Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Popular films return to the Oscars

Expanding the Best Picture nominees from five to 10 worked out well this year, I think.
For the first time in six years we have a Best Picture nominated film that cracked the Top 10 at the box office - actually, we have three of them: Avatar, Up and The Blind Side. And we have five films that have already grossed more than $100 million, with Inglorious Basterds and District 9 joining the three films above.

As I noted last year, that has not been the case in recent times. In fact, not counting the Lord of the Rings films from the beginning of the decade, there was only one Best Picture film during the past decade to crack the Top 10 (Chicago, which was No. 10 in 2002.)

And we still had room for the five films favored by the critics: The Hurt Locker, Precious, Up in the Air, A Serious Man, and An Education.

Without the expansion to 10 films, those bottom five would likely have been the Best Picture nominees this year continuing the Academy's tradition in recent years of snubbing popular films. I suppose there is a chance that Avatar may still have squeaked in to a spot, kind of like LOTR did, in place of say An Education or A Serious Man, but there definitely would not have been room for Up, The Blind Side, Inglorious Basterds and District 9.

As it is, I think there will be much more interest in the Academy Awards this year because they will be honoring films that people have actually seen, and they will be doing it without sacrificing any of the honors due the more high-brow, artsy films. Good news all around.

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