A major change could take hold at next year’s Academy Awards ceremony. While the Oscars expanded its Best Picture category from 5 nominees to a 10 in 2009—and then to anywhere from 5 to 10 in the following years—THR reports that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is now seriously considering a return to the former limit of 5 nominees.
The initial category change came about when The Dark Knight was surprisingly omitted from 2008’s nominees, with the Academy thinking that expanding the field to 10 films would widen the variety of contenders and hopefully bring in more viewers to the telecast. After the incredibly boring lineup of 2008 (The Reader, Milk, Frost/Nixon, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the winner Slumdog Millionaire), it was tough to blame them.
But six years after enacting this experiment, ratings for the Oscars telecast remain unchanged, and apparently a significant faction of the Academy believes that the field is now being watered down. Though this year’s field of nominees was largely arthouse fare save for American Sniper, the first couple of years of the expanded field offered up select blockbusters like Avatar, Toy Story 3, and The Blind Side (raise your hand if you remembered that The Blind Side was a Best Picture nominee). That didn’t result in any major ratings boost for the telecast, and films like Edge of Tomorrow and Guardians of the Galaxy still fail to make the cut today. Now it appears that the Academy is considering admitting that the expansion experiment was a bust.
I was never a huge fan of the expanded category. It did seem watered down (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, 127 Hours, and Philomena are Best Picture nominees—this is a fact), and the preferential balloting system necessitated by the expansion causes all kinds of chaos with a rush to the “most liked” film rather than the “most loved” film.
But the larger number of nominees also allowed smaller movies like Beasts of the Southern Wild and Whiplash to come to the attention of people who normally might not be aware of their existence. The Oscars are at their best when they can serve as a platform to showcase incredible films that can gain new audiences, and the expanded field allowed those kinds of films to shine. So while I’d like to see a return to a Best Picture nomination meaning something (and again, it’s clear that the expansion didn’t do what the Academy was hoping it would do), I would also be sad to see films like Selma or Her not get their chance in the spotlight on Oscar night.
We’re still a ways from knowing for sure if the Academy is going back to 5 Best Picture nominees, but this is certainly a fascinating development. What do you think, readers? Did you like the expanded field, or would you rather see the Academy go back to 5 nominees? If 2014 had only 5 nominees, which films do you think would’ve made the cut? Sound off in the comments below.