The Bagger’s take on Oscar’s shake-up

Posted by · 12:00 pm · June 29th, 2009

David CarrDavid Carr’s Media Equation column at The New York Times today is the most well-reasoned, knowledgeable take on the Academy’s recent Best Picture shake-up yet.  He covers some of the same points I brought up in my Off the Carpet column this morning, but thankfully, he offers something of a rebuttal to the Nikki Finkes of the world who somehow think the studios pushed this decision through.

News flash: this was horribly depressing news for more than a few in the industry last week.  As Carr shrewdly notes, “[t]he people criticizing the studios for watering down their moment of glory have the wrong villain.”

Unfortunately, a passing comment concerning Bill Condon’s suggestion that the Academy take the category to 10 paints him as someone to blame, but he was merely doing his post-mortem duties, offering up some ideas to make the telecast better.  Plus, I’ve heard conflicting takes as to whether Condon initiated the idea or whether the Academy had been tinkering with it before he came to the table.  But one shocking truth lies in all that contradictory rubble: there were people on the committee unaware of their own history who were shocked that the category ever included 10 nominees.  Sad but true.

Getting back to Carr’s piece, I have to say I take umbrage with his suggestion at the end that the Academy needs to whittle down the amount of categories in play.  The awards need to be about the movies, not the audience for the telecast.  I’m sorry but there is a distinction between sound editing and sound mixing that deserves to be in place.

Carr also complains about the three short film races.  I’ve heard there is movement to eliminate these categories, or at the very least, a constituency that would like to see it happen.  This, I feel, isn’t as drastic if we’re to consider the Oscars a platform for awarding FEATURE filmmaking.  The short film awards could easily be handed out at some satellite ceremony rather than become mere “Oh yeah, remember that?” moments in the careers of directors like Taylor Hackford and Kevin Macdonald.

If they’re willing to relegate the legends to an awards dinner, why not the up-and-comers, too?

Anyway, the greatest truth in Carr’s piece:

The new math created by the doubling of best-picture possibilities while every other category stays at five means that a film will need to persuade 10 percent of the voting academy plus one more person that it was the best movie of the year. Niches could continue to rule, with smallish academy guilds like art directors, or special constituencies like British members of the academy, pushing through a particular movie crush that had left many others unmoved…But if a best-picture nomination had little effect at the box office when there were only five, what happens when they become as ubiquitous as an “I participated” certificate at a kindergarten commencement?

Well worth your time. Give it a read here.

Oh, and by the way, Carr’s gripping personal account, “The Night of the Gun,” is available in paperback now.  Also well worth your time.

→ 9 Comments Tags: , , , | Filed in: Daily

9 responses so far

  • 1 6-29-2009 at 12:58 pm

    Marshall said...

    Kris, is “Shutter Island” getting bad buzz? It’s dropped pretty far on your chart, Leo has fallen out of the top 5 for Best Actor, Scorsese doesn’t even chart on your radar, and it appears Emily Mortimer is dropping. Also, are they pushing Meryl for Best Actress for “Julie & Julia” now?

    But I am SOOOOOO happy to see Leslie Mann charting! She was the best part of “Knocked Up,” and just hearing she was in “Funny People” made it one of my most anticipated movies of 2009 early last year.

  • 2 6-29-2009 at 1:04 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    Kris you should have a best picture primary and have all the movies that might be nominated to see how close the readers can get to the top ten in advance, just be fun to see how close we were at the end of the year

  • 3 6-29-2009 at 1:07 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Marhsall: Not at all. I’m just leaning more toward The Lovely Bones on the Paramount side of things now.

    RE: Julia, no plan is set for the performance’s campaign yet. I’m just beginning to get the sense that it’ll be viewed as a co-lead piece.

  • 4 6-29-2009 at 1:09 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    He’s absolutely right about creating one sound category instead of two, and same with the short films. Let alone televise them.

  • 5 6-29-2009 at 1:15 pm

    The Dude said...

    Glad to see you stick up for the sound categories, Kris. I saw Carr’s piece on another website and, while he brings up a few solid points, he almost lost me when he said the Academy should do away with them.

  • 6 6-29-2009 at 3:55 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    With regard to “Shutter Island,” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when was the last time a filmmaker scored with the Academy 4 times in a row?

    The pressure to honor Scorsese is off, and given that the film looks like a very genre-oriented effort, I wouldn’t regard it as a shoo-in either. Looks like a blast, but that has nothing to do with it.

  • 7 6-29-2009 at 7:19 pm

    KBJr. said...

    Honestly, I can’t imagine average fans watch the Oscars for anything more than the “Big 4” awards, Supporting Actor/Actress, Best Actor/Actress, and Best Picture. The rest, for the general public, is superfluous.

    What we need is a compromise program. Honestly, what’s the big deal with taking the mostly technical awards (sound, art direction, costume design, makeup, and the shorts) and giving them a separate dinner too? The Academy will still be awarding them, but the television audience would not be subjected to close to two hours of no vested interest. Like Carr said, the Academy is in the TV business, some sacrifices must be made.

    Trim the montages, the awards most people don’t know (or care) much about, and the Oscars went from a 4+ hour show to 2 1/2 hour show (maybe 3).

    I can’t say I’d be too opposed to that kind of change, at least for a trial year.

  • 8 6-29-2009 at 7:20 pm

    KBJr. said...

    Excuse me, “Big 5” Awards.

  • 9 6-29-2009 at 7:20 pm

    Rob said...

    Streep IS a co-lead in “Julie & Julia,” and if anything, she’s in it more than Adams. She’ll be nominated for leading.