Thursday, June 25, 2009

The 11% Solution

If you heard that a political candidate was supported by 11% of the electorate, would that impress you? If 11% of people chose a particular toothpaste, would you change your buying habits?

How about if 11% of the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selected a film as Best Picture. Should it win?

Well now it could.

The Academy has decided to expand the number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten. The Academy has been unenthusiastic about nominating films that do the best box office. The Best Picture nominees are films that only a minority of movie goers have seen. As a result, the Oscar telecast suffers in the ratings as few people watching know the films being considered. By expanding the number of nominations to ten, the studios hope that films that gross more than $100 million have a chance to get a Best Picture nomination.

The public doesn't know how many votes a Best Picture winner receives. The numbers are as closely guarded as the votes in an Iranian election. Right now, it's possible that the winner receives 21% of the vote, which is still pretty flimsy. Doubling the number of nominees makes it less likely that a majority of the voters will choose the same film.

Will this be good for animated features? I suppose that with 10 slots, it's more likely that an animated film will get a Best Picture nomination. You can be sure that Disney/Pixar and DreamWorks will lobby hard for the chance. However, the Academy voters have already shown their indifference to animation the same way they've shown their indifference to big box office. We'll have to see what the Academy nominates next year. While the studios are hoping for more mainstream nominations, the Academy may not cooperate. Even if it does, splitting the votes among more films is liable to produce a result that nobody is happy with.

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