There are 10 movies nominated for Best Picture by the Academy this year. I think this is the second year since they expanded the category. Looking at the list, there are five wonderful, crowd pleasing, artistic, brilliant entries- The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, An Education, Inglorious Basterds, and Up. That's five good ones. Give it to any of those, and I would totally agree. (except I'd swap out Up for Where the Wild Things Are) so why do they need to tack on stuff like The Blind Side, and District 9?
Because a few years ago, the movies were too good.
No, really, that's the logic. Remember '08, when No Country for Old Men won? When its competition was There Will Be Blood, Atonement, and Michael Clayton? Well, it was also the lowest rated Oscar broadcast of all time. Which was immediately attributed to the Academy being full of snobs, and the movies being too smart. The average movie goer couldn't relate, or wasn't interested, or whatever excuse was used for low box office grosses among the most decorated movies. To get people to watch the Oscars, they added 5 slots to the Best Picture category in an incredibly crass attempt to show give the television audience a reason to tune in.
The problem isn't that the most artistic films are too high brow, and no one wants to see pictures of that caliber. The problem is this- the nearest cinema to my town is a 14 screen multiplex. 14 freakin' screens, and they didn't show Atonement until after the Oscar picks, and Michael Clayton not at all. ?!?!
Let me repeat- Not. At. All. FOURTEEN SCREENS!!! They could set aside two whole screens for art films, still show 3 screens of Alvin and the Chipmunks, plus 3 screens of Avatar, and still have six (6!) other screens for showing whatever plotless Nicholas Sparks novel was just optioned into a film, plus all those buddy cop comedies we've been clamoring for. The multiplex, of course, argues that audiences in my town don't pay to see films like An Education, even though they don't bother to show films like that in the first place, so what data are they basing this on? Of course they didn't make a profit off of a product they didn't offer for sale.
Now, to see films like An Education, or No Country on release day, I drive 45 minutes to see it an an art house. Fine. They have 3 screens, they show only stuff like documentaries, foreign films, and stuff with Daniel Day Lewis involved, and they've been around since long before the era of the multiplex, so they seem to be turning a profit. Surely the 14 screener can support something other than blockbusters, mindless rom-coms, and 12 Tyler Perry movies a year.
My point is this- Movies suffer greatly at the hands of distributors, theater chains that pander to the lowest common denominator, and an industry that blames their own audience, and calls them dumb. There is no reason in the world why artistic awards should be based on box office grosses. If they do, then things like Norbit are going to start being nominated*, so Eddie Murphy can be named in all 4 acting categories at once.
Books have distribution issues of their own, certainly. But when I want to read almost any book that is in print, I can find it online, buy it, and let the publisher know with my $$ what I support as a reader. I can't choose to vote with my dollars at the box office if the movie I want to see is only in limited release in LA and NYC.
So I hope, dearly, that our publishing industry can get their @$%! together with the e-readers and electronic rights. There is no reason now to say that a certain genre, or a topic won't sell in a given geographic area. We can finally see what people in the flyover states really do want to read and watch, and this could be a golden age for literature.
* Norbit was nominated for an Oscar the same year as No Country for Old Men won. No, seriously.