June 24, 2009


If this whole expansion of the field of Best Picture contenders from 5 films to 10 is, as Nikki Finke suggests, a ploy by the studios to get more blockbusters considered in the running for the Oscar telecast, I'm not sure that this will work out the way the moguls intend.

I mean, really, do we really think that, say, The Dark Knight would have stood any better chance of being considered Best Picture of the year by the academy if there was one more available slot? I just did a cursory pass over the films released in '08, and I can come up with at least 5 more indie films that got considerable critical love that would probably have just as good a chance, if not more, at Oscar nomination than Batman or Iron Man or Tropic Thunder or any other big studio film. Consider:

  • Revolutionary Road - starring former nominees Leonardo DeCaprio & (now winner) Kate Winslet and directed by former Best Director & Best Picture winner Sam Mendes
  • Gran Torino - starring and directed by perennial Oscar favorite Clint Eastwood
  • In Bruges - starring perennial Oscar contender Ralph Fiennes, nominated for 7 BAFTAs that year and an Oscar for Best Screenplay
  • The Visitor - 3 Independent Spirit Award nominations, plus SAG, Oscar, & Critics choice nominations for Richard Jenkins
  • The Wrestler - 2 Golden Globes, a BAFTA, and 3 Spirit Awards, including Best Picture.
My point is, the studio movies don't need more bites at the apple, because there's plenty of beloved indie fare to take up the slack. The Academy voters have very specific tastes, and, frankly, they rarely coincide with that of the average movie goer.

And, more frankly, they shouldn't intersect. The Oscars aren't a popularity contest, in the strictest sense. That's what the People's Choice Awards are for.

Or the MTV Movie Awards. Or my new favorite, Spike TV's Scream Awards.

The Oscars are supposed to be about art, and art is not necessarily popular.

Now, of course, the Oscars are insanely political, but let's be real: The Dark Knight was an edge case. And anybody who seriously thinks Spider-Man 2 should have gotten an Oscar nomination over The Aviator, Million Dollar Baby, Sideways, Finding Neverland, or Ray is smoking crack. Or that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (which I liked) should even be mentioned in the same breath as No Country for Old Men is just tripping.
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