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The Winds of Change Blow Through the Academy of Motion Pictures

Oscar Hot off of the heels of the announcement that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is increasing their Best Picture nomination cap from five to ten, the organization announced yesterday that there would be two more new changes to the rulebooks -- further ruining the image of the Academy as a stagnant, over-conservative group.

The most significant change drops the minimum number of required nominees in the "Best Music - Original Song" category, actually making it possible to have no nominees for the category in any given year if no songs meet the newly-modified requirements. The second change eliminates the presentation of the three "testimonial" awards during the Oscar telecast, and moves them to a newly created awards dinner held in November.

The "Best Music - Original Song" category is compiled through a music "bake off" of sorts in which voters are made to watch clips of the potential nominees as they are used in their respective movies. Then they rate the song on a scale from six to ten. The new rules require the songs to have an average rating of 8.25 in order to get nominated. If none of the songs meet this requirement, then the category is eliminated for that year. If only one song manages to get the 8.25, then the next highest score is nominated as well. Originally the category had a minimum of three nominees and a maximum of five, but this now allows two (or zero) nominees.

Some may think this as an overzealous attempt to preserve the integrity of the category. The draconian requirements don't even address the main problem of the process, which is that all of the songs are viewed entirely out of context. What if the song was played during the credits (i.e. Bruce Springsteen's "The Wrestler"), but is better musically and connects more with the film than a song accompanied by an elaborate dance scene (think Slumdog Millionaire)? Voters are more likely to rate the dance song higher, because they may have not seen the rest of the movie.

The "testimonial" awards include the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, and the honorary Oscar for career achievement. The change to the presentation of these awards is meant to trim down the length of the three-plus hour ceremony, as the introduction of five more Best Picture nominees will add a lengthy bit of new content to the show.

-- Peter Belfiore

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