Well, dear readers, it's August. We're on the verge of the most influential (in terms of Awards Season) film festivals of the year. Most of 2011's Oscar bait and/or high concept films are about to debut, whether it be in some remote location, or at a theater near you. There will be two or three holiday slotted releases that try to hold onto their sense of mystery until the last moment (i.e. The Fighter and True Grit last year), but make no mistake: the Season of the Academy is nigh.
So nigh, in fact, that I feel compelled to let you in on who's got the Oscar buzz so far, and which way I predict that things may turn. We begin our discussion, natch, with best picture.
The AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) changed the rules regarding the number of nominees in this category for the 82nd (2009-2010) ceremony, doubling the previous par of five films to ten. Many feel that this move was made in response to widespread criticism (largely online) that genre films like Wall*E and The Dark Knight would always be excluded from the Best Picture race, regardless of their quality level. Go fanboys.
The first modern ten nominee year met with mixed results. It did result in two science fiction films making the roster: the !!spectacle!!-ular Avatar (which probably would have been in anyway), and the far more deserving District 9 (which definitely would not). The widened field also allowed Pixar's worthy feature Up to snag a spot, giving a whole new demographic a pony in the show. And then, there was the Blind Side. I'm not saying the Blind Side was a bad film, and I love Sandra Bullock, who deserved at least the nomination that she got from it. However, the film overall played a little too much like a made for TV movie of the week to be in the best picture race. I'm just saying. This movie's nomination, coupled with the fact that its toughest competition for the slot appeared to be the respectable but lackluster Invictus, led many to question whether there were really enough quality contenders in a single year to warrant ten nominees.
One would think these doubts quashed by last year's ceremony. The Academy actually picked ten high quality films, with several worthy films (Animal Kingdom, Another Year, and The Ghost Writer for starters) left off of the ballot. Yet somehow, AMPAS felt it wise to change the rules again. Starting with the upcoming ceremony this winter, the best picture field will contain anywhere from five to ten nominees depending on how many films secure 5% of the first place votes in the nomination process.
I'm not sure how I feel about this change. On the one hand, under the new rules the Blind Side would probably not have gotten in. Then again, District 9, Winter's Bone, and 127 Hours might not have either and these were some of the best nominees in their respective years. It also makes predictions a bit trickier.
For now, I am going to work from the ten film model and save guessing the final number of slots for a little later in the year. This post has gone on a little longer than I had expected, so I am going to save the actual predictions for the next post. I feel like a reality show host, but we'll be back with your results...after a bit.