For the second time in three years, the Academy has tinkered (tailored soldiered spied) with the way it chooses Best Picture nominees. First, in 2009, it expanded the category to 10 contenders "to make room for well-liked, popular films like The Dark Knight," which tended to get snubbed in favor of divisive indie fare like The Reader. Problem: Though Toy Story 3 got a nod, sub-par movies like Winter's Bone also earned nominations, apparently needed to round-out the top 10. Rule revision number two: To avoid such category padding, this year's new rules prescribed that only those films ranked first by at least five percent of voters would make the cut — allowing for as few as five or as many as 10 nominees. An unexpected nine Best Picture contenders were announced Tuesday. In: Smaller, divisive movies that the Academy had hoped to weed out, like Tree of Life and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Out: Critically-praised crowd pleasers like Bridesmaids and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Is the new system a failure?
Yes, the system is too preferential: When a voter's number one selection is the vote that matters most, "it's better to be loved by a small and passionate group instead of liked by a much larger group," says John Young at Entertainment Weekly. "Love-it-or-hate-it" films like Tree of Life and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close earned their nods because they had a committed contingent of supporters who adored them. Bridesmaids and Dragon Tattoo, on the other hand, were likely ranked second, third, or fourth on a slew of Oscar ballots. Not enough voters "flat-out loved" them to give them the minimum amount of number one votes.
"Best Picture Oscars: So why are there nine nominees?"
What an anticlimax: So instead of 10 nominees, these new rules give us nine, says Jen Chaney at The Washington Post. The Academy should've just stuck to the 10 rule so that films like Dragon Tattoo or Harry Potter could've join the other "worthy contenders." Because "if you’re going to create a bunch of drama around the number of nominees and then come up one shy of what has become the typical total, that just feels like a letdown."
"Oscar nominations 2012: Did the best picture change make a difference?"
This is a step backward: The results are certainly less populist than in recent years, says Spencer Kornhaber at The Atlantic. Of the nine contenders, only The Help is a bonafide hit. The average box office haul of the 2012 Best Picture nominees is $57 million, compared to $120 million in 2011 and $152 million in 2010. "In a way, it's a return to the final years of the five-picture nominations, which were seen as increasingly uncommercial." Whether that's because no film united critics and audiences this year — as Toy Story 3 or Inception did last year — or because of the rule change, it's a shift of direction. "If the Academy was elitist before, it appears it's now gone ultra-1-percent."
"The Oscar Best Picture nominees: (Almost) no big commercial hits!"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- The best places to find love — and lust — according to science
- How a drafting error could doom Obama's carbon regulations
- Sex can't explain the culture war
- How the battle for religious freedom became a nonsensical free-for-all
- This simple hack for slicing cherry tomatoes will astound you
- How to save Meet the Press
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why GOP reformers are bound to fail
Subscribe to the Week