Isn’t it fun when there are only nine nominees for Best Picture? For the second year in a row, the Oscars have a top prize category that looks like it’s missing a title. And that means we get to fill it in ourselves. Not as in there’s an allowance for a write-in vote – most of us don’t get to vote for the Academy Awards anyway – but as in with our imagination.
If you recall, the Academy bumped the number of Best Picture contenders from five to ten three years ago, which was thought to be in response to a lack of popular mainstream fare (i.e. The Dark Knight). But then they changed the rules again for last year’s nominations to allow anywhere between five and ten titles, depending on how many received an eligible amount of first-choice votes.
“A Best Picture nomination should be an indication of extraordinary merit,” AMPAS Executive Director Bruce Davis explained in 2011. “If there are only eight pictures that truly earn that honor in a given year, we shouldn't feel an obligation to round out the number.”
Eight nominees wouldn’t look as unfinished as nine, however. With nine it looks like there’s an unfilled slot. It’s like a cliffhanger that’s really just an open ending, or a movie that sets up a sequel but never has the chance to deliver one. Last year we felt frustratingly deprived, wondering if that slot would or could have gone to Bridesmaids, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Drive or the final Harry Potter movie.
This year, we should see nine nominees as a gift. Rather than being angry that a popular title such as The Dark Knight Rises was snubbed, fans can fill that title in with their mind. Never mind that more critically acclaimed blockbusters like The Avengers and Skyfall might have been more likely. Or additional art-house fare such as Moonrise Kingdom or The Master.
The list of potential tenth nominees is quite long this year. Other films nominated in other categories we could envision might be Flight, The Impossible, Anna Karenina and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which is now the first of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth films not to be recognized in the category. And we all have our favorite among them, and now we have the opportunity to name what we imagine belongs there in the comments section below.
Maybe one of these years, especially if the Academy keeps coming up with nine Best Picture nominees and we in turn offer our ideas on the Internet like this, the Oscars can fill the slot with an actual, official People’s Choice nominee. That would make this business of nine nominees even more fun.