The Best Picture Debate

bill bodkin and brent johnson debate whether 10 nominations for best picture is overkill or completely justified.



Five for Fighting by Brent Johnson

I love the Oscars. I love the idea of filmmakers and actors competing for movies that I myself can see and judge. I love researching and predicting who’ll be nominated and who’ll win based on past ceremonies and fickle criteria. I love reading Oscar history — growing up, I spent hours memorizing winners and trivia.

But what I don’t love is having 10 films compete for Best Picture.

The Dark Knight's non-nomination last year caused an uproar, but Brent Johnsons says other blockbusters haven't been ignored in the past.

I hated the idea when it was first announced, even though I understood why the Academy was doing it. Last year, the uber-popular and critically acclaimed The Dark Knight was left out of the race for Best Picture. If there were 10 nominees, they thought, it would have made the list. And, most importantly, ratings wouldn’t have sagged so much.

But now that I’ve had a few months to think about it, and I’ve finally seen the final list of noms, I still have this to say: Having 10 contenders it too much. It makes the category less prestigious and cheapens the phrase ‘Best Picture Nominee.’ And more than anything, it just doesn’t feel right. A Serious Man is a fine film — but is it Best Picture quality? Not really.

The bottom line: The Oscars are meant to recognize the best films of the year. It feels wrong to pimp out its top prize to bump up ratings by nominating box-office smashes.

And if a box-office hit is truly deserving, it’s got a good chance of landing one of the five Best Picture nods anyway. It didn’t happen with The Dark Knight, but it’s happened many times in the past:

Jaws
Star Wars
Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Fatal Attraction
Titanic
The Lord Of The Rings

And Avatar. Ironically, in this year of 10 nominees, one of the very top contenders is the highest-grossing movie of all time. Which just goes to show: If a film that hits big at the box office is good enough, it will get recognized if there are only five measly slots.

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There’s a Reason They Call It a “Top” 10 by Bill Bodkin

Movies are a huge part of my life. They have been an integral part of my professional career, an integral part of my social life and they were the initial common denominator in my relationship with my future wife. They’re something I love and something I hope to become more involved with as my career evolves.

So naturally, the Oscars are huge in my life. And this year we are presented with an interesting idea — 10 nominations for Best Picture.

And I am completely for it.

For years I have looked at the Best Picture category as incomplete. I have felt that so many deserving films have been overlooked by the Academy. Sure, many of these films would not have won the Oscar, but their artistic achievements should be recognized.

Pan's is considered an all-time classic, but was shut out of the best picture category. Wouldn't have happened if there were 10 nominees.

I think in the past few years one can easily make the case for 10 nominations. For instance in 2007, when The Departed won best picture it defeated a slew of films that, in my opinion, were for the most part forgettable. Who really clamors for Babel? Is Letters from Iwo Jima on any “must-see” lists?

The answer- not so much.

There’s a huge list of films from that year that could’ve been nominated if there were 10 spots, many critically acclaimed to this day. The most notable – Pan’s Labyrinth. Nominated only for best foregin feature (which it lost), this film was named by countless publications not only as one of the best films of the 00s but one of the top films — ever. Babel and Letters from Iwo Jima are not on these lists.

The catalyst for the 10 nomination system came to a head due to last year’s awards. Mainstream audiences were incensed that box-office and critical juggernauts like The Dark Knight and Pixar’s Wall-E weren’t nominated, yet little seen political dramas The Reader and Frost/Nixon were nominated. Let’s put box office aside, why weren’t powerful dramas like Doubt, Rachel Getting Married, Revolutionary Road or The Wrestler nominated? Revolutionary Road was 10 times more devastating than The Reader — and they both starred Kate Winslet. Of course this just my opinion.

Call me an idealist, but I feel these 10 nominations are a good thing for the entire movie industry. Labors of love, whether they big or small, can be recognized for their achievements. And yes, some years it’s going to be a stretch and yes, even this year some films getting the nom make you scratch your head. But look again at this year’s nominees and you’ll see it’s a wonderful spread of box office gold to intimate independent expression.

Nominations will never please everyone, but by recognizing more films, everyday people can take ownership in best picture nominees. No longer will it be a stuffed suit convention of film snobs. The every person can root for their film to win, which will drive up ratings and who knows maybe a film they never would’ve thought to watch becomes the next film they put on their Netflix queue.

Hey, it was only a few years back where I would only watch Michael Bay movies, now my cinematic world is open to anything.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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