Big Hitter: Thoughts on The New Academy Award Best Picture Rules

Let's just call this what it is: The Reader rule. Everyone, their mother, their dog, and their cousin knows that The Dark Knight deserved a Best Picture nomination. But the nomination process was so convoluted that it allowed lobbying to skew the nominees. Yep, The Weinstein Company pretty much jobbed the vote. No, they didn't cheat, and it wasn't fraud, but it wasn't justice either. Enough people took their advice and put The Reader on the initial nomination ballot -- and that was enough for it to make the cut. Kudos to them; it was free DVD marketing for a film that had zero chance at winning for Best Picture. No one could have been too surprised ... as it had been their Modus Operandi throughout their existence. But for a guy who guaranteed a Dark Knight nomination it was infuriating. I thought that Nolan's vision would be rewarded -- here, finally, was a film that was artistic and commercial, but that dream died on nomination day. The fallout hurt the Academy -- less people tuned in, more people found the award irrelevant. Something had to be done, right?

The Academy now thinks 10 nomination slots for Best Picture will solve the problem. And you know what? They're right. Two slots will go to the expert lobbyists, but five extra slots will ensure films like this year's Up have a shot. The Hurt Locker now looks way better off, too. It will allow the Academy to reward a few political darlings while not alienating the general public. Sure, the prestige of being a Best Picture nominee will fade a little bit, and at least six of the 10 nominees won't have a prayer of winning, but it will add up to more water-cooler talk and interesting scenarios. Which is what the Academy and the Oscars are all about.

Thus, while I wish they'd simply fixed the nomination process overall, I'll take this. If the 10 slots were available last year, films like The Wrestler, Wall-E, and The Dark Knight would have been rewarded, and rewarding good film is never a bad thing. The fact that the Academy had to adapt to unsavory marketing attempts is sad; but it's good that they reacted overall.