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Published: Monday, 6/29/2009

Dumbing down the Oscars to satisfy the Nielsens

With the deaths of icons Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett Thursday, I devoted Friday s blog to them. And deservedly so. But I did want to touch on the Academy Awards announcement last week that it is increasing the Best Picture nominees from five to 10, which takes effect at next year's Oscars on March 7.

Essentially, there were so many good movies last year, and presumably other years as well, that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences felt limiting its top movie of the year nominees was unfair to the five or so other films who were omitted from the category. The Dark Knight anyone?

In its zeal to please filmmakers and studios, the Academy has lowered the value of the nomination. It s like Field Day, when all the school kids receive a ribbon for participating. Being one of the Best Picture nominees suddenly doesn t mean as much, because, well, nine other films share that honor.

I know the Academy says it has history on its side, and that 10 Best Picture nominees was the way it used to do it in the 1940s. But a simpler, easier suggestion would be, how about getting the nominations right? Last year s nominees were solid, but I think either Wall-E or The Dark Knight could have supplanted The Reader. And for that matter, I thought Wall-E and The Dark Knight were better films than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. But the Academy loves fall epics, whereas more mainstream fare like movies about a love-struck waste-disposal robot and an avenging masked hero typically are left out.

That s why the Academy hopes the added nominees will boost the ratings, which, don t kid yourself, is really what the move is about. Like most TV broadcasts, ratings for the Oscars have been down the last few years. Many suggest it s because audiences don t care about the movies that are nominated. Although, last year s Best Picture winner, Slumdog Millionaire, was a critics and audience favorite, so I m not necessarily buying that argument that honoring more mainstream films equals more eyes watching the awards.

And if the Academy didn t feel like these more mainstream films were worthy of a nomination, imagine how voters will respond to them? They re going to ignore the additional movies, just like the Academy previously ignored them. Which means with the doubling of nominations there will be double the amount of losers, too.

And where s the fun in that?

Agree or disagree with a posting? Lemme know. Have a topic or suggestion? Lemme know that, too. Send an e-mail to kbaird@theblade.com or call 419-724-6734.



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