New Rules (Oscars Edition)

Those who follow this sort of thing might be interested to know that the Academy has tweaked a few of its Oscar rules this year. First, this will be the first year that New York Academy members will have any chance to influence the final five in the best foreign-language category — after the L.A. committee (which watches all 60 submitted films, a task that represents no small time commitment) narrows down a nine-film short list, the process will enter “Phase II,” in which a new committee consisting of 10 members of the original L.A. committee sit down with 10 L.A. Academy members who were not on the original committee as well as 10 New York members to pick the five nominees that will appear on final ballots.

Got it?

Essentially the Academy is trying to get some members involved in the process who haven’t the time, inclination and/or geographical proximity to commit to 60 non-English-language screenings. It’s hard to tell what effect this might have on the final list. Even if New Yorkers have substantially different tastes from their L.A. counterparts, they’ll only make up a third of that second committee. More likely to make a difference is the fact that two-thirds of the decision-makers in the second phase will be more casual viewers — maybe they’re less enthusiastic about unknown quantities, or maybe they’re enthusiasts who are just too busy to make 60 consecutive dates with Oscar. Anyway, whether this ends up making the picks more adventurous or less so, someone in the Academy decided the change was needed.

Gone this year is the requirement that a submitted film must be in an official language of the country submitting it. “So long as the dominant language is not English, a picture from any country may be in any language or combination of languages,” the Academy said in a press release. Any relaxation of arbitrary rules in this category looks like a good thing to me, but I’ve got one question about the “from any country” language above — does this mean the U.S. gets to submit a film? (Hell-o, Mel Gibson’s Apocalyptico?) Or should this more accurately be described as the award for best foreign-language non-U.S. feature film?

The Academy also tightened up some of the docu requirements and knocked the number of films nominated for sound editing from three to five. You can read the full release at the Oscars Web site.

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