Big Changes To The Academy Awards Could Be Coming Next Week

The Academy Awards are once again under fire, as they are every single year, for their lack of ethnic diversity, but this time the uproar is louder than ever.  Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, and others are either not attending the event as a form of protest or are seriously considering it, with more weighing in on the subject every day. Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs has promised drastic change would come, but it's something we've heard a lot but seen little action on. Well, that change may be coming.

The New York Times is reporting that the Academy's 51-member board is meeting next Tuesday to discuss changes to the Oscars, with at least one announcement to come from the discussions.  One change that is likely to occur is sticking to a hard 10 nominations for Best Picture, rather than the "up to 10" rule they've been going with the last few years. This year they went with 8 nominees, and took heat for leaving off films like Straight Outta Compton and Creed, which many saw as deserving. 

Another possibility, which seems a little unlikely at this point, is opening up the acting categories to more nominees, maybe as many as ten.  That would allow more diversity, potentially, into the awards but the current system has been in place for decades and will be tough to change. Of course, this is working under the assumption that an expansion somehow guarantees more diversity when it actually doesn't guarantee anything, and may actually do more damage as a whole.

The smarter solution, in my opinion, may be to add a "Best Ensemble" category similar to the Golden Globes. It would be easy to argue that Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, both nominated in Best Supporting categories for Spotlight, never should have been included since that film is an ensemble piece with no clear stand-outs. That would have left the door open for Idris Elba to get in for Beasts of No Nation, which many see as one of this year's biggest snubs. 

One change the Academy is considering that could be huge is temporarily revoking the voting privileges of members who don't vote regularly or who haven't been working over the last 10 or 20 years.  But that would be a tough move to make as it would inevitably affect industry veterans, and could even lead to lawsuits. In other words: don't count on that happening.

We'll see what the results are in a few days, but the Academy needs to do something quickly. As the report notes, next year we may see even less diversity since many high-profile African-American filmmakers have moved on to blockbusters or TV series.