Oscars Doubling Best Picture Nominees

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided Wednesday to double the number of Best Picture nominees from five to 10. Sid Ganis, president of the academy, explains the move.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

There is news today that means Hollywood's biggest night will be even longer. Next year, the Academy Awards will have 10 nominees for Best Picture, not five.

The president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Sid Ganis, joins us from Beverly Hills to explain the decision. Mr. Ganis, why double the Best Picture nominees?

Mr. SID GANIS (President, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences): Well, first of all, I think that Hollywood's biggest night will be bigger, not necessarily longer.

BLOCK: Okay. Well, that's a relief.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GANIS: And we've been thinking about it for a while. For one thing, it does have a precedent. In the 1930s and the 1940s, the Best Picture category had 10 nominees in it. One of those years, it had 12 nominees. Another year, it had eight nominees. So, we were going back to something we had done before. And the other reason is it felt to us that it would broaden the spectrum, open the nominating possibilities to movies in more genres.

You know, a documentary film might be nominated for Best Picture. A, you know, big action movie might be nominated. God knows, a comedy might be nominated, an unthinkable thing. Everybody says the Academy never nominates comedies. So, those were among the reasons.

BLOCK: Well, 60-some years ago, when the Academy decided, you know, let's not do 10, let's do five, there must have been a pretty good reason for it. It's been five ever since.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GANIS: Yes, it has been five ever since, since 1944 I think. And I wondered about that. Actually, I went back into the minutes because we do have the minutes from all those board meetings.

BLOCK: Lucky you.

Mr. GANIS: We've got them, but there was no clue exactly why they went to five. SO - but it stayed five for years and years and years, and now we're back to 10. And who knows, maybe it'll be a very good thing. I have a feeling it will.

BLOCK: Well, you know, a cynic - and I'm not going to reveal whether I'm in this category - a cynic would say I would have to think extremely hard to find 10 movies that I think were Oscar-caliber for Best Picture from any given year.

Mr. GANIS: Well, you know, of course, that there were five that people thought about for last year. But then, people talked about it, Academy members, you know, voters talked about other films that might have been nominated.

People would say, well, why wasn't "Iron Man" nominated? I would have nominated "Iron Man." Why wasn't "Batman…

BLOCK: "The Dark Knight."

Mr. GANIS: …"The Dark Knight" nominated? What happened to great…

BLOCK: Well, what do you say? They wouldn't have a list of five they thought should be nominated, maybe one or two.

Mr. GANIS: Yeah, maybe, maybe. Maybe a foreign film might pop in in somebody's thoughts as a picture that should be nominated. Who knows? There was a comedy that people talked about. People talked about "Tropic Thunder." You know, it came up enough times for us to think this might be the right thing these days.

BLOCK: Well, there are going to be at least many more movie ads now that can trumpet: Nominated for Best Picture, at the very least.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GANIS: Yes, they will. That's not our problem. You know, we're the arts organization. We're concerned with excellence. But yep, I guess there's a business component to it, as well, no hiding that.

BLOCK: And I'd still think the ceremony is going to be longer. If Billy Crystal comes back, that opening sequence is going to be huge. It will go on forever. There's going to be 10 movies in there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GANIS: Yeah, yes, there are all 10 movies, not five. Well, we'll see. But we are going to do 10, and we're happy, and we're really excited about that.

BLOCK: Well, Sid Ganis, thanks for talking to us.

Mr. GANIS: You're welcome, Melissa.

BLOCK: Sid Ganis, the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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