Motion Picture Academy Changing Best Picture Rules Again

By , Editor
For me the Oscars telecast has always had a patina of magic none of the other awards shows can touch. Movies are such an outsized art form, incorporating so many disparate elements, and the history of Hollywood so abundant with iconic, even archetypal, figures, that even in our ever more granular and specialized entertainment world, the annual celebration of "achievement in film" can still inspire something approaching awe.

Though I can appreciate the impulse to spread the wealth around and give more films a nomination bounce at the box office, I think the move two years ago increasing Best Picture nominations from five, which it had been for decades, to 10 was simply too much of a good thing - a move diluting the very value of the mojo they hoped to spread around in the first place. If every movie that doesn't suck gets nominated, then the nomination conveys very little actual prestige.

Clearly, the Academy has realized that too much of a good thing can actually be too much of a good thing and has adjusted the rules again. Yesterday, Academy poobahs voted "to add a new twist to the 2011 Best Picture competition, and a new element of surprise to its annual nominations announcement," according to a press release.

The new rules state that only films receiving at least 5% of first-place votes will be nominated, with a minimum of five and max of 10 films receiving noms at the annual January announcement. Academy research showed that the average Best Picture winner over the last 10 years received about 20% of first place votes, and that had the new system been in effect from 2001 to 2008 (before the expansion in '09 to a slate of 10), the process would have yielded years with five, six, seven, eight, and nine nominees.

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Eric Olsen is a career media professional and serial entrepreneur who has written influentially on a vast array of topics for periodicals, books, TV, radio, and the Internet. Olsen founded and published award winning online magazine and oversaw creation of the original content organization…

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