The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards its little golden men to the films that its members deem the most deserving films of the year. A film’s financial success (Best Picture nominee Avatar has made more than $666 million and counting) or failure (fellow nom A Serious Man pulled in less than $10 million) shouldn’t be a factor come award time.
And it’s not like the move to increase the Oscar pool is unprecedented. In the early days of the Academy Awards, it was common to nominate more than five films in the Best Picture category. In 1935, for example, there were a dozen nominees! (Mutiny on the Bounty, Captain Blood, David Copperfield, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Les Miserables, Ruggles of Red Gap and Top Hat among them.) It wasn’t until after the 1943 Academy Awards that the nominees for Best Picture were officially limited to just five.
There has been speculation, of course, that this move will simply open the floodgates to handing out more Oscar statues to popular crapola like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Out of the 10 films nominated for Best Picture back in 1943, Casablanca emerged as Best Picture. Not too shabby, eh? See, there’s still only one Best Picture statue. No matter how many films are nominated, it will still go to the year’s best picture (as decided by the members of AMPAS, anyway).
When you look at it, this year’s list of the top 10 contenders is a fine lot: a mix of popular, independent, epic and small-scale. There are science-fiction films, dramas, comedies, biopics, animated films, action flicks. It’s as good a snapshot of the 2009 box office as you could hope for, really. These are 10 very different, but very high-quality films. With luck, the 82nd Annual Academy Awards will attract the attentions of cineastes and casual film viewers alike—all coming together over their sincere love of film. So what if some are rooting for An Education, while others are rooting for The Blind Side? At least they’ve all been invited to the party.