Some gain, some lose from 10 nominee expansion

The June 24 announcement that the 82nd Academy Awards will feature 10 best-pic nominees will have profound effects — positive, negative and, yes, baffling — on Hollywood.

The most obvious potential upside: More films will have the potential to capitalize on noms at the box office and throughout their long ancillary life.

But there will be a far bigger impact on bizzers with skin in the game, as well as peripheral players.

  • Directors’ egos: When there were only five contenders for best pic, usually at least one director of that quintet missed out on a nomination. That often led to the “Did the film direct itself?” quip, which journos and pundits inevitably trotted out. Now, at least five films will see their helmers shut out, so that’s good, in the misery-loves-company sense. Also good: there will be an end to that chestnut. Scary thought: Reporters will feel the need to create a new cliche for the wider field.

  • Stressed studio execs: The expansion to 10 nominees has already increased the tsouris of some honchos who fret they’ll have to spend even more on awards campaigns. (Apparently some believe all the films on their slate will be serious contenders, missing the point that the expansion theoretically opens up the race to new players.)

  • Pundits and prognosticators: The “what might have been” guessing game has already started, as people try to figure out what film would have been included if there had been 10 films in recent years: Would “The Incredibles” or “The Passion of the Christ” have made the cut in 2004? “Dreamgirls” in 2006? “The Dark Knight” and “Wall-E” last year?

  • Voting members of the Academy: They will have the exhausting task of filling in 10 blank lines on the nom ballot, twice the work of past years. But there’s also likely to be more questioning of members’ choices. At last week’s press conference, Academy prez Sid Ganis expressed hope that the expanded list will make room for feature toons, docus, foreign-language films, indies and the oft-overlooked comedies. That’s the optimistic view. On the other hand, what if last year’s race had featured 10 noms and the extra slots were taken by “Doubt,” “Revolutionary Road,” et al. — and “The Dark Knight” was still shut out? As Ricky Ricardo would say, “Voters, you got some ‘splainin’ to do.”

Of course there’s one group whose track record can only be helped by a 10-noms roster: bloggers.

They love to predict the Oscar chances of films, even before lensing is completed, so the expanded roster doubles their chances to correctly predict the films that make the Acad’s short — but not as short as it was — list.

See, in Hollywood bigger is better.

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