Surprise Ending: Oscars to Change Best Picture Nominees List

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Usually, the twist comes toward the end of the movie, not the world’s most celebrated awards show.

The Academy Awards will have a “new twist” for next year. The Best Picture list, which doubled in size from five to 10 movies a couple of years ago in order to (unofficially) make room for mainstream fare such as blockbusters (The Dark Knight, which is still held up as a notable snub) and animation, is undergoing a further tweak.

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has voted for a new system which will now result in anywhere between five and 10 nominees, with the exact number not being revealed until all the nominations get announced next January. “What stood out was that Academy members had regularly shown a strong admiration for more than five movies,” explained executive director Bruce Davis. “If there are only eight pictures that truly earn that honor in a given year, we shouldn’t feel an obligation to round out the number.”

Interestingly, an internal study of Academy voting studies showed that had this system been in place between 2001-2008 (the current number of 10 was brought back in a year later), they would have produced between five and nine nominees, but never the maximum number of 10.

The true subtext to next year’s changes is a tacit admission (however subtle) that there just aren’t 10 movies in a given year arguably worthy of Best Picture status. Over the past two occasions, one could have comfortably lived without the likes of The Blind Side, Inglourious Basterds, A Serious Man, Up, The Kids Are All Right and Winter’s Bone getting their moment in the sun (before you write in to complain, this is very much one person’s opinion, and does not represent the views of TIME).

It’s a further reminder that the halcyon days of cinema are well and truly over. In the early years of Oscar, the Best Picture list simply demanded to be higher than five (check out the 1941 contenders for irrefutable proof). The Academy is simply giving itself some wiggle room by not explicitly telling film makers that the recent days of 10 movies are over but, rather, they will have to produce some serious magic to get there once more.

And if the Academy wants to bring about true change, they could do worse than take the advice of TIME’s very own film critic, Richard Corliss. He has sensibly argued for the Best Picture winner to be voted for by the public. The Academy will never go for it, as it calls into question their very raison d’être, but there could be no better way of getting a happy ending. (via BBC)

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