As someone who has watched all* of the Oscar-nominated movies for the last four years, if I could make some additional rules for the Oscars, they would look like this:
- A category needn’t nominate a certain number of movies if there aren’t enough qualified movies to fill the category. I’m looking at you, Animated Features. This year, all of the movies nominated for Animated Feature were mediocre. Perhaps only three animated movies this year deserved to be able to say they were Oscar-nominated: Wreck-It Ralph, Frankenweenie, and Brave (and really, I’m just including Brave because it won. It wasn’t a good movie, and it sucked even more because it was a Pixar movie, and Pixar should do better than put out a mediocre movie). ParaNorman wasn’t terrible, but it certainly doesn’t deserve the “Oscar-nominated” title. Pirates! Band of Misfits WAS terrible. Please, Academy, don’t feel like you have to nominate five movies just because there are five slots. Have some standards. [So, after doing some research on this category, I've found what I think is the problem. Animated movies are scored numerically by committee members, with 10 = excellent, 8 = good, and 7 = fair. A film has to have an average score of 7.5 in order to be nominated. In my view, movies that can only be described as "somewhere between fair and good" have no business being nominated for Oscars. Ideally, all nominated movies would be excellent or very good, but I can see how some movies that are just "good" might slip in. But really, movies where the average vote is less than "good" simply are not worthy of the honor of having an Oscar nom to their credit.]
- In order for an Academy member to be able to vote in a category, they need to have seen all the movies in that category. Otherwise, it just becomes even more of a popularity contest than it already is. Seeing every movie in a category should be a minimum qualification to be able to vote in that category. The Foreign Language category has this standard, and it adds an additional element of integrity to the category. If it’s not too difficult for me to see all of the nominated movies in a category, surely it’s not too difficult to ask the Academy members — who often get free DVD screeners of the movies mailed to them — who want to vote for movies in that category to do the same.
- No presenter should be associated with a film that is nominated for the category in which he or she is presenting. The cast of The Avengers, including Samuel L. Jackson, presented for Best Visual Effects, for which The Avengers was a nominee, and for Cinematography, for which Django Unchained was a nominee. I don’t want to feel like the presenters have a horse in the race. It really wouldn’t be that hard to mix up the presenters and the categories.
- All of the nominated movies should be available to be seen prior to the Oscars, whether in the movie theater or released on DVD. Because I live in DC, I’m able to see all of the Foreign Language nominees at National Geographic and all of the Documentary Features at the National Archives. Two of the short film categories — animated and live action — have been available in other theaters for a few years, and for the second year in a row, a local theater has also played the documentary shorts. Nevertheless, there are generally a small handful of movies that I am not able to view through Netflix, On Demand, or in the theater each year. I — and I believe others — would be willing to pay to see these movies in some form. Please make that an option for us.
- Make a damn decision already on whether to have performances for all the nominated Original Songs. The nominated songs traditionally have been performed at the Oscars since 1946, with only three exceptions: 1989, 2010, and 2012 (thus depriving me the pleasure of seeing Jason Segel, Jim Parsons, and some Muppets together on stage at the Oscars). Making the decisions on whether to have the performances on an ad-hoc, year-by-year basis makes it seem as though the Academy is making a judgment call on which songs are worthy of being performed. Either all Oscar-nominated songs are worthy of being performed at the Oscars, or none of them are. But you know what NOT to do? Don’t perform some of them live (“Skyfall”, “Suddenly”, and “Everybody Needs A Best Friend”), and then just play a few second snips of the other two on the big screen at the Oscars. It’s in bad taste.
*I’ve missed about half a dozen films in these four years, mostly because they were not available via Netflix, On Demand, in theater, or elsewhere. I missed it this year by one movie (damn you, Chasing Ice!) and last year by two movies (I think). The prior year I successfully (though not easily) saw all of them.