An Open Letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Dear “Academy,”

Let me begin by saying that you are one of my most favorite academic institutions, and I’ve been a big fan of the Oscars for as long as I can remember.  As a child, I used the commercial breaks to practice my Best Actress speech in the bathroom; as a teenager, I merrily critiqued the designer gowns of each female attendee, and threw popcorn at the TV when anyone claimed to be happy “just to have been nominated.”  I’ve actually written extensively about my zealous love of the Oscars elsewhere (I cannot link to it without revealing my true identity) so I won’t babble on about this topic; suffice it to say I, and many others, wait for the Oscars with as much anticipation as people who identify as hetero-normative male basketball fans wait for March Madness.

Small bone to pick with you, though, and it rests in the Best Picture category.  Once upon a time, in an idyllic, resplendent era, there were five nominees for Best Picture.  Then, all of a sudden, some years ago, you decided to bloat the category and grant a total of nine nominations.  (I cannot bear to Google to check what year this was implemented in, so wary am I to relive that terrible time.)  Why?  I and others asked ourselves.  Five is a great number: small enough to be easily conceived of, yet large enough for a person to feel like there’s a real competition there.  Nine, on the other hand, is simply absurd.  No one, in this age of Hulu and $17 movie tickets, is likely to see that many films in a season, or even to remember the full docket of nominees come Oscar night.  The field is too crowded, and thus the battle between movies is suddenly less riveting; it’s less a boxing match and more a fight between many rodents.  (There has to be some analogy to economics here––something about market saturation?––but I think you can get the idea without me overdoing it.)  This is all not to mention that everyone’s favorite complaint about the Oscars is that they are way too long.  Did you not see that by adding nominees to a category, you ran the risk of lengthening, rather than tightening and shortening, the ceremony?

But of course, the reason you made this decision is because you believed it would end in bigger profits for––wait for it––YOU.  Believing that we idiot chattel would see “Best Picture Nominee!” and sign over the deeds to our houses, you figured you would sacrifice the air of fierce competition for a bland pretend-tournament in hopes that more people, in more places, would see more movies.  (Of course, you could try to tell me that it’s about giving recognition to as many cinematic masterpieces as possible, but I’d argue that you cheapen your “recognition” by diluting the category with movies that obviously will not win.  Case in point: Philomena, which was I’m sure moving, but never stood a chance.)  But in light of the fact that none of the nominated pictures saw a rise in profit post-announcement, or other awkwardness like this, perhaps you’ll consider changing it back to the old format.

Ever yours,


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