Dec 052009
 
Authors: Matt Montoya

Unless you’re a dedicated film buff or award show junkie, you probably didn’t know that the first Oscars of the 2009 season were awarded last weekend. In a bold experimental move by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the traditional honorary award Oscars were handed out in a separate, non-televised ceremony on Sunday.

Honorary Oscars were awarded to actress Lauren Bacall, cinematographer Gordon Willis and director/producer Roger Corman in a ceremony dedicated to celebrating career achievements.

The decision to move the honorary awards to a different night than the traditional Oscar telecast in March is one of a few experimental moves that will shape this upcoming awards season already full of extremely interesting races.

Perhaps Oscar’s producers finally realized that many viewers, even movie buffs, thought the honorary awards were some of the most boring sections of a ceremony that continually suffers from feeling long and drawn-out. In that respect, the Academy should be lauded for trying to trim the well-intentioned but almost always exhausting ceremony.

But a couple weeks ago, it was announced that two comedians would host this year’s show, inevitably adding length to the show through silly skits and forced celebrity jabs. Although the appointed hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin are more than qualified to entertain, it will be interesting to see what having two hosts does for the ceremony.

The most surprising change in the 2010 Academy Awards race was the decision to expand the Best Picture category to 10 nominations instead of the previous five. Theoretically this gives more mainstream and popular movies recognition in the top category.

In fact, some critics have been lobbying already for Pixar’s massive summer hit “Up” to receive a Best Picture nomination. If there’s ever a chance for a mainstream film to make it in a category often dominated by art house films seen by few, this is it.

Though the Academy’s move to 10 nominations most likely spawned from a variety of reasons, almost certainly the fact that the ceremony’s ratings have been steadily declining the last few years played a large part.

When “The Dark Knight” failed to score a Best Picture nomination last year, it was used as the basis of reasoning why more casual movie fans don’t watch the Academy Awards: The movies they loved aren’t celebrated often enough.

The argument is not that the awards don’t go to deserving recipients, but rather that they often go to movies or performances not widely distributed to theaters nationwide, where they otherwise would have been seen by many, causing interest in the show to plummet.

Ideally, the new 10-nomination Best Picture category will include some more popular movies to increase interest, ratings and the entertainment factor of the ceremony. Several Oscar prediction sites gauging film’s chances at Oscar gold foresee nominations for popular box office hits, including “Inglorious Basterds,” “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Star Trek.”

Furthermore, the much-hyped upcoming December releases of Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones” and James Cameron ground-breaking special-effects piece “Avator” could also become popular contenders for this year’s race.

Oscar season is an exciting one for movie fans everywhere, and with the wide array of fascinating upcoming releases and the expanded Best Picture category, it’s sure to be a competitive race once again.

It is much too early to start making predictions, but either way this year’s producers are taking a few risks to try to get some more solid audience ratings.

My hopes are high, but only time will tell whether it turns this year’s ceremony into a jumbled fiasco or a successful revamp.

Entertainment columnist Matt Montoya’s column runs every other Wednesday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to verve@collegian.com.

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