This year, though, with the Oscars expanding its best picture race to a field to 10, the Academy members’ tastes and preferences will match up directly with the members of the HFPA in the number of nominees available.
Not surprisingly, many believe the group’s drama nominees will cross over, while the comedies will face a tougher road.
There are certain things that Academy members have traditionally looked for in a best picture nominee,” says Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker. “I’m not sure a movie like ‘The Hangover’ has those elements.”
The HFPA’s drama nominees show up on many Oscar prognosticators; lists, but of the musical-comedy selections, it’s difficult to say if any of the films will make the Acad’s 10.
Historically, the Globes’ musical-comedy nominees have rarely found favor with Academy voters. Last year, none of the nominees made the final list, including the winner, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” In 2007, only “Juno” broke through. And, for the remaining years of the decade, the list includes just seven musicals and comedies — “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Ray,” “Sideways,” “Lost in Translation,” “Chicago,” “Moulin Rouge” and “Chocolat.”
Traditionally when you had five Oscar nominees, you’d have maybe one comedy or music-heavy movie cross over,” says a veteran awards-season publicist. “This year, with 10 movies, who knows? You might get a couple of comedies, maybe an animated movie or maybe just more of the same.”
Part of the great unknown is whether the expanded ballot will prompt some Academy members to change their voting philosophies.
I think it will, simply because it’s human nature,” says Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz. “The smaller the list, the more careful you are. Now some will think, ‘I love “Star Trek,” and you know what? I’m going to put it on there.’ And they can do that without feeling like they’re cheating some gem.”
By that logic, “Star Trek” or another critical and commercial sci-fi success, “District 9,” could make the Academy’s list. Other movies ignored by the HFPA that might find some Oscar love include pics such the Coen brothers’ “A Serious Man,” Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus” the coming-of-age story “An Education” or tony period pieces such as “Bright Star” and “The Last Station.”
It wasn’t a particularly good year to double the size of the best picture list,” observes one Academy member. “You’ve got some good movies, but most were largely ignored by audiences. And you’ve got ‘Avatar.’ Is there room for ‘Avatar’ and ‘District 9’ and ‘Star Trek’? I just don’t think voters have that kind of populist mindset.”
Pixar’s CG-animated adventure “Up” didn’t make the HFPA’s list, only because animated movies have their own category and are thus ineligible. While the Oscars have an animated movie category as well, no restrictions stop Academy voters from placing “Up” or, say, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” in the best picture category.
It has been a tremendous year for animated movies,” says film critic Leonard Maltin, citing “Coraline” and “Ponyo” along with the other titles mentioned. “You can’t help but think one of these films will be nominated.”
One final underdog contender not nominated by the HFPA that could make the Academy’s list is “Crazy Heart,” featuring Jeff Bridges’ down-and-out country singer Bad Blake.
People love Jeff Bridges, and that has bought the movie a lot of good will, too,” says an awards insider. “Seeing it nominated this year, with a field of 10, wouldn’t be at all shocking.”