The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences set some new rules for the 2018 Oscars season last night and the biggest clarification was in the Best Documentary Category.
In a press release this morning, the Academy noted, “In the Documentary categories, multi-part or limited series are not eligible for awards consideration. The Documentary Branch Executive Committee will resolve all questions of eligibility and rules.” Translation: “Members and nominees were pissed a 6-hour made for TV documentary – ‘O.J.: Made in America’ – was eligible and won because its not a movie. This won’t happen again.” With the definition of what type of content something actually is becoming more and more blurred in this digital age this is a move by the Documentary branch to clean house a bit. If the Academy was really smart they would also allow more than five nominees to qualify like in the traditional Best Picture category, but that’s a fight for another day.
There were announcements to changes in the Animated Feature Film, Best Picture and Original Score categories as well. There was also a clarification regarding campaigning. Let’s consider them all based on how these changes were presented by the Academy to the public.
“For the first time, nominations voting in the Animated Feature Film category will be opened up to the entire eligible voting membership. Invitations to join the nominating committee will be sent to all active Academy members, rather than a select craft-based group. 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.”
What it means: This is intriguing because there have been non-craft based members who voted in the nominations in years past (I know someone who participated this past year), but you had to lobby with the committee to participate (it’s a similar process for Foreign Language Film). Clearly, the idea here is to foster a larger voting pool and – with the preferential system – to potentially allow more well known nominees into the mix. At first glance this seems like an unnecessary politically motivated move. Yes, art house animated films were nominated over well known blockbusters in years past, but most would argue there were few snubs based on actual quality. For instance, are “My Life as a Zucchini” and “The Red Turtle” more worthy films than “Finding Nemo,” “The Secret Life of Pets” or “Sing”? Absolutely. Why the Academy felt the need to make these changes is honestly… suspicious.
“In the Best Picture category, in determining the number of producers eligible for nomination, a bona fide team of not more than two people shall be considered to be a single “producer” if the two individuals have had an established producing partnership as determined by the Producers Guild of America (PGA) Producing Partnership Panel. Final determination of the qualifying producer nominees for each nominated picture will be made by the Academy’s Producers Branch Executive Committee.”
What it means: When the Academy originally limited the number of producers eligible for Best Picture it was intended to avoid rewarding producers who either acted just as financiers or were attached contractually to a picture at one point but were never truly part of the final product. The problem was by limiting it to three it often caused a firestorm of frustration and behind-the-scenes discontent as some worthy producers were not granted a formal nomination. To understand how this change might work all you need to do is look at the producers of this year’s Oscar winning film, “Moonlight.” There were technically only three producers on that film, but Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner (who also won for “12 Years A Slave“) work as a team. In theory, a third producer could have been submitted along side the pair and Adele Romanski under this rule change.
“In the Music (Original Score) category, in the case of a score that has three or more equally contributing composers, the composers may be considered as a group. If the score wins the Original Score award, the group would receive a single statuette.”
What it means: Boy, this is a silly decision by the music branch. Basically, this change allows composers who work for other composers (see Hans Zimmer) to be recognized. The fact only one statue would be handed out, however, basically sucks. That will likely dissuade the main composer from allowing this to happen. Maybe.
“Prior to nominations, Academy members may not be invited to or attend any lunch, dinner or other catered affair that promotes an eligible film for awards consideration that is not associated with a screening. This does not prohibit reasonable food and beverage from being provided at screening venues or at an adjacent location immediately before or after the screening. This change is part of the continuing effort to address the issue of excessive campaigning and keeping the attention on the movies themselves.”
What it means: This is sort of head scratching because it appears to be the same rule that was put in place for last season. For example, studios and consultants have used lunches to allow potential nominees to campaign with members for a number of years, but beginning last year were extra careful to make sure there was a screening associated with the event beforehand. Did someone break this rule and the Academy is just sending out a formal reminder? Or is the Academy saying the locations need to be immediately adjacent to the theater? If this pundit isn’t sure, you can bet every consultant in town is wondering too.
For those wondering about the next item for business on the Academy’s offseason calendar it’s the public invitation for new members to join the organization. That traditionally occurs at the end of June.
The 90th Academy Awards will be handed out on March 4, 2018.