The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences made some rule changes today that are likely to affect the kinds of films we see earn nominations. The biggest change will hit the animation branch. Under normal academy rules, each branch selects its own nominees, and then the entire academy votes on nominees (the exception is for Best Picture where everyone in every branch votes for Best Picture nominees). It allows experts to choose the best work, and then offer the entire academy the chance to select the best of the best.
But Variety reports that now Best Animated Feature will be treated like Best Picture in that anyone can vote for any nominee. Per the Academy:
“Invitations to join the nominating committee will be sent to all active Academy members, rather than a select craft-based group,” the Academy said. “Voting in the nominations round will now be preferential instead of based on a numerical scoring system. Members participating on the nominating committee may view films in their theatrical runs or at other screenings, through the Academy’s streaming site or on DVDs/screeners to qualify to vote.”
This is going to strike a major blow to the category’s diversity. While I still think they blew it by snubbing The LEGO Movie back in 2015, the fact remains that they strike a good balance between studio fare and indies. Most people won’t have heard of films like Song of the Sea or My Life as a Zucchini, but an Oscar nomination can help raise the profiles of those films.
With voting now open to the entire body, the studios have far more power because their films have wider distribution. It wouldn’t shock me if we’re hearing nominations for The Boss Baby and Despicable Me 3 next year.
Additionally, the Academy has changed the rules in the documentary category. Multi-part and limited series documentaries are no longer eligible. Had this rule been in place last year, Ezra Edelman’s astounding O.J. Made in America wouldn’t have even been considered let alone victorious. While I understand why they made the change, it makes me wonder if this will suppress recognition of valuable work or if another awards body like the Emmys will step up and acknowledge long-form documentary filmmaking.