Academy members weigh in on The Ten

Posted by · 3:59 pm · October 30th, 2009

Jane Campion at the 1993 Academy AwardsIn the four months since the Academy announced its controversial switch from five to 10 Best Picture nominees, you’ve heard a lot of griping (and occasional enthusing) from assorted critics, industry-watchers and schmoes like me.

What we haven’t heard is too much perspective on the issues from the voters themselves. So USA Today’s Susan Wloszczyna has done some digging, only to find that several prominent Academy members are as unhappy with the idea of The Ten as many pundits are.

Two-time nominee Willem Dafoe complains that the change “lowers the bar” and “dilutes the exclusivity” of the award, claiming that some years might not have enough deserving contenders to make up a satisfactory list of nominees. Michael Sheen concurs, saying simply, “The more films you have, the less special it becomes.”

Meanwhile, Oscar-winning director Jane Campion, whose “Bright Star” actually stands to benefit from a wider field this year, is nonetheless decidedly displeased by the change (and the fact that they wider AMPAS membership wasn’t consulted):

I’ve heard it’s because of the major studios. None of their movies are being chosen … It’s not a popularity contest. That is box office. We have that. The Oscars should be something else. Whose decision was it? Why didn’t we vote on it? Let it be a challenge for these studios rather than just expect to see Batman on the list.

Unsurprisingly, one member in favor of the change is Pixar boss John Lasseter, whose studio would at least boast a couple of Best Picture nominations by now had The Ten always been in effect:

I don’t think it diminishes anything … There are an awful lot of more commercial films that have not been nominated that should have been. Now there’s a whole generation of moviegoers who don’t relate as much to the Oscars, since the movies that they love so much are not represented. This will open the door.

A tart rebuttal to this line of thinking comes from Peter Schneider, who was in charge of Disney animation when “Beauty and the Beast” history became the first (and only) animated Best Picture nominee, without the help of five extra slots:

It won’t mean as much. Getting in is not as special as when it was just five. It’s like cheating.

Bottom line: Oscar voters have exactly the same arguments that Oscar bloggers do. Who knew? Read the rest here.

→ 26 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

26 responses so far

  • 1 10-30-2009 at 4:36 pm

    Sam C. Mac said...

    There’s another major point in that USA Today article that’s worth brining up.

    – – – –

    • Redefining first place. In the past, voters simply picked one of the five nominees as best picture. Now, with 10 choices, sticking with that method could result in a winner with only 11% of the votes.

    Instead, the academy has reverted to a preferential system where voters rank the nominees from 1 to 10. If the title on top does not have at least 51% of the vote, then second and even third choices on ballots could be included in the selection.

    Sounds fair, except suddenly the night’s winner may not have the most No. 1 votes.

    “The new procedure is bad,” says Damien Bona, academy expert and co-author of Inside Oscar. “It means the least-offensive movie will make it, the one that everyone sort of likes but no one is passionate about.”

    – – – –

    “Redefining first place”? More like redefining Best Picture. In a sense it makes the Oscars not only less exclusive, but more in favor of mediocrity than excellence. That’s a big deal…it’s not even the same award anymore, really.

  • 2 10-30-2009 at 5:13 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Yeah, we covered that a while back. Silly change, if you ask me — and that 1969 example Bona offers is point-on.

  • 3 10-30-2009 at 5:39 pm

    Mark Kratina said...

    This is what happens when you snub a Dark Knight, Academy. The fact that TDK had a hand in bringing the Academy to its senses just adds to the film’s superlative legacy.

  • 4 10-30-2009 at 6:21 pm

    Patryk said...

    For every “Bright Star” that gets in, there will be 2 more like “Amelia.”

  • 5 10-30-2009 at 6:42 pm

    Speaking English said...

    AMPAS, there IS still time to change this rule…

    Just sayin’.

  • 6 10-30-2009 at 6:50 pm

    Chris138 said...

    I’m actually with John Lasseter. There are hundreds of movies that come out each year, big budget or indie, and picking 10 of those as the best of the year is really not that ‘diminishing’ or whatever some people have called it.

  • 7 10-31-2009 at 12:53 am

    red_wine said...

    “than just expect to see Batman on the list.”
    That made me laugh! Its seriously ridiculous.

    But Lasseter talks as a defeated man. You are fighting a loosing battle if you are fighting the animation bias. Just think how depressing it must be for the animators, always seeing their years-long hard-work consistently relegated to 2nd class status. Having to constantly sit at the children’s side table at the big dinner party. One of the greatest stories in American cinema, if not the greatest, is the ascent of Pixar as perhaps the finest movie-making studio working today.

    If a film as widely acclaimed as Wall-E does not even stand a chance for a nomination(think No Country not having a chance in 2007), what can these poor guys do. They’ll just take what they can get, what little bone is thrown to them out of pity. They can just wait for time to ascertain the quality and worth of their movies, and the academy will only look that much worse when the movies celebrated by the academy at the expense of these animated films diminish in estimation over the years.

  • 8 10-31-2009 at 3:07 am

    Jess said...

    Wow, who would’ve thought that the snubbing of both The Dark Knight and Wall-E will have this much impact.

    A film is a film whether it’s a superhero film or a literary adaptation, foreign language or animated, musical or documentary.

    To The Dark Knight’s and Wall-E’s consolation, they will be far FAR more rememberd 20+ years from now than many of these prestige films that the Oscars usually tout.

  • 9 10-31-2009 at 6:40 am

    Kyle said...

    RE: Jane Campion
    I wish that snooze-fest “Bright Star” was half as compelling as “The Dark Knight”. It’s THAT attitude from Academy members that has kept good and compelling films out of the best picture race in lieu of movies like “The English Patient” and “Frost/Nixon”. Thus the 10 nominees, which will likely backfire anyway.

  • 10 10-31-2009 at 7:28 am

    Kokushi said...

    Jane Campion, im sure i will be in the edge on my seat watching Bright Star, LOL, you know what, fock her and her movies, i think Campion need to read articleGuy wrote about The Dark Knight this year, and i agree with Jess, i dont care what type adaption the movie is, if the movie ”deserve” to be nominated just nominate the thing who care which genre the film is, i which a movie like the silence of the lambs be nominated again and even win.

  • 11 10-31-2009 at 9:40 am

    John said...

    I’m also with Lasseter, and crew.

    Every year people bitch about 1-2 movies that make the top 5. So WHAT if 2-3 out of 10 seem undeserving. That’s still 7-8 that could be competitive, and most likely worthy to be a part of most Top 5 years.

  • 12 10-31-2009 at 9:41 am

    Aleksis said...

    TDK fans showing their maturity…

  • 13 10-31-2009 at 9:43 am

    John said...

    I feel like people are missing the aparent point of this expansion of 10.

    It’s not a “but 5 is more prestigious” thing.

    It’s a “10 gives us more Dark Knights, Wall-Es, Little Childrens, Pans Labyrinths, Children of Mens, etc. to recognize as the best” thing.

    At least, that’s how I’ve always viewed it. 5 is more prestigious, sure. But nothing should ever be set in stone. And like someone said earlier, hundreds of movies come out eveyr year. So what if 7-8 great ones make a top 10 or not?

  • 14 10-31-2009 at 10:28 am

    Chris said...

    Well, you know guys, now there’s 10 nominees and guess what: “Star Trek”, “District 9”, “A Prophet”, “The White Ribbon”, “Coraline” and many more deserving films still won’t make the cut. Do you want to know why? Because more than 10 good films are made every year.

    Is it depressing that AMPAS fail to recognize some of the year’s best films? Yes, it is. But if it’s about recognizing films as the best, then we can just have AMPAS compile a list of films they liked every year and make Kevin Smith read it out on national television. I’m sure that would be entertaining, but it’s not the point of calling something an awards show – they need to make a cut somewhere, and from that point of view it’s smarter to have five nominees than ten.

  • 15 10-31-2009 at 11:08 am

    head_wizard said...

    Okay so now even the members don’t like the rule as well, and if Champion is right it is just studioes that want to see more “popcorn” movies get in it makes the Academy reasoning weaker and backs up that they are diluting their own top prize. I get pissed at the academy for not nominating certain movies like everyone else but there is always something to root for.

    Besides complaining about the Academy is one of the funnest parts on being an oscarwatcher.

  • 16 10-31-2009 at 12:06 pm

    Raichu said...

    10 is fine with me. Though there are more hideous movies year in and year out, I think there are about 7-8 great films that are worthy of Best Picture nominations and a handful always keeps getting boxed out( see last year: TDK, Wall-E, Wrestler).

  • 17 10-31-2009 at 12:12 pm

    Derek said...

    TDK fans may be immature, but not more so than many Oscar voters. Their penchant to dismiss other worthy fare (see: animation) for ridiculous reasons such as seeing it as less of a film than films with live actors speaks of their inflated egos.

    To quote Jess above:
    “A film is a film whether it’s a superhero film or a literary adaptation, foreign language or animated, musical or documentary.”

    The Oscar “Best Picture” award does not exist for me personally. I always view it as the “Best live action English Language Picture”

  • 18 10-31-2009 at 2:53 pm

    John said...

    Also, I think Best Foreign film needs to be ‘Best Film not in the English Language’.

    Every big country has their own awards show. Why MUST the Oscars have to break it down as they do?

  • 19 10-31-2009 at 3:12 pm

    Kyle said...

    Make that “Best live action English Language Picture by Directors that the Academy likes”.

  • 20 10-31-2009 at 7:15 pm

    Mr. F said...

    They talk about there being 10 nominees as if it is going to be the death of the Oscars. However, I think that the honor of being nominated is dimished when movies like The Reader, A Beautiful Mind, The Cider House Rules, and Frost/Nixon are nominated in a field of five.

  • 21 10-31-2009 at 7:36 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    “Also, I think Best Foreign film needs to be ‘Best Film not in the English Language’.”

    I don’t understand. For all the other problems with this category (and there are many), the non-English language requirement is a steadfast.

  • 22 10-31-2009 at 10:48 pm

    Patryk said...

    And there should not be a limit of one submission per country. Totally twisted logic there.

  • 23 11-01-2009 at 9:51 am

    Chris said...

    If the Academy was too oblivious to nominate superb films, summber blockbuster films like ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘WALL-E,’ then I doubt this year will be any different. Maybe we’ll see some foreign language films in the running for Best Picture?

  • 24 11-01-2009 at 10:22 am

    qwiggles said...

    I think many of those bemoaning that there’s no prestige with 10 would do well to note how often respectable but not especially outstanding films like Frost/Nixon, Chocolat, The Reader, Seabiscuit et al hog 20% of the nominees apiece. Prestige is a nice idea in theory, but it backfires when the films you elevate are at all spotty. With 10, you can afford a couple fillers at least, and the interesting nominees look all the more interesting for cropping up among their lesser brethren.

  • 25 11-01-2009 at 7:39 pm

    Morgan said...

    So, some people think that letting more movies in to the exclusive club will stink up the joint? Well, boo hoo. Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs.

  • 26 11-02-2009 at 9:27 am

    Brian said...

    Actually, Damien’s example doesn’t hold water. He says a film that everyone has in third place would end up winning. Couldn’t happen. That film would be the first one redistributed due to low numbers of #1 votes. Though is it possible that the film in the ninth position after the initial balloting could win, that is so very unlikely as to be a negligible threat. More likely the film that wins will be one of the top two films in terms of number one votes, and almost definitely among the top three.