There’s a-doin’s a-transpirin’ over at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The first announcement came that they would be nominating 10 films instead of the traditional 5 for Best Picture in Feb. 2010.
I like this idea. Think about what it means, not only for the films, but for the Academy as well. It will give some much-deserved exposure to those films that were ‘on the bubble.’ Many of those films were worthy of nomination in the top 5 anyway, but weren’t for some reason or another. Nominating wild cards will (hopefully) make the event less predictable and put the spotlight on films that took chances but got out-shined by the flashier productions. It will be obvious which of those films have no chance of winning, but it’s the thought that counts. Because of their nomination, they will get more box office exposure and higher returns. The Academy should receive higher ratings for the awards ceremony, more credibility and happier filmmakers. It’s a win-win.
Now for the other, more controversal changes. The only original songs that will be nominated will be ones that are deemed outstanding and worthy. In the past, the voters would listen to songs and assign them each a number from 6 to 10 with the highest scores nominated. The new rules state that the songs must earn at least an 8.5 (average?) score to receive a nomination. This means a possible ZERO songs could be nominated in any given year. Why would they do this?
When Celine Dion or Elton John can jump in and sweep the awards away from a venerable music branch member who may have outclassed the pop stars but can’t compete against the celebrity name, that’s gotta hurt. I guess they are saying that those celebrity songs get consistantly high scores but not outstanding scores which is how they beat out the underdogs. Supposedly this will also eliminate films from sweeping the nominations like “Slumdog Millionaire” last year. Sounds wonky, but supposedly the new rules also allow for songs from the closing credits to be included, something previously excluded because they technically weren’t part of the movie narrative (which was a crapola rule, probably designed to shut out more pop stars). This is important because when terrific songs like Bruce Springsteen’s song from “The Wrestler” gets kiboshed despite its ability to wrap up the narrative and give it punctuation, something’s wrong with the system. It’ll be interesting to see how many problems and objections arise from this new rule and I’m curious to see how it goes.
Another big change will exclude the Thalberg Award, the Hersholt Humanitarian Award and other honorary Oscar Awards from the primary ceremony. For anyone who gets this award, I sympathize with their not getting to bask in the full glory with their peers and with the billions of viewers watching. But as a viewer, I’m extremely relieved. These are the parts of the ceremony that come to a screeching halt. People flip to another channel, others get up to go to the bathroom, others get into conversations and never re-engage with the show because some old geezer they’ve never heard of gets on stage, cries and delivers a 5 minute + speech. The Oscars have become a big production with tight pacing.
With these awards relegated to a separate ceremony, I expect the main event to snap, crackle and pop and stay entertaining and suspenseful throughout. It’ll also keep some embarrassing moments from arising like when Elia Kazan received a Lifetime Achievement Award and only half of the audience clapped. Why? Because Kazan caved under the House Un-American Activities Commision back in 1952, named names and ruined careers. Basically, he tattled on his colleagues, identifying them communists in order to take the heat off himself. This massive error of character came to a head in 1998 when the camera lingered on celebrities like Ed Harris who scowled and sat on his hands when Kazan received his award.
Two of these rules result in big wins for the audience so I’m all for them. Looking forward to seeing the Academy test them out in February.