other hits vie with smaller dra­mas for ex­panded Os­car field


cross­ing, and Avatar, a tale of hu­mans and aliens in con­flict on a dis­tant moon.

Ti­tanic did $1.84 bil­lion at the box of­fice world­wide. Just be­fore his new sci-fi epic opened in De­cem­ber, Cameron said, “I don’t ex­pect that kind of per­for­mance out of Avatar.”

Yet Avatar, which won for best drama and di­rec­tor at the Golden Globes, has shot past Ti­tanic, head­ing be­yond $2 bil­lion with plenty of box-of­fice life left in it.

Os­car TV rat­ings typ­i­cally rise when a ma­jor com­mer­cial hit is among the favourites. Ti­tanic dom­i­nated the Os­cars and lured the big­gest TV au­di­ence ever — 55.2 mil­lion view­ers — for Hol­ly­wood’s premier party.

The TV au­di­ence has been well be­low that mark since then, bot­tom­ing out at 32 mil­lion two years ago, when No Coun­try for Old Men was the big win­ner, and com­ing in at 36.3 mil­lion last year, when Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire took best pic­ture.

Os­car or­ga­niz­ers de­cided last sum­mer to dou­ble the best-pic­ture field to 10 movies, say­ing they felt there were more than five wor­thy con­tenders.

The ex­panded best-pic­ture cat­e­gory caught Hol­ly­wood by sur­prise, with film­mak­ers, ac­tors, stu­dio ex­ec­u­tives and oth­ers di­vided over the idea. Some say it opens the Os­cars up to a broader range of films, oth­ers think it might al­low lesser movies to sneak into the best-pic­ture com­pe­ti­tion. Among those with reser­va­tions: — “I’m never up for low­er­ing the stan­dards. Ev­ery one of the nom­i­nees should be able to win best pic­ture, and if that can’t be said, I’m not sure what the rea­son­ing is be­hind it,” said M. Night Shya­malan, who made the 1999 best-pic­ture nom­i­nee The Sixth Sense.

— “It seems like it might take away a lit­tle bit of the ex­clu­siv­ity of be­ing a nom­i­nee out of five, rather than to be a nom­i­nee out of 10,” said Michael Dou­glas, a pro­ducer of 1975 best-pic­ture win­ner One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the 1987 best-ac­tor win­ner for Wall Street.

Among those who think might be a good idea:

“Con­sider crit­ics. No critic has trou­ble com­ing up with a top-10 list,” said The Dark Knight di­rec­tor Christo­pher Nolan, who earned a screen­play nom­i­na­tion for 2001’s Me­mento. ”When you look at the crit­ics’ top-10 lists, they’re broad lists, a lot of dif­fer­ent types of movies. That works very well for crit­ics, and maybe it’ll work for the academy.”

“I be­lieve in a year where you would have Up in the Air and Pre­cious along­side Avatar and Up, I think all it does is bring more at­ten­tion to the smaller films maybe peo­ple wouldn’t see,” said Jake Gyl­len­haal, a 2005 Os­car nom­i­nee for Broke­back Moun­tain.


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