David 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.