FILM: The Oscars They Are A-Changin'

Written by Mckay Stevens on . Posted in Film

Does anyone remember when the Oscars were still on TV? All the stars in their glitz and glamor would walk the red carpet and be presented as nominees for the most prestigious awards in the movie industry. It was a real spectacle, and a chance for us as fans to see our favorite actors being recognized for their roles in our favorite movies. Ah, those were the good ol’ days.

Okay, okay, so the Oscars are still on TV. Barely.

In an attempt to bounce back from the lowest ratings ever received for the program, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the guys who do the Academy Awards) is announcing some serious change, and it all begins at the top: Best Picture.

Diverting back to a standard that hasn’t been in place since 1943, the Academy will be announcing twice the number of nominees for the Best Picture award. This means that the 2010 Academy Awards will feature ten (yes, 10) nominees in the Best Picture category.

So here’s how it works: according to the Academy website, there are over 6,000 members. Each belongs to a specific branch depending on their specialty. They vote for the five best that fall within their category. If the first film/person on their list gets eliminated, their vote will count for the second name on the list, and so on.

The Best Picture Award is slightly different, however. All members vote for their top ten movies of the previous calendar year. The ability to place ten titles on the list seems like a small change at first, but more underdog and “uncategorized” films are now sure to make the list, which will call for more loyal fans to participate in the Awards.

In the San Diego Union-Tribune, a similarly related article last week cited a quote from academy president, Sidney Ganis, responding to a follow-up question regarding the reason behind doubling the nominees for Best Picture: “I would not be telling you the truth if I said the words ‘Dark Knight’ did not come up.”

My guess is that most of our readers have seen The Dark Knight, which is the sequel to the famous rebirth of the Batman franchise, Batman Begins, starring Christian Bale and written and directed by Christopher Nolan. If you are one who has seen the film, you can most likely agree that it should have at least been nominated for Best Picture, although you may not be able to pinpoint the exact reasons why. I will briefly attempt to do just that, hopefully without detracting too far from the purpose of the article.

Although falling under the category of “comic book movie,” The Dark Knight was so much more than that. It was so unique to its own genre that it became a lost puppy of sorts. The acting was more than convincing (Heath Ledger was scary-good), the score was engaging (Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard tag-teaming), the special effects, stunts and visuals were spot-on, and you could tell that not one person cut corners on their job. It was a monster of a film. It had certain expectations as a sequel and as a ‘comic book movie,” and it far exceeded both. It ended up being nominated for eight awards anyway, but it never made it on the Best Picture top five, even though many thought it should have.

So the question at hand here is: If a movie like The Dark Knight would have been among the nominees for Best Picture, would there have been more people watching? The Academy seems to think so and, therefore, changes are coming.

Considering all of this, I am going to be so bold as to suggest my list of Best Picture nominees for the 2009 year. Obviously we are barely into our seventh month, but I have done a lot of research to find what I believe will be voted as the ten best films of the year. Please take into account that I have not seen many of these films but I am basing my choices off the selections from previous years, the actors involved, the current hype and the new intentions of the Academy.

In no particular order, I present:

1. The Stoning of Soraya M. This is a shot-in-the-dark selection. A powerful topic, based on a true story, completely unique, Jim Caviezel is extremely talented, underdog film, and potential Best Picture quality based solely off that criteria.

2. The Hurt Locker Jeremy Renner has my vote for most underrated actor in Hollywood. The film looks gritty, new, raw and, with all joking aside, explosive. I actually doubt it would ever make it to be a real nominee for Best Picture but, with a few exceptions, this is a bad year for movies.

3. Cold Souls looks so intriguing I find myself wondering about it in random moments of the day. Paul Giamatti is one of those guys who acts because he loves acting, not because he loves money. It’s listed under “comedy” and the chances of something besides a drama making it to the realm of Best Picture are slim, but with five more slots being open, we could have some surprises on our hands.

4. Public Enemies has been one of the best reviewed films of the year and, with Christian Bale and Johnny Depp starring opposite each other, it just screams Oscar victory. I am positive it will be a nominee in several categories, including Best Picture.

5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince promises to be the most exciting Harry Potter yet. Last year I would have been mocked for even suggesting Harry Potter as a Best Picture nominee, but having ten spots open in a year full of copycat horror films and cookie cutter chick flicks, our list will be very expansive.

6. Angels and Demons is another gripping story from the talented Dan Brown. His ability to mix real-life organizations, artifacts and locations with fictional characters and settings has proven to be a much-craved recipe, and it appears to have transferred well to the big screen, at least for those who enjoy this type of literature. Also, Tom Hanks.

7. Burma VJ uses smuggled footage of a 2007 protest which included over 100,000 people and over 1,000 monks. Went to Sundance. ‘Nuff said.

8. Moon is a surprising pick for me, even though I picked it. I don’t know if I would have ever given Sam Rockwell that much credit (see GalaxyQuest). Moon looks startlingly great.

9. Away We Go has been the recipient of more praise than almost any other movie this year. It has a certain Juno feel to it, but with its own uniqueness and character. It’s a movie with heart, and I’m sure it will be recognized as something special.

10. Star Trek is a movie I am in love with. I generally like to keep my strong opinions as something you find as you read between the lines of my articles, but I simply cannot hide my infatuation with Star Trek. It is a complete film from start to finish. It satisfies the old school Trekkies and the newbies (generally speaking). It is the Dark Knight of 2009. Also, I saved it for last because it’s my favorite.

Chances are you will be tuning in to the Academy Awards on March 7, 2010. I say that with a seemingly shallow confidence, but I am confident nonetheless. More of your favorite movies from 2009 will be there, and it should give you more reason to be there as well.

Mckay Stevens is a film writer for Rhombus. He really liked Star Trek.

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