This year’s Best Picture category to feature 10 nominees

Posted by · 10:21 am · June 24th, 2009

OscarsThe headline says it all.  Is this some strange move on the Academy’s part to further dilute an already incredibly suspect process?  Or, more likely, is this a response to the outcry last year against critical favorites such as “The Dark Knight” and “WALL-E” missing the cut.  With 10 nominees, “the bubble” is all but eliminated and it’s a free-for-all.

As exiting Academy president Sid Ganis puts it in the press release (see below), “Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going 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.”  I understand the desire to widen the net, considering the rather heated scrutiny the organization has received for some of its nominee choices, but is this the answer?

Of course, the way the release puts it, the AMPAS wants to “go back to some of its earlier roots,” back when the 10 nominees was the norm.  But that was 70 years ago.  Additionally, this raises a whole other slate of questions as it regards competition and Oscar advertising.  With consistent awards budget cuts, a move like this could be seen as a breath of fresh air for studios stifled by the competition.  Then again, it could open the door for even more campaign dollars.  Is a “Star Trek” Best Picture push suddenly viable?  But the fact remains, with a widened winner’s circle comes a vacuum where being distinguished is concerned.

The announcement dovetails nicely with a current AMPAS showcase of the 10 Best Picture nominees from 1939, a collective of classic-age cinematic gems including “Gone With the Wind,” “Stagecoach” and “The Wizard of Oz.”

I’ll have to turn this over in my head a bit but it seems the novelty of the BFCA’s 10 Best Picture contenders is the new black.  And I guess you can add one more “top 10 list” to the end of year collective: The Academy’s Top 10 Films of 2009.”  Incredibly bizarre.  What do you think?

(Additionally, Greg Ellwood at HitFix is reporting that the Animated Feature category was on the chopping block but survived after all.)

Full press release:

The 82nd Academy Awards, which will be presented on March 7, 2010, will have 10 feature films vying in the Best Picture category, Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis announced today (June 24) at a press conference in Beverly Hills.

“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 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.”

For more than a decade during the Academy’s earlier years, the Best Picture category welcomed more than five films; for nine years there were 10 nominees. The 16th Academy Awards (1943) was the last year to include a field of that size; “ Casablanca ” was named Best Picture. (In 1931/32, there were eight nominees and in 1934 and 1935 there were 12 nominees.)

Currently, the Academy is presenting a bicoastal screening series showcasing the 10 Best Picture nominees of 1939, arguably one of Hollywood ’s greatest film years. Best Picture nominees of that year include such diverse classics as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Stagecoach,” “The Wizard of Oz” and Best Picture winner “Gone with the Wind.”

“Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going 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,” commented Ganis. “I can’t wait to see what that list of ten looks like when the nominees are announced in February.”

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, February 2. The Oscar® ceremony honoring films for 2009 will again take place at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood , and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.

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178 responses so far

  • 1 6-24-2009 at 8:37 pm

    Derek 8-Track said...

    Poor poor The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. :(

  • 2 6-24-2009 at 8:57 pm

    Bill M said...

    I know this comment is way up there but GUY: How is Dark Victory “a pretty god awful film”? Pretty god awful film I think of something starring Vin Diesel, Jessica Simpson, or Keanu Reeves.

    You might not enjoy melodrama’s from the 30’s / 40’s but you CAN NOT call Dark Victory pretty god awful!

  • 3 6-24-2009 at 9:08 pm

    JAB said...

    My biggest concern is that a film will get put in this category, but no other categories. For example, like someone said above, what if the Hangover winds up being legitimately one of the top ten movies of the year? Would it get any acting nominations? Probably not, i think the only thing it has a shot at is best orginal screenplay.

  • 4 6-24-2009 at 9:22 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    The Hangover isn’t even one of the 20 best movies of the year released so far so that’s not an issue.

  • 5 6-24-2009 at 9:23 pm

    Frank Lee said...

    The weighted voting system used for Oscar nominations will likely mean more movies with strong but limited support being nominated rather than films with broad but shallow support such as “The Hangover.” It does sound like “The Dark Knight” and “Wall-E” had substantial support last year and probably would have been in the top 10, and I’m sure that would have helped generate ratings for the Oscar broadcast. But I wonder how much ratings would have soared in the past from nominations for, say, “Husbands and Wives,” “Mulholland Drive,” or “Talk to Her,” all of which received either director or screenplay nominations.

  • 6 6-24-2009 at 9:38 pm

    Glenn said...

    This is just silly. Everybody is going to be able to determine which movies are the “proper” nominees and which are just filler. Even if this ten thing existed last year, Christopher Nolan still wouldn’t have been nominated and, effectively, been out of the race for best picture. There’s still not going to be much excitement in who will win. Even if they were nominated, titles like “The Wrestler” wouldn’t have a chance in hell of actually winning.

    And as others have said, we’d have nominees like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. Blegh.

    In regards to this year I think it definitely helps Avatar (sci-fi), Bright Star (women-y), Precious (black), Shutter Island (horror) and Up (animated) don’t you think?

  • 7 6-24-2009 at 9:39 pm

    Glenn said...

    And just think how much influence the BFCA think they’re gonna have now.

  • 8 6-24-2009 at 10:21 pm

    KBJr. said...

    I’m not very thrilled with this decision. I suppose this debate (like all contemporary debates I presume) is between the conservatives and progressives.

    Progressives are probably in a euphoric state at the moment. “Finally!” they exclaim, “most deserving films will not be snubbed.” Conservatives (such as I) are groaning. “What is this?” they ask, “the Golden Globes?”

    On its face, ten Best Picture films seems a bit overwhelming. It’s hard enough trying to catch the current five before the awards. Not only see them, but debate them, and adore them. With ten, there will be even less debate and adoration. Prestige, believe it or not, is a major factor as to why the Academy Awards is still considered heads and shoulders above all other awards bodies. It’s simply taken for granted that the five films recognized are the best of the year, “filler” nominees are a rare breed. Not so for the Globes, Grammy’s, Emmy’s or Tony’s. What we’ll have with ten nominees is the problem the Globes have had forever. An oversaturation of nominations, no prestige, a stepping-stone award…only in this case, the Oscar is the end of the line. Seriously though, can anyone name all of the, what, 12 best picture nominees (comedy & drama) from the Globes two years ago? I doubt it. I bet we could conjure up the five Oscar nominees however.

    What ten will do is either cover the “snub” quotia and create filler spots or miss the mark altogether and disprove the theory behind expanding the nomination set. Neither seems like a solution.

    If anything, expanding the acting categories to 6 or 7 would be a better fix. Picture the stay the most exclusive, instead now we’ll still have the traditional five nominees and another five bastardized, ghettoized, nominees. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

  • 9 6-24-2009 at 10:28 pm

    Rachel said...

    After getting over the initial shock I still think this is an awful idea. I just don’t get it! I have always loved the oscars and what they represent and this just devalues the honour that comes with being nominated for “best picture”. I think this change is not relevant for now, it may have worked 60 years ago but not now!

    I will reserve full judgement for when the nominations are announced. However I just have a feeling this is going to be a disaster.

  • 10 6-24-2009 at 11:15 pm

    Matt said...


    So glad you’ve given in to listing 20 movies. The Oscar race wouldn’t be the same without it!

    I kind of like gononlink1991’s idea of having the number vary each year based on meeting a minimum vote threshold (minimum 5/maximum 10).

  • 11 6-24-2009 at 11:40 pm

    Brian said...

    It really does save Variety’s ass. Or shave.

    I like gonoonlink’s idea as well. There’s going to be too much filler in the ten. There’s already too many fillers in the top 5 usually.

    We’re going to get a bunch of “nominated for two academy awards, including Best Picture” movies now.

  • 12 6-25-2009 at 12:12 am

    Zach said...

    A lot of you seemed to be worried about the idea of a list full of “filler”, because they’re wouldn’t be enough good movies to fill a ballot of ten nominees. But let’s take a look at AFI’s top 10 list from last year (which was widely-thought as a weaker year):

    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    The Dark Knight
    Frozen River
    Gran Torino
    Iron Man
    Wendy and Lucy
    The Wrestler

    All of these films (with maybe 1 or 2 exceptions) were critically adored. And this was from a “weaker year”! Yeah films like “Iron Man” or “Wendy and Lucy” were never in serious contention for the big prize, but apparently AFI believed that they deserved some sort of “Best Picture” citation.

    I admire the fact that the Academy is opening its doors to less prestigious fare, and sort of challenging what it now means to be Oscar-worthy.

    Unless of course they snub “Up”. Then they suck again.

  • 13 6-25-2009 at 12:29 am

    Brian said...

    Memoirs of a Geisha probably would have been nominated for Best Picture. Fucking TERRIFYING.

  • 14 6-25-2009 at 12:59 am

    jackal said...

    it´s hard to find 5 films, imagine 10

  • 15 6-25-2009 at 3:03 am

    Michael W. said...

    Man, I really don’t know how I feel about this. But it definitely has something to do with the two very talked about films last year that wasn’t nominated. Which I think was fair enough since neither The Dark Knight nor Wall-E was in my top 5.

    I just hope this means we will se some more original work from 6 to 10, and not just some well received blockbusters that will be fillers and a way to get viewers.

    But for now I think this means Funny People is as close to a lock as you can get at this point. It has been testing really well and the last two Apatow films both got Writers Guild and AFI mentions. Best picture and original screenplay seems very likely.

  • 16 6-25-2009 at 5:31 am

    cheeseman said...

    Will make for some very fragmented votes (and surprising outcomes) in some years. No doubt Slumdog would have won convincingly in 2008, but what about Crash in 2005? (I doubt it.) As long as we don’t have a repeat of The Greatest Show on Earth…

  • 17 6-25-2009 at 8:01 am

    Chris G said...

    “I would not be telling you the truth if I said the words ‘The Dark Knight’ did not come up in the discussion.”

    -Sid Ganis at the press conference

    Fuck, I love this. This is almost better than having the Dark Knight being actually nominated last year, since now it’s pretty obvious that the fact it didn’t get in has sparked a FURIOUS discussion, not just amongst fans, but also in the industry.

    In other words, if this turns out to be a failure, the worst thing that has ever happened to the Oscars was NOT nominating The Dark Knight.

    To me, all the following movies were better than the ones that were actually nominated:

    The Dark Knight
    Revolutionary Road
    The Wrestler

    If it becomes a success, people will go on and on about how these other movies should have been nominated and could have changed the outcome of the vote.

    Either way, the JOKE is on them.

  • 18 6-25-2009 at 8:57 am

    Pauley said...

    I can never understand how people can maintain such levels of cynicism. The whole reason for websites like this it to talk about film and whether they are worthy of being awarded or not. All this is doing is widening the field of films for us to consider. I personally think it’s a good idea and at least makes for a change.

  • 19 6-25-2009 at 11:12 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “The whole reason for websites like this it to talk about film and whether they are worthy of being awarded or not.”

    Oh, I didn’t realize you were in charge of drafting our mission statement here at In Contention, Pauley.

    Look, the bottom line remains the “Best Picture” distinction is simply less distinguished. This is People’s Choice territory. It’s a money grab and an attempt at remaining relevant and in my opinion, it’s not the best idea when it comes to addressing those concerns.

  • 20 6-25-2009 at 11:12 am

    Joker said...

    It’s all about MOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNEEEEYYYY. Any crap will happen with money.

  • 21 6-25-2009 at 3:47 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    So I woke this morning up and I was sweating from a nightmare. Apparently it was the threat of Transformers 2 being a contender now as well.

  • 22 6-25-2009 at 7:45 pm

    Me said...

    Oh come on people. Only 10 films will be nominated, not 50! Transformers 2 or The Hangover will certainly not be nominated. I mean, I can name 20 films ahead of these two:

    An Education
    Bright Star
    Broken Embraces
    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
    The Hurt Locker
    The Lovely Bones
    Public Enemies
    Shutter Island
    Star Trek
    Up in the Air
    Within the Whirlwind

  • 23 6-25-2009 at 8:10 pm

    Chris said...

    Hell, in that video someone asked Sid Ganis if The Dark Knight had anything to do with this decision, and he even admitted that he’d be lying if he said that it didn’t come up in the conversations. They know they screwed up. Big time.

  • 24 6-26-2009 at 4:06 am

    Glenn said...

    Yeah, I mean why on earth was “The Dark Knight” snubbed for “Frost/Nixon” – THE coaster of the awards season?


  • 25 6-28-2009 at 4:27 pm

    Seany P said...

    I guess one positive is that if Billy Crystal ever hosts again his medley where he throws all the best picture nominees in a song will be twice as long. That could be something to look forward to

  • 26 8-17-2009 at 12:38 pm

    Steve Salvador said...

    I don’t understand why everybody thinks this is such a bad idea. Technically yes, it does devaluate the nomination a bit. But wouldn’t it have been nice to have seen The Dark Knight nominated for best picture last year? This year we have a superb animated animated film (Up) that should definitely get its justified nomination. But I do agree that Star Trek should never be nominated for best picture.