Expanding the “Best Picture” pool to ten

Here is the story.  With five entries there are usually only two or maybe three real contenders.  Strategic voting is present but manageable.  There can be split votes across a particular actor or genre.  With ten entries it is much harder to tell which picture will win.  Counterintuitively, it might be harder for "odd" pictures to be nominated because they might end up winning.  Popular movies like The Dark Knight will win more often because it will be hard not to nominate them (it didn't even receive a nomination).  The net incentive is to encourage florid and unusual blockbusters with both dedicated followings and lots of commercial success.  The semi-serious and historically proper puffy bloated movie probably will be discouraged.  Is that trade-off so terrible?

Nominating so many pictures was common in the 1930s and 40s and it did not have obviously disastrous consequences.

Here is a previous post on how an economist should think about the Academy Awards.


Despite the hype, Heath Ledger's performance was the best I've seen in the last couple years. I went into it with lot of skepticism and was blown away. The director turned the super-hero action genre on its head into the most dramatic and suspenseful film of any type in years. The sound was incredible. It was plausible. That the Dark Knight doesn't win is criminally insane.

Dark Knight should have been nominated, but I think the real slight happened to Wall-E. Wall-E was maybe the best reviewed film of that year and in it's own way completely audacious with it's more or less dialog free and very meditative first act. To contrast the curious case of Benjamin Button was a good representitive of the type of film that is over represented in the awards: superficially ambitious, prestigious, epic in scope, beautiful, but sort of empty. Not a bad film, but just sort of dull and silly.

I think the views of the people who nominate pictures have separated from the views of the majority of Americans. So I suspect that more message pictures (Michael Moore) will make it to the final top ten. Perhaps more blockbuster films (based on box office) will make the final ten but so will more pictures with a political agenda.

In the end the Academy Award ceremonies may look even more like a meeting of gay liberals for socialism and politically correct wars. Not that there is anything wrong with that, if that is what you enjoy.

Wouldn't economists say no academy member should vote, since the margin will inevitably be more than 1?

This will only work if there is a run-off. A plurality winner could have 10.000000001% of the vote.

Why a Borda count? There are lots of other "alternative" voting systems (I like instant runoff voting more).

But for all of them there will be weird situations where the winner is "unintuitive" (like the Brokeback Mountain example). Borda count doesn't change that.

I think I'd prefer it if they said "we're going to have between five and ten Best Picture nominees, depending on the quality of films that year." Sort of like what the NFL hall of fame does where every year there is a minimum and maximum number of inductees and a threshold is set in the voting for induction. Because the nomination vote totals aren't released, AMPAS can game the system to maximize whatever goal it has in mind. I realize the way campaigning goes, the result will be closer to ten than five in any given year, but at least it'd be easier to pretend that all the films deserve to be there if the academy was able to nominate a tenth film but didn't.

I think that the best animated feature category has a variable number of nominees. The rule is based on how many animated features were released. So it's not the same rule, but it's a precedent for a variable number of nominees

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