Will the Return to 10 Best Picture Contenders Boost Ratings? – The Hollywood Reporter

Because the Academy of Movement Image Arts and Sciences gears up for an additional Oscar season — a make-or-break affair if it’s to achieve luring viewers again to ABC’s annual telecast that thousands and thousands merely ignored in April — it’s using one tactic that smacks of deja vu. This season, the Academy as soon as once more will nominate 10 movies for its greatest image prize.

Whereas the variety of greatest image nominees fluctuated from yr to yr through the Academy’s early days, from 1944 by means of 2008, the usual was set: The class was restricted to simply 5 movies. However following an outcry when fashionable and demanding hits like The Darkish Knight and the animated Wall-E did not make the minimize in 2008, the Academy determined to open up the class to 10 hopefuls. “We will probably be casting our web broad,” the Academy’s then-president Sidney Ganis mentioned, acknowledging the hope that doing so additionally may attract a wider viewers to the present. And that yr’s nominees lived as much as that promise: The lineup included the sci-fi films Avatar (the highest-grossing film of all time) and District 9, the animated Up and mainstream leisure like Inglourious Basterds, The Blind Facet and Up within the Air alongside smaller photos like Valuable, An Training, A Critical Man and the eventual winner, The Damage Locker. Greater than 41 million viewers tuned in, up from 36 million the earlier yr.

Nonetheless, a large faction within the Academy resisted the change, grumbling that the broader subject diluted the consideration of a greatest image nom, and, simply two years later, the Academy fiddled with the formulation once more in order that the variety of greatest image nominees may fluctuate anyplace from 5 to 10. Ostensibly, the Academy argued, the transfer would introduce “a brand new component of shock” when the nominees had been introduced.

However within the 10 years that the rule has been in place — with both eight or 9 nominees put ahead annually — as an alternative of ratcheting up suspense, it’s largely led to hypothesis about precisely which movies had been denied that ninth or tenth spot. Throughout the identical interval, the Producers Guild of America, which singles out 10 photos yearly for its prime movie award, has embraced an entire vary of films the Academy has given quick shrift. They’ve included huge hits like Deadpool, Surprise Lady, Loopy Wealthy Asians and Knives Out in addition to Black dramas like Straight Outta Compton, Ma Rainey’s Black Backside and One Night time in Miami — all titles that did not earn an Oscar nom for greatest image.

And so, again to the drafting board. In July 2020, the Academy introduced it might return to a assured 10 greatest image nominees in 2021. The announcement — folded into an extended listing of recent inclusion initiatives — didn’t trigger a lot of a stir. Even earlier than the Oscar present scores hit an all-time-low of 10.4 million viewers in April, the writing was on the wall. The Oscars had been dropping their cultural cachet and relevance and something which may reverse the development needed to be thought of.

However returning to 10 isn’t essentially going to unravel that drawback. This yr, even with 10 slots to fill, it’s unlikely the Oscars will duplicate that diverse 2009 lineup.

Contemplate: Though the five-to-10 period noticed a handful of sci-fi and superhero films nominated — most notably Black Panther but additionally movies like Gravity and Arrival — this yr’s prospects seem extra problematic. These three movies had Rotten Tomatoes scores of 96, 96 and 94, respectively. However whereas it has some ardent followers, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune has registered an 83, whereas Oscar winner Chloé Zhao’s Eternals at the moment stands at 60.

And whereas each of the 2 latest 10-best years included an animated entry, that’s a tricky promote this yr. Amid the lingering COVID-19 restrictions, Pixar’s Luca went direct to Disney+, whereas Sony bought its The Mitchells vs. the Machines to Netflix, so, given simply token theatrical releases, neither had the cultural impression a full launch offers. Flee, Denmark’s submission for greatest worldwide characteristic, is also a contender for greatest animated characteristic and greatest documentary characteristic, however that would lead to class confusion, making a further greatest pic bid a attain.

Plus, the Academy has modified, rising far past 2009’s clubby group of about 6,000 members. Having invited a number of worldwide filmmakers into its fold — greater than 9,000 complete voting numbers — it may properly look past typical Hollywood product. That in flip may increase the probabilities for foreign-language movies like Pedro Almodóvar’s Parallel Moms and Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero being elevated to the very best image circle. Hell, it would even make the Cannes Palme d’Or winner, Titane — an aggressively transgressive film that’s removed from conventional Oscar bait — into much less of an extended shot.

So if the secret is to win again Oscar viewers with a seize bag of seductively acquainted films, when the nominations are introduced in February, 10 might not show to be a magic quantity in spite of everything.

This story first appeared within the Nov. 3 difficulty of The Hollywood Reporter journal. Click on right here to subscribe.

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