Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Are Ten Best Picture Nominations Too Many?

Starting last year, the Academy Awards nominates ten pictures for best picture instead of the traditional five. This was taken as an admission that popular, mainstream releases such as Dark Knight and Iron Man were better than some of the small independent releases that were nominated and possibly the actual best picture was not even nominated. 

Here are the best picture nominations for this year:
  • "127 Hours," Fox Searchlight, six nominations, $11.2 million, released Nov. 12.
  • "Black Swan," Fox Searchlight, five nominations, $83.2 million, released Dec. 3.
  • "Inception," Warner Bros., eight nominations, $292.5 million, released July 16.
  • "The Fighter," Paramount, seven nominations, $72.6 million, released Dec. 10.
  • "The Kids Are All Right," Focus, four nominations, $20.8 million, released July 30.
  • "The King's Speech," Weinstein Co., 12 nominations, $57.3 million, released Dec. 10.
  • "The Social Network," Sony, eight nominations, $95.4 million, released Oct. 1.
  • "Toy Story 3," Disney, five nominations, $414.9 million, released June 18.
  • "True Grit," Paramount, 10 nominations, $137.9 million, released Dec. 22.
  • "Winter's Bone," Roadside Attractions, four nominations, $6.2 million, released June 10.
Does every movie on that list belong there? Probably not. But which ones would be cut if the list was pared back to five nominations? I have my own opinion but the Academy has a strong bias for small, independent films. Toy Story 3 was the top money-maker of the year and the best reviewed movie on Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, Pixar movies almost always take the top rank but normally have to settle for best animated picture. It would never have gotten picked if there were only five slots. The same is true for Inception which was one of the most talked-about movies of the year. At a guess, I would pick The Social Network and The Kids Are All Right as two more that would not have made the cut. That cuts out all of the light movies.

It is hard to guess the last one that would be cut. The Academy likes the Coen brothers and it got nine other nominations. The one strike against it is that it was successful - it broke $100 million making it the most successful western since the 1990s. The Academy seems to hate successful movies. No one has seen Winter's Bone. Even for an Academy that prefers small independent releases, it is pretty obscure. Finally most of the buzz about 127 Hours is for the acting so it might not have gotten a best picture nomination.

Often Best Picture and Best Director awards go to the same movie. Here is the list of Best Director nominations:

  • "Black Swan" Darren Aronofsky
  • "The Fighter" David O. Russell
  • "The King's Speech" Tom Hooper
  • "The Social Network" David Fincher
  • "True Grit" Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
That matches up pretty well with my guesses although the Social Network made the cut.

Personally, I think that the winner should be The King Speech with True Grit as a close second. Since both got best director nominations, they likely would have gotten best picture nominations. By that measure, the extra five slots were not needed.

Two last notes - Despicable Me really should have gotten an animated picture nomination. Hailee Steinfeld from True Grit should have gotten a best actress nomination instead of best supporting actress. Maybe they didn't want to nominate someone so young for best actress. I hope that she wins in her category. It was really her movie with Jeff Bridges as a supporting actor.

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