Oscars' best picture race: 10 in 2010

Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:41pm EDT
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By Gregg Kilday

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - There will be 10, count 'em 10, nominees for best picture when the nominations for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards are announced February 2.

In a move designed to let more movies share in the limelight that surrounds the contenders for Hollywood's top award, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wednesday announced a rule change that doubles the number of movies that will be welcomed into the best picture category.

Academy president Sid Ganis characterized the move as a "return to the past" when the Academy regularly spread its largesse out among 10 -- and sometimes even more -- best picture nominees.

Speaking to the media at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Ganis on Wednesday was flanked by posters listing the 10 nominees for 1939 -- widely regarded as the high-water mark for quality studio releases. That year, the lineup ranged from Westerns ("Stagecoach") to sophisticated comedies ("Ninotchka") to melodramas ("Dark Victory") to all-time classics like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "The Wizard of Oz" and eventual winner "Gone With the Wind."

"Suppose you had to narrow that field down to five nominees? Which of these films would you keep? Whichever five movies you selected, you'd be losing five extraordinary films," Ganis asked rhetorically.

While the Academy hasn't nominated 10 films since 1943, momentum for the course correction grew out of this year's Oscar show. Its producers, Larry Mark and Bill Condon, made a concerted effort to acknowledge the whole range of movies produced during the past year in an effort to reach out to a wider audience.

In their post-show autopsy, they encouraged the Academy to consider opening up the best picture category, and the committee that reviewed the show championed the idea, recommending it to the board, which approved the change with virtually no opposition.

The move also comes in the wake of the howls of outrage from fans of last year's "The Dark Knight," which earned eight nominations but didn't crack the best picture circle. Arguably, a wider field of nominees would have included that movie, which also had a lot of critics in its corner. And if more popular entertainments are in the running for the big prize, that could in turn benefit the Oscarcast ratings, which have been in general decline, although they did experience an uptick in February.   Continued...

<p>English director Danny Boyle holds up his Oscar for best director for "Slumdog Millionaire" backstage at the 81st Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, February 22, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>