There are less than 48 hours until the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces their nominations for the 84th Academy Awards. Normally, I’d have a definitive list of nominee predictions ready, to match up against the names being read this coming Tuesday morning. Not this year, though. This year, I’m finding it incredibly difficult to nail down my definitive guesses. And bizarrely, it’s all The Dark Knight’s fault.
In 2008, The Dark Knight was the behemoth of cinema. No movie since Titanic had crossed half a million dollars at the box office, until Christopher Nolan’s second Batman entry managed to pull in an impressive $533-million domestically, making it the second-highest grossing movie ever (at the time).
Because Titanic had become the #1 movie of all-time at the box office in 1997, and then subsequently went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars, a lot of the general public also expected The Dark Knight to be up for Best Picture. When it wasn’t — whether it deserves to have been or not is an argument for another day — many people (read: TV viewers) were outraged and used the subject as fuel in the ongoing tirade against movie snobs and film critics.
The people behind the Academy Awards decided to shake things up. They announced soon after the year Batman was ignored that the Oscars would have ten Best Picture nominees, going forward. The AMPAS used the precedent that there originally had always been ten nominees in the top category, until it was shrunk down to five in 1944. The producers proudly boasted of a callback to a classic time, of recapturing the magic that era’s great movies.
Less naïve people argued the Oscars were just expanding to ten to appeal to broader audiences. Only one of the five Best Picture nominees from 2008 had even grossed over $21 million dollars. Many argued that with the most high-profile movie nominated being The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the average TV viewer didn’t really care about who won or lost.
Many believed the AMPAS’ move of expanding to ten was simply a way of ensuring that in the years forward, there would be room to nominate more popular movies – even if they’d stand no chance of winning the award. Lo and behold, when the 2009 Oscar noms came out, The Blind Side and Up (two of the year’s biggest earners, coincidentally) were in contention for the big prize.
For two years, the Oscars went back to having ten nominees. Unfortunately, the ratings didn’t sharply increase. As well, it led to movies like The Blind Side and The Kids are All Right being nominated for the biggest award of the year. (I’m not disputing they’re good movies, but I wouldn’t say each were one of the ten best of their respective years, either.) Many argued that in a given year, there just aren’t always ten truly great movies. This got the AMPAS thinking again.
Last summer, they announced they were changing the rules for Best Picture yet again. After vacillating between five and ten nominees over the last 83 years, they completely broke the mould by saying each Oscar ceremony now could have anywhere between five and ten nominated movies for Best Picture. Huh?
As a way of ensuring that the category wouldn’t get watered down unnecessarily (but to still ensure nominating more than a strict number of five movies), the Academy created a new rule: for a movie to be nominated for Best Picture, it needs a minimum of 5 per cent of people’s #1 votes.
Every year, each member of the Academy writes out a ranked list of what they consider the best movies. These lists have always been averaged out, with various calculations, to determine the nominees. Of course, that has meant that polarizing movies have gotten the #1 or #2 spots on many people’s lists and no placements on many others’, so sometimes haven’t been nominated. Conversely, movies that every voting member generally liked (but that none may have particularly loved) have been able to make the cut simply by being on enough people’s lists, even if they were near the bottom.
What this new stipulation means for the Best Picture race has yet to be seen, but it could mean that jack-of-all-trades nominees like The Blind Side won’t likely make the cut anymore. It may actually benefit more polarizing movies, like The Tree of Life or Melancholia. What it means for right now, though, is that no one knows what to predict for Tuesday morning’s announcement, because nobody even knows how many movies will be nominated.
Really, it’s just one more prediction, though. In addition to guessing what movies will have their names read in two days, one also gets to predict how many will. Myself, I’m going with 7. We’ll find out on Tuesday. For now, here’s what I’m predicting.
Midnight in Paris
(NB: If there are eight, which I think is the second-most likely scenario, I’m expecting the eighth movie will be The Tree of Life.)
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
Steven Spielberg (War Horse)
George Clooney (The Descendants)
Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
Viola Davis (The Help)
Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Charlize Theron (Young Adult)
Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)
Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
Albert Brooks (Drive)
Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close)
Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)
Midnight in Paris
The Ides of March
(Don’t assume these are necessarily the movies I think should be nominated. These are just what I expect will be. My own Best of 2011 list will be coming in the weeks ahead.)