AMPAS followed up the controversial announcement expanding the best picture category from 5 nominees to 10 with further changes that tinker with the process for choosing the nominees for best original song and that relegate the Irving Thalberg Award, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and the honorary Oscar for career excellence to a November gulag attended by 500 invitees.
There seems to be a misperception that the changes are intended to make better awards when in fact they have little to do with the integrity of the honor and everything to do with convincing people to tune into the advertising gold mine that is (or was) the TV show. Ghettoizing the honorary awards is an especially bad idea, but it will definitely make for a faster paced ceremony. Most people who only see a few movies a year and who only talk about them in the week or two leading up to the Oscars always complain about the boring speeches by the oldsters they’ve never heard of, but eliminating them cheapens the Oscars even further than adding 5 more best picture nominees.
That’s not to say the ceremony won’t be a more slickly entertaining affair this year and that there won’t be a bigger crop of better nominees. There might be, but there might also be a bigger crop of lame nominees. Giving a half-blind sniper 5 more bullets may increase the chances he’ll hit his target, but it also increases the chances an innocent bystander will get killed. Early predictions aside, no one knows what will happen – especially since no one has seen most of the movies likely to get nominated.
Regardless of whether Oscar gets it right this year or not, you should be very skeptical of the motives of any awards body that depends on television ratings. Popularity should only be the purview of the wretched People’s Choice Awards. The Oscars have always been able to stay a bit above the more dubious awards despite the televised ceremony because they were always the big kid in town and they had the weight of the industry behind them. The other awards shows had to be content to pick up the table scraps tossed off by Oscar, but the more desperate AMPAS gets to save its ceremony, the more it risks lying down with the dogs.