Of the films eligible for the 2009 Oscars The Dark Knight was by far the best film but it failed to pick up an Oscar nomination. Had the new system of ten nominations been in place there really wouldn’t have been any excuses for not nominating it but to be honest I don’t see any good reason anyway. Frost/Nixon was a great little film with first rate acting but failed to completely elevate itself from its origins as a play. Milk was probably the strongest film outside the eventual winner Slumdog Millionaire. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was too long and deeply flawed, not a serious contender. The Reader was a very weak film and was simply making up the numbers.
So is the ten nominations idea a good one and how has it affected the nominations? Avatar: after its huge box-office and its technological advancements it would have been impossible for the academy to overlook this one. It doesn’t deserve to win but probably will. The Blind Side: having not seen the movie yet it is hard to judge but the buzz is that it is an average film with a great central performance. There is always one of those in the mix. District 9: A relatively low-budget sci-fi thriller is not the Oscar norm, would have been overlooked in previous years. An Education: A little British film based on a true story with a period setting (1960’s), the kind of movie that would only get a nod in a weak year. Its profile should be helped by the nomination. The Hurt Locker: By far the best (eligible) movie of the year had to be nominated and deserves to win, although it probably won’t. Inglourious Basterds: At first glance this looks like the real victor in the extended field. Tarantino isn’t Oscar friendly, Inglourious Basterds being the first movie recognised by the academy since Pulp Fictions best screenplay win/best director nomination fifteen years ago. Having said that it is nominated in seven other categories so was obviously well received with the academy. Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. A good film but not a great one. Great acting and an overly emotional story meant it was always going to get nominated. A Serious Man: A quirky little film from the Coen brothers. Far from their best movie, worth seeing but I think it would get a nomination in a category of five. Up: Animated films (even more so than foreign language films) have never really established themselves in the best picture race. Beauty and the Beast is the only animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture, quite rightly it lost to The Silence of the Lambs but a few years later Toy Story (not nominated) was a better film than the winner Braveheart. The was such a great buzz around Up that it may have got a nomination anyway but realistically it wouldn’t have, having their own category now is probably counter productive for animated movies. That leaves the question, what would have been nominated had their been just five. Although not my choices I think the five would be: Up in the Air, The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Precious and The Blind Side. Meaning the ones that miss out would be: Inglourious Basterds, Up, District 9, An Education and A Serious Man.
To really work the extended category shouldn’t just pick more of the same; it should go for movies that would have never been considered in the category of five. Sci-Fi movies, comedies, small independent films a few suggestions of films that could have made the ten: Moon: a low-budget sci-fi move that was superior to District 9. The White Ribbon: The only foreign langue nomination eligible in other categories, unlucky to miss out. Where the Wild Things Are: Not the kind of film the academy recognises. (500 Days) of Summer: Not enough room for this and Up in the Air. Antichrist: too controversial. Watchmen: Never really in with a chance but it was better than Avatar. Fish Tank: The best British film of last year, too small for the academy.
I don’t think the ten nomination thing has really improved the category this year, merely diluted it but in future years if it does lead to a more diverse list it will be worth it. So let’s look out for more comedy animation and a foreign language movies in future best picture nominations. Blockbusters, comic book adaptations and art movie that didn’t break even all have the same right to be nominated if they are good enough. Having said all that I will be happy this year if The Hurt Locker or Inglourious Basterds triumphs over James Cameron and his Smurfs. For more information on this years Oscars take a look at The LAMB Devours the Oscars by clicking on the lamb below: