Friday, June 26, 2009

And the Oscar Goes To... of 10 Best Picture nominees. This is a bit off the usual subject of music, but I'll find a way to bring it back around. Earlier this week the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences increased the number of nominees from five to 10, and I'm miffed. I'm one of those people who make it a point to see the five nominees prior to the Oscars telecast. If there is one thing this process has taught me, it is that the Academy often does a poor job choosing five nominees, let alone 10.

My personal favorite movie of the year selection is rarely something nominated. Yes, my pick is usually an indie, foreign or small-budget studio film. I have read several critics and others in the know who believe this increase will help my kind of movie. Why should I believe this when history shows the Academy does such a poor job with five nominees? I imagine fat-cat studio heads are popping champagne this week knowing they have doubled their chances at the top prize. And let's not forget the increased ticket and DVD sales for these honchos.

I took a look at the recent nominees. Remember these classics? 'Titanic', 'Good Night, and Good Luck', 'Jerry Maguire', 'The Lord of the Rings (yes, all three) and 'Babel' are just a few of many missteps. These are not all bad movies, to be sure, but I don't believe we will look at these in 50 years like we do, say, 'Casablanca'. No, instead of honoring cutting-edge film making like we found in 'Once' and 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind', my guess is we will get watered-down major-studio picks like 'The Devil Wears Prada' and 'Dreamgirls'. Watching these might be a nice way to waste a rainy Saturday afternoon on the sofa, but there are usually far better films to be honored. This increase will bring in an even lower tier of films.

If the Academy must honor more films, do what the Hollywood Foreign Press does with the Golden Globes. Separate Best Picture into two categories. That way a "serious" film doesn't have to go head-to-head with a light but well-done comedy or musical. If something like 'Munich' was matched against a 'There's Something About Mary' type of motion picture, Academy members would have to vote for the drama. Don't laugh. This scenario is bound to happen as 10 films are nominated. Mega box-office comedies will start making their way onto the ballot.

Finally, with 10 films splitting the vote, this only increases the chances of a major studio winning the big prize. Many voters will see only a few of the nominees, and chances are they will see the biggies. When the votes are split among 10, the winner will only need a much smaller amount of votes to win. There will be no runoff elections like when politicians only receive a small percentage of votes but still win. I hope I'm wrong about all of this, but I won't be surprised if the new 'Harry Potter' is on the ballot when the Academy's selections are announced on Feb. 2.

Back to the music. I mentioned 'Once' earlier. At least the Academy recognized the film for its soundtrack. And it won, I might add. Here are a couple of picks from that great movie.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - Falling Slowly (mp3)
Hansard and Irglova - When Your Mind's Made Up (mp3)

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