Will it still be an honour just to be nominated?
In a surprise move, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences yesterday announced it was expanding the best-picture Oscar category from five nominees to 10, to respond to the high calibre of movies in recent years. During a press conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., Sid Ganis, the outgoing president of the academy, said the move, which takes effect in time for next year's ceremony on March 7, was a return to the awards' early years, when 10 films were regularly nominated.
Back then, however, Hollywood regularly released hundreds more movies each year.
The academy's move is widely seen in Hollywood as a victory for the major studios, who have made noises recently about distancing themselves from the awards as their blockbuster products have been pushed aside by highbrow fare distributed by independents and smaller companies.
But the expanded list is also expected to help boost the dwindling Oscar television audience. Ganis said discussions to expand the category began after this year's ceremony, in which two popular films - T he Dark Knight and Wall*E - failed to receive best-picture nominations. "I would not be telling you the truth if I said the words 'Dark Knight' did not come up," said Ganis.
He cited 1939, when The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, Love Affair, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Mice and Men, Dark Victory, and Ninotchka went up against the winner, Gone with the Wind.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association nominates 10 pictures for its Golden Globes derby, five in each of the drama and musical/comedy categories. But not every year is equally strong: Last year's Golden Globe nominees which failed to get Oscar nods included such also-rans as In Bruges, Happy-Go-Lucky and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.