I didn't have anything beyond what was obvious to say about the decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to expand the Best Picture field from five to ten starting next year. The changes announced today are much more interesting. First, the Best Song rule changes:
The music branch annually conducts a "bake-off" in which voters see clips of eligible songs as they are used in each film. The voters then rate a song on a scale of 6 to 10. Under the new ruling, if no song earns 8.25, there will be no nominations. If at least one hits that magic number, it will be nominated, as will the second-highest scorer.
(Previous rules had specified three to five nominees, and the new rules say the category will still max out at five.)
I don't think that it's that good an idea to create a situation in which there could be no nominees at all in a given category. Even if all the songs in a given year are mediocre, that doesn't mean one of those is not better that the others. So what if it's not as good as some of the past winners? 1994 was a famously weak year for Best Actress, but they still managed to scrape up five nominees.
Also, I think they should have done away with the practice of seeing clips of the songs as they are used in the movie, since it puts songs that appear only in the credits at such a severe disadvantage, albeit not necessarily an insurmountable one, as Peter Gabriel proved just this year. (Though WALL-E did have an unusually entertaining credits roll, which probably gave it an advantage over, say, Bruce Springsteen's song for The Wrestler.)
The other rule change had to do with the presentation of honorary and special awards:
The other move was the board's decision to present the "testimonial" awards -- the Thalberg nod to filmmakers, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and the honorary Oscars for career excellence -- at a black-tie event in November for 500 invited guests, rather than presenting them on the Oscarcast.
... [The] Acad press release pointed out that there will not be more than one Hersholt or Thalberg in any given year, and the maximum will be four tribute awards per year. However, there could be fewer than that.
The move frees up the Academy, which had limited the number of annual honorees due to Oscarcast time considerations. The Acad honorees will be selected and announced in September.
I have mixed feelings about this. As I've said many times before, I think anyone who has earned an Oscar statuette, whether competitive or honorary, should receive their awards during the awards broadcast. On the other hand, there are a good many people every year who receive Oscar statuettes but don't even get mentioned during the awards broadcast, namely the recipients of the Scientific and Technical Awards of Merit. (Not all winners of the Scientific and Technical Awards receive Oscar statuettes; some get plaques or certificates, and there's also also something called the John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation, for "outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy," whatever that means.) The winner of the Gordon E. Sawyer Award also receives an Oscar statuette, but those usually are mentioned during the main awards broadcast by whatever starlet the Academy cajoled into hosting the S & T ceremony that year. So while my preference would be to present all the honorary awards during the awards broadcast, I guess presenting none of them is the next best thing. I imagine the Academy will allow this rule to fall by the wayside right around the same time they decide that Tom Cruise deserves an Irving Thalberg Award, but for now I'm not unhappy with the rule change.