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The Oscars and the Best Picture Can of Worms it Opened

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The Oscars and the Best Picture Can of Worms it Opened

Greyson Ferguson

This was originally to be the opening segment of last week's post, but it turned out to become a beast of a blog, and the acting aspect seemed to somewhat (arguably) stand on its own volition, so I decided to chop it in half. Basically, you're getting the first half of the post second. It's kind of like the Star Wars prequels. 

Beyond experience working in the film and television industry, I flipped my television to the Oscars as a fan. I wanted to see my favorite movies grab awards for nominations they received, as in a small way, the awards not only vindicated my love for a particular film, but in a small sense, I felt like I too received a part of the award as a fan. Like any other industry, Hollywood loves to pat itself on the back. It is exactly why there are a half dozen award ceremonies in the span of a month and a half (of course, the same can be said about the music industry, which seems to have an award ceremony once a month). Recently, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences decided to use a larger hand by increasing the number of best picture nominees. By doing this, and only this to the Best Picture category though, the Academy opened up a large can of worms it is having trouble correcting.

Varying Number of Nominations

First off, for anyone keeping track, this year there were eight Best Picture nominations, while the previous two years had nine nominations and the year before that there were 10. So what on earth is going on? In order to increase publicity in sales, the Academy and Hollywood decided to increase the number of nominations. Having that “Best Picture Nomination” sticker on the cover of a Blu-ray sure looks nice, and more people tend to see the nominations in theaters, so it works out well for everyone. But then why does one year have eight nominations while another year have 10? It comes down to the voting.

Voting for Best Picture

There are 6,124 current members of the Academy. Now, if everyone actually cast their ballots (while voter turnout here is higher than for a presidential election, 100 percent never happens), a movie with at least 557 first place votes would receive a nomination. However, there is a secondary tier used after this. Most top Best Picture vote getters receive far more than this minimum, but you couldn’t have only two movies nominated. So, the Academy reallocates ballots for movies with more support than necessary. This means second, third and fourth place movies on these ballots actually receive credit for first place votes. Kind of a redistribution of wealth. After this redistribution though, any movie with more than 307 votes (if everyone voted) receives a nomination. That is why some years there are 10 and other years there are less.

The Can of Worms

Now, the expansion of the Best Picture category made sense. Hollywood wants to recognize its best of the best, and having only five movies when thousands came out throughout the course of the year just doesn’t make much sense. Even most races in the Olympics have at least eight finalists. The problem though is that it did not expand upon all of the other categories. This means anywhere from three to five directors do not receive a nomination for their Best Picture, and potential Oscar snubs for acting increase drastically as well. Now, you can argue the best actor or actress doesn’t necessarily need to appear in the best film of the year, but how does a potential best picture not have one of the best directors?

The Directing Culprits

This year proved rather interesting, as four of the eight films up for Best Director had a Best Picture nomination, with the exception of Foxcatcher. While not receiving enough votes for a Best Picture, I was fine with this nomination, as Bennett Miller has a very cold yet elegant method of director (he’s the same guy who directed Capote, and it feels almost like a continuation in style). However, this did mean that four of the top eight movies would not have their director nominated. This number would be cut down even more when looking at directors who would essentially automatically receive an award. When I say automatically, I mean by way of a director who did something different yet in a brilliant way. Richard Linklater’s Boyhood took 12 years to create, and by using the same actors over a decade plus span, it proved completely original in its production standpoint. I would have loved to be in the meeting where he first pitched the idea to producers about needing to wait more than 12 years for a possible payout. I’m sure they loved that. The second automatic bid was for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Birdman. Anyone who can create a two-hour movie and have it appear to be one continual shot and take (it wasn’t, but still) in my opinion deserves a nomination. Beyond this, there are many camps for the other directors of Best Picture movies, but the fact of the matter was there were basically two open spots for six directors.