing more inclusive, which sort of falls in the pros category since a five-film cutoff is a little arbitrary (sure, 10 is, too, but this means fewer films get left out).
-The term "Best Picture Nominee" gets cheapened a little -- a certain con.
-Because of the Academy's inexplicably strange Best Foreign Language Film rules, another pro is put in play: More recognition for the top non-English films.
-Unfortunately, the con side of this is it brings documentaries into the discussion, too. Documentaries have no business being listed alongside dramatic films. It's like the CBS Evening News and 24 fighting for the same Emmy.
-Then again, pro-wise, another out-from-the-ghetto type of film gets highlighted: the animated film ...
- ... but what if the world's Pixar crush becomes even more irrational, and the studio's every offering gets a slot -- no matter how crappy the movie is*? Potential con.
-And the final one is the ultimate pro vs. con: Who, excepting animated/foreign language/non-fiction films, gets the final five spots? Will the Academy follow its recent pattern, or revert to old practices?
What that means is this: For an extended span, Best Picture seemed the landing spot for period dramas (often epics) and audience/critical favorites (meaning "feel-good" movies; everything from E.T. to As Good as it Gets), with only the occasional outlier (Silence of the Lambs, Fargo, The Insider) thrown in. Meanwhile, the daring critical faves -- even near-unanimous badass movies like The Usual Suspects -- seemed destined for either Best Director, Best Screenplay, or oblivion*.
*Great song, by the way.
Lately, though, the Picture category had taken to actually leaving the house a bit. It snubbed some obvious award grabs (e.g. Dreamgirls and Cold Mountain) and even gave the gold to films that didn't fit the Best Pic Profile (consider: the 2004-07 winning string of Million Dollar Baby, Crash, The Departed and No Country For Old Men -- not one epic or feel-good film on the list).
So what will we see, with more slots available? More love for the BIG movie? Or will Charlie Kaufman* and the like finally see one of his movies validated as one of the best of the year?
*Which reminds me ... there might be a Kaufman-related post coming soon ...