The Oscars

With AVATAR and PRECIOUS (among eight others) both up for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, I hereby unleash to the world my well-considered argument that it’s time the Oscars split the Best Picture Award in two.

Best Picture: General Audience would, naturally, include a nomination for AVATAR.
Best Picture: Targeted Audience would, naturally, include a nomination for PRECIOUS (and, for that matter, THE HURT LOCKER).
In the case of films such as INGLORIOUS BASTERDS and UP IN THE AIR, which have a degree of “crossover appeal”, it would be up to the studio or producer to choose which category to enter the film into (just as they already do with actors, which is why Christopher Plummer is entered into supporting actor, rather than leading role, for THE LAST STATION – he’s got a much better chance of winning in that category).
This way, the inevitability of a win by a film such as AVATAR could also allow us to see a film like PRECIOUS, THE HURT LOCKER or INGLORIOUS BASTERDS take out “the” major award.
I also believe that, in the unique case of UP this year, the studio should have had to choose whether to enter the film into the Best Picture category or the Best Animated Film category; if they had chosen the former, it would have freed up a space in the animated category for a film such as MARY AND MAX; it would have also increased the chances of the deliriously well-reviewed FANTASTIC MR FOX for taking out Best Animated Feature (and don’t forget, combined with the other change, UP would have valid contention in the Best Picture: General Audience category).
Of course, the other possibility – or indeed, inevitability! – is that the Best Picture category could be split into 2D and 3d categories. Thus UP and AVATAR would compete – which makes much more sense than AVATAR and PRECIOUS competing. Never has there been a stronger case of “apples and oranges”.
I also think the time must be ripe for the Best Cinematography category to be split into 3D and 2D categories.
The Academy is deeply concerned about its television ratings, and it seems to be general agreement in the press that the reason they have re-introduced the larger number of nominations for the main award is to allow “general audiences” a greater degree of involvement. From 1929, when the Oscars debuted, to 1944, when CASABLANCA dominated the awards, the number of nominated films in the Best Picture category fluctuated according to perceived deserving films – from five to twelve. Nominating ten films for the major category makes sense for the broadcast – you’re more likely to watch if you’ve seen one of the major nominated films – and the television broadcast (and the ads broadcast within it) is the only reason the Oscars manage to exist, as that advertising revenue pretty much pays for everything – the statues themselves, the hall, the crew, the food in the green room, and everything else.
Everyone agrees that the Oscars are very long. Some of us love this – I could do with a five hour broadcast, frankly – but most viewers want something a little more compact. Expanding the categories along my suggestions wouldn’t help this. But with new technology, a web-based Oscars that runs alongside the televised broadcast could alleviate the perceived “length” problem. Some of the traditionally mocked categories – for example, Best Sound Editing (which only those of us in the industry really understand anyway) could be presented in an accompanying online realm, or moved to the “Technical Awards” that happen prior to the main presentation / broadcast. Indeed, the Oscars could actually take a leaf out of the Australian Film Institute Awards’ book and have a separate, televised night for a whole slab of awards, making it a two-night affair. Obviously, the first, “technical” night would have limited (“targeted audience”) appeal, but with digital television, it could run on an alternative channel.
They could also do what they should have always done – kill the musical numbers. But then, when would you go to the bathroom or make the next round of sandwiches?

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