The Oscars Might Go Back to Five Best Picture Nominees

After six years of having between 5-10 Best Picture nominees, the Academy is looking to go back to the old way of doing things.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is reportedly giving serious consideration to going back to just five Best Picture nominees from here on out. The rule currently allows for between 5-10 films to be nominated, provided they scored the necessary percentage of votes. The hope was to acknowledge a wider range of films and bring in more viewers to the Oscar telecast in the process, since this was a policy instituted in the wake of the Academy catching all sorts of Hell for snubbing The Dark Knight and Wall-E in 2008. The first two years of the policy, the rule mandated 10 Best Picture nominees. However, two years later, the Academy switched the rule to allow for anywhere from 5-10 films to be nominated, instead of a mandatory 10. Neither policy has really done the Academy much good.

Instead of a wider, more diverse array of audience favorites, we’ve simply had more of the same films that would have been nominated in a five-film year. Whether prestige pictures (The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything) or quirky, low-budget films that not a whole lot of mainstream audiences saw (Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel). Sure, you get your occasional blockbuster in there (American Sniper, Avatar) or audience favorite (Toy Story 3, Argo), but the experiment hasn’t really resulted in more crowd-pleasers getting in, nor has the field of nominees resulted in an uptick in viewership for the Oscar telecast, as viewership was down more than 15% this year.

“They tried it, and it really didn’t do us any good,” said one source.

The Academy’s Board of Governors is due to meet again on March 24, so we could see an official decision made before the month is out. But for now, the Academy is refusing to confirm or deny the rumors, saying, “As we do each year, the Academy will meet in the coming months to evaluate not only the telecast, but also the awards season in its entirety.”

While a return to five nominees might not do a whole lot to remedy the length and quality of the show, some Academy members apparently feel it will bring exclusivity back to the Best Picture category, as some within the Academy feel that having a larger field of Best Picture nominees has watered down the prestige of a nomination.

Personally, I prefer the wider field. I can’t imagine how dull audiences would have found this year’s race otherwise, since I imagine they wouldn’t have had the “Hey, I saw that!” appeal of American Sniper and Selma to give them a reason to watch. Now, granted, the rules that govern who’s nominated for the Oscars shouldn’t really be dictated by audience interest, but it’s not as if the expanded field is a rule that’s native to the 21st century. The Academy had 10 Best Picture nominees from 1932/33 to 1943, and it resulted in one of the greatest Best Picture lineups of all-time in 1939, so it is possible for the expanded field to result in better choices. But taste is subjective, so it’s difficult for a film like Guardians of the Galaxy, Skyfall or The Dark Knight to make the cut when the Academy still prefers its Oscar-bait prestige pictures and quirky, auteur-driven indie films. So I get why the Academy might see this as a failed experiment, but I worry about viewership cratering even further with only five nominees. Worse, I imagine even more great films will be left out of the conversation altogether, and that’d be a shame, whether they’re blockbusters or not.

But what do you think? Should the Academy return to just five nominees, or is the wider field the way to go? Sound off in the comments!

The Oscars Might Go Back to Five Best Picture Nominees

Credit: AMPAS

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