Will Ten Best Picture Nominees Really Help Oscar Ratings?

The fallout continues today over yesterday’s expansion of the Oscars’ Best Picture category to accommodate ten movies. And whether you place specific blame on the Academy’s failure to nominate The Dark Knight last year (like many do) or exclusively on poor Marion Cotillard (like the L.A. Times does this morning), most agree that this is a bid by AMPAS to improve the show’s ratings, which have been low ever since they stopped giving awards to movies like Braveheart. But will it actually work? Looking ahead at this year’s probable contenders, we sort of doubt it! The only 2009 shoo-in released so far is Pixar’s Up. But, like we noted yesterday, just because the snobby Academy has ten slots to fill doesn’t mean it’ll recognize popcorn movies. So what else might get nominated?

Despite murmurs of a weak field this year, a look at recent lists from Variety and the Wrap reveals that voters will still have enough traditional awards-baiting movies to keep them from having to write “Star Trek” on their ballots.

What’s lacking on the release schedule are big, populist Dark Knight-y movies that seem like they might win over both critics and audiences. Avatar might save movie theaters, but does it really seem like a Best Picture? We doubt it. How about Funny People, Judd Apatow’s cancer comedy? We suppose it has a shot, but we’re not holding our breath.

Below is our (probably wrong!) list of likely 2009 Best Picture nominees, only two of which we’ve actually seen:

Up, The Hurt Locker, Clint Eastwood’s Nelson Mandela movie, Invictus, Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, John Hillcoat’s The Road, Soderbergh’s The Informant, the Oprah-endorsed Precious, Rob Marshall’s Nine, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Biutiful, and Mira Nair’s Hilary Swank-starring Amelia.

And if any of those films should disappoint, there are still a dozen other Oscar-y pedigreed movies waiting to take their place. Of this much we can be pretty sure: It’ll be Up (which would’ve been featured on the Academy Awards telecast anyway, since it’ll win Best Animated Film) and nine movies whose combined gross will probably be dwarfed by what Transformers 2 earns this weekend. Plus, the ceremony will be even longer than usual. So good luck with that, ABC!

Will Ten Best Picture Nominees Really Help Oscar Ratings?