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OSCAR SHOCKER! Academy Builds Surprise & Secrecy Into Best Picture Race: Now There Can Be 5 To 10 Nominees

PETE HAMMOND - OSCAR: Best Picture Change Makes Sense

Beverly Hills, CA — The governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted on Tuesday (6/14) to add a new twist to the 2011 Best Picture competition, and a new element of surprise to its annual nominations announcement. The Board voted to institute a system that will now produce anywhere between five and 10 nominees in the category. That number won’t be announced until the Best Picture nominees themselves are revealed at the January nominations announcement.

“With the help of PricewaterhouseCoopers, we’ve been looking not just at what happened over the past two years, but at what would have happened if we had been selecting 10 nominees for the past 10 years,” explained Academy President Tom Sherak, who noted that it was retiring Academy executive director Bruce Davis who recommended the change first to Sherak and incoming CEO Dawn Hudson and then to the governors.

During the period studied, the average percentage of first place votes received by the top vote-getting movie was 20.5. After much analysis by Academy officials, it was determined that 5% of first place votes should be the minimum in order to receive a nomination, resulting in a slate of anywhere from five to 10 movies.

“In studying the data, what stood out was that Academy members had regularly shown a strong admiration for more than five movies,” said Davis. “A Best Picture nomination should be an indication of extraordinary merit. 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.”

If this system had been in effect from 2001 to 2008 (before the expansion to a slate of 10), there would have been years that yielded 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 nominees.

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Golden Globe: Cold Category Is Hot Again

Pete Hammond

Here’s news: awards consultants tell me that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is relaxing its rules slightly this year in order to  encourage distributors to choose the category they feel their movies belong in. But, of course, the HFPA still reserves the ultimate right to make the final decision as they always have. (In other words, don’t inappropriately enter the comedy/musical race just because you might have a better shot there.) Although most movie jockeying now is for Oscar contention, there’s an intense race forming already in the Golden Globe’s Comedy or Musical categories for Best Picture and Best Actor/Actress.

More than ever, studio awards consultants I talk to seem to be specifically targeting these categories once considered also-rans. But now they’re stepping stones toward gaining Oscar traction. Say what you will about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (and many do), it is still one of the few awards-giving organizations to make a distinct split between Drama and Comedy. And Hollywood loves that. Because the Globe pickers have opened up opportunities for campaigns to make a dent in the season and draw significant notice to movies that might not necessarily be on the top of the Best Picture Academy list.

Last year, the ultimate winners in these categories — The Hangover for Best Picture Comedy or Musical, Robert Downey Jr  in Sherlock Holmes for Best Actor Comedy/Musical, and Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia for Best Actress — did not repeat their feats at … Read More »

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The Oscar Road Traveled By Toronto Films

Mike Fleming

The business story of the Toronto International Film Festival was a cautious resurgence of the specialty film market. But in my opinion the more compelling and even uplifting story surrounds those Toronto films now emerging as Best Picture Oscar candidates. The reason is that so many of them easily could have fallen apart in the struggle to get them to the big screen if not for the filmmakers’ admirable persistance:

127 Hours: After Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle could have taken a multi-million paycheck to direct James Bond or any of several other big budget studio films. Instead he chose to do on an indie level what Chris Nolan did on a studio level when he used his clout to direct his wholly original spec script Inception. Boyle took an upfront salary of just $666K and put all his Slumdog credibility chips on the table to make 127 Hours. The movie’s pitch — hiker amputates pinned arm with dull knife — is so preposterously non-commercial that even Boyle’s writing partner Simon Beaufoy didn’t get it until Boyle sketched out a first draft that showed the potential for a visceral and spiritually uplifting drama. “Sometimes, and this was the first time for me, you can’t explain it verbally, you have to write it down and test it on your collaborators,” Boyle said. Said producer Christian Colson: “While Slumdog was the classic underdog story — not enough money, nearly went straight to DVD, no stars, no power — … Read More »

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