It was a busy week for the folks over at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. First, they turned the industry on its head by announcing from now on the prime Oscar category -- best picture -- would go from five to 10 nominees. A few days later, they skipped the surprise press conference and sent a release out with even more changes. Ironically, its one of these new changes "seems" (big emphasis on that) to have the Academy membership in a huffy, not the dramatic change to the best picture category.
In order to properly give the yearly recipients of the organization's lifetime achievement awards, the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and the Honorary Award, the Academy will now be announced in September and recognized with a special dinner in November. They will still be "acknowledged" (stand up and wave!) during the Oscar show, but as Academy President Sid Ganis noted in an official release, "“For some years now, the Board has struggled to balance the desire to truly honor worthy individuals with the time limitations that the Oscar® telecast imposes on these honors. By creating a separate event for recognizing these outstanding people in the movie industry, we’re insuring that each honoree will be given his or her full due, without compromise.”
Right now, the black-tie dinner is going to be a small, exclusive affair for only 500 guests featuring film clips and testimonials from the honorees admirers. However, don't be surprised in a few years if this event evolves into a televised special along the line of the Grammy Legends show. And to be quite honest, why isn't the Academy doing this now? Wouldn't it make the naysayers quiet if the honorees were getting their due on television? Wouldn't that help recognize the historic contributors to the industry to a new generation by airing it nationally? Even if ABC, the longtime Oscar show broadcaster said "no," I can think of five cable networks off the top of my head that would jump at the chance to get in the Academy game (Bravo, AMC, TNT, USA and E!). In any event, it will certainly speed the Oscar show up and allow for more time to cover those ten nominees.
And about those new ten ...the Los Angeles Times reports that the Academy is working on finding a solution to ensure that one film does not win with only 11% of the vote. Whether this means a revote or point system (as in many sport MVP races) is unclear. But it's good that they are working on it now rather than later.
Also in the new rules mix are changes to the best song category. In this prognosticator's opinion, this is where the Academy is shooting themselves in the foot. A few years ago, in order to make sure songs that were actually in context of a film were recognized versus just closing credit tracks, the Academy forced their music committee to watch all the submissions in context during a number of screening events. However, because these are limited screening events, not all members could attend and it created some strange omissions such as Bruce Springsteen's track for "The Wrestler" this year. Now, the Academy is making it even harder for songs to get in. If a track doesn't get an 8.25 vote overall it will not be considered at all. This could lead to only two nominees or even -- god forbid -- none in a calendar year.
Considering how important music is in film and how out of touch the Academy has been with their song nominees for the past decade, is this really the way to go? It's like one step forward with the best picture race, one step back with the moviegoer-friendly song category. There are already compelling tracks from Linkin Park in "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and Miley Cyrus' hit "The Climb" from the "Hannah Montana" movie. Are the old fogies on the music committee really going to rate them an 8.25 or higher?
Well, at least there will be something else controversial to discuss when nominations come out.