CATEGORIES Hot Topic, Oscar News
Sandra Bullock in The Blind SideAs I have been predicting here for weeks, the decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to double the number of Best Picture nominees from 5 to 10 would put some unworthy movies on the ballot -- and the mischief was worse than I imagined. Among the 10 movies that will forever be identified as Academy Award nominees is 'The Blind Side,' one of the lowest critically rated movies ever to appear on the ballot.

On Metacritic.com, where the nation's leading professional movie critics' reviews are gathered and weighted, 'The Blind Side' scored just 54 out of 100. Sandra Bullock's nomination for Best Actress for 'The Blind Side' was a generous enough nod to that audience-pleasing blockbuster. Sandra Bullock in The Blind SideAs I have been predicting here for weeks, the decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to double the number of Best Picture nominees from 5 to 10 would put some unworthy movies on the ballot -- and the mischief was worse than I imagined. Among the 10 movies that will forever be identified as Academy Award nominees is 'The Blind Side,' one of the lowest critically rated movies ever to appear on the ballot.

On Metacritic.com, where the nation's leading professional movie critics' reviews are gathered and weighted, 'The Blind Side' scored just 54 out of 100. Sandra Bullock's nomination for Best Actress for 'The Blind Side' was a generous enough nod to that audience-pleasing blockbuster.

But the Academy poo-bahs must be dancing in their loafers. They doubled the field for exactly this reason: to get a nomination for popular movie that would normally not be in contention. The idea is that casual moviegoers who don't always watch the Oscars telecast now have a rooting interest. Good job, guys, you're now competing with the People's Choice Awards.

Otherwise, the big news among the nominations announced this morning was the failure of 'Avatar' to top 'Star Wars' as the most honored sci-fi movie of all time. 'Star Wars' received 10 nominations in 1978, winning six of them in craft categories. But 'Avatar' (whose nine nominations are tied with 'Hurt Locker''s to lead the field) and fellow Best Picture nominee 'District 9,' join a very small club; they are only the fourth and fifth sci-fi movies ever nominated for Best Picture. If either one wins on March 7, it will be the only sci-fi movie ever to win the Academy's most important award.

But here's a footnote to remember: 'District 9,' a clever blend of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' and 'The Fly,' has an Oscar nomination on its resume while Stanley Kubrick's 1969 '2001: A Space Odyssey,' regarded by many as the most original and greatest sci-fi movie of them all, does not.

Avatar'Avatar's' nominations include two for Cameron, as the movie's producer and director; but as it happened in 1998, his peers in the writers branch of the Academy snubbed his screenplay for a nomination. He can take solace in the fact that 'Titanic' went on to become the third movie in the last 75 years to overcome that omission (the others were 'The Sound of Music' and -- understandably, given its source -- 'Hamlet'), but Cameron can be forgiven for taking the snubs personally.

Overall, the Oscar voters leveled the playing field here for several movies. Kathryn Bigelow's 'The Hurt Locker,' generally regarded as 'Avatar's' main competition for Best Picture and Director, received nine nominations, and Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglourious Basterds' had eight. Jason Reitman's 'Up in the Air' and Lee Daniel's 'Precious' each had six.

As has been obvious for weeks, there are really only five movies in contention for the big prize, which makes this the worst possible year for doubling the ballot. Those five are the top nominee-getters 'Avatar,' 'Inglourious Basterds,' 'The Hurt Locker,' 'Up in the Air' and 'Precious.' Besides 'The Blind Side' and 'District 9,' the bottom of the ballot was filled out with the Pixar animated feature 'Up,' the Coen Brothers' 'A Serious Man,' and the British coming-of-age drama 'An Education.'

'The Blind Side' knocked Clint Eastwood's 'Invictus' off the ballot. Tsk, tsk.

Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy HeartThere were no major surprises in the acting categories, though Maggie Gyllenhaal's Supporting Actress nomination acknowledges the rising tide of voter admiration for Scott Cooper's 'Crazy Heart,' whose star Jeff Bridges is odds-on favorite to win the Oscar for Best Actor. 'Crazy Heart' also received a nomination for Original Song ('The Weary Kind'). Conspicuous by its absence on that ballot was 'Avatar's' 'I See You,' a ballad very similar to 'My Heart Will Go On,' the winning theme song from 'Titanic.'

Whether 'Avatar' goes on to win the Oscar for Best Picture or not, it has captured the hearts of Academy voters in the way 'Titanic' did. Given the gargantuan -- or should I say, titanic -- size of Cameron's ego, this is probably not how he expected the day to go. But with 'Avatar' within a day or two of passing 'Titanic's' domestic box office record of $601 million (it's already set the worldwide record of more than $2 billion), he'll just have to cry all the way to the bank.