There was a time when the Academy Awards was dominated by one or two big pictures. In 2003, for example, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King took home 11 individual gold statues. Titanic did the same in 1997. Even in 2007, No Country for Old Men won a total of 8. It used to be that every spring, one film would essentially be named king of the previous year, but it’s just not that way anymore.
After a decade of steady viewership for the live broadcast of the Academy Awards in the 1990s, the number of people watching dipped from somewhere in the 45 million range to around 35 million and hovered there fairly consistently. The years that the ratings jumped up again were always the years when more popular, commercial films were being recognized, such as the ceremony in 2003 when ABC saw a viewership jump of more than 10 million when Return of the King took home it’s staggering amount of wins.
The Academy and ABC began to take notice and after the 2008 host Hugh Jackman joked about The Dark Knight’s lack of nominations in his opening monologue/musical number, a change was made. In 2009, the Best Picture Ballot was opened to a maximum of 10 nominations, something that had not been done since the early days of the Academy and a way to clear spots for more commercially and critically successful films.
This tactic of nominating nearly twice the typical number of films for Best Picture has inevitably resulted in the Academy considering other films for subsequent categories. In other words, more Best Picture prospects means more possibilities of other nominations. Since 2009, the winners of the Academy Awards have been drastically more widespread. No film has won more than 6 Oscars since the ballot was opened, a trend that has grown steadily all the way up until last year, when the Best Picture winner, Argo, took home a total of 3 wins, and no Oscar for Best Director or for any acting categories (something that was unheard of ten years ago).
Now we are moving closer to the Awards ceremony for the films of 2013, and the critical climate and nominees are as spread as ever. The Best Picture nominees, while not quite shocking, are all represented throughout the other categories, with films like American Hustle and Gravity taking the lead with 10 nominations each. However, each film is missing a few core categories that typically indicate a Best Picture win is on the horizon. For example, Gravity is missing a nomination for Best Screenplay and American Hustle has no nomination for Best Cinematography. While David O. Russell has done something truly astounding in achieving, for the second time in the past two years, a nomination in each of the acting categories, he is facing stiff competition in such fields as Best Actor.
There have been other films that were talked about for months and months and, now, simply cut from the race altogether. Most critics felt Tom Hanks was a shoe-in for a Best Actor nomination for Captain Phillips, but has been excluded from the category. The same can be said for Emma Thompson and Saving Mr. Banks. Inside Lewyn Davis was another film produced by Academy favorites, Joel and Ethan Cohen, and instead has been nominated for a measly two Oscars.
The Academy has shocked everyone in the past, for sure and they certainly have the ability to shock us again. But their leverage is not what it used to be after years of such a widely spread Awards ceremony. At this point, March 2 could be any film’s big day, and the mystery makes everything just a bit more exciting.
Oscars | Nominees
Written by Sydney Kelly