It’s painfully obvious to one and all that Hollywood has a tremendously high opinion of itself. I admit that watching the Academy Awards is a guilty pleasure for yours truly each and every year, plus two of my favorite people in the world host an Oscar party that has become a tradition that I wouldn’t dream of missing. But let’s be honest— it’s one of the most self-congratulatory events a person could watch, it’s as decadent as it is pretentious, and most of the self-adulation Hollywood heaps on itself during the ceremony is entirely undeserved.
Plus there’s the small problem that most of the films nominated for best picture suck, and when there’s a good one nominated it seldom wins. For evidence of this, look no further than last year’s awards, where “Slumdog Millionaire,” an entirely unexceptional film that was little more than a mass-market, anglicized cash-in on Bollywood (a Bollywood movie for people who have never seen a Bollywood movie, more or less) beat out a piece of genuinely challenging filmmaking “The Reader” and one of the best political biopics you’ll ever see in “Milk.” To add insult to injury, Danny Boyle won the best director award for his “work” on “Slumdog” even though there have been widespread and entirely credible allegations that he basically didn’t even direct the movie.
Need any further proof? In 2005 “Crash” won out over “Brokeback Mountain.” In 2000, “Gladiator” beat “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” In 1996, “The English Patient” got the nod over “Fargo.” In 1994, “Forrest Gump” was the choice over “Pulp Fiction.” In 1990, “Dances With Wolves” got the nod over “Goodfellas” (and am I the only one who was less than surprised that when Scorsese finally did wing Hollywood’s highest honor, it was for “The Departed,” which could very well be his worst movie?). In 1980, “Ordinary People” received the blessing of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over “Raging Bull.”
Seriously, though, the list is endless. Almost every year at least two or three of the five films nominated for Best Picture are actively bad, and it’s rare that the Best Picture recipient truly is just that.
So what, has the Academy in its infinite wisdom decided to do today? Go back to the days—the waaaaaayyyyy old days—of nominating ten films rather than five for Best Picture.
What, I ask, is the point? Will there be ten good films made this year? Of course.We don’t need the Hollywood establishment to confirm this fact. There are at least ten good movies made every year. But will those films be nominated? A few, undoubtedly—but as is the case in most years, most— if not all— of the year’s best films will be completely ignored by the Academy. We’ll just have eight crummy nominees and two good ones rather than three crummy nominees and two good ones. Again—what on Earth is the point? Do we really need the awards show to be another 30 minutes longer? Do the geniuses that run the Academy really think it’s an “honor” for five more films to receive admittance into their exclusive little annual club of officially-blessed works?
In short, then—ten nominees instead of five. Are we really supposed to think that this somehow improves the chances that the best film of any given year will be recognized as such ?