Well, as the first wave of awards have settled in, we can be very confident of one thing. These will be your ten Academy Award nominated films for Best Picture:

An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglorious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

There you have it. The least exciting Best Picture nominations race in Oscar history. And we have the Academy to thank for it. As we all know, the Academy decided earlier this year to expand the Best Picture field from five to ten nominees. And now, we are starting to see some of the consequences.

The list of ten films above may look a little familiar for those who follow the Oscars seriously. It is the same ten films nominated for Best Picture by the Broadcast Film Critics. The Broadcast top ten follows the National Board of Review top ten. In the old days, there would be considerable intrigue at this point because out of numerous top ten lists, only five films, the best five, would ultimately make the cut. Not the case anymore. Because of the Academy’s decision, virtually EVERY serious Best Picture contender is assured of a nomination.

Think about it. What is more exciting, deciding between The Reader or The Dark Knight for the fifth Best Picture slot, or deciding between Julie and Julia and A Serious Man for number ten. Few people will care about the latter, because ultimately, neither film will have a prayer of a chance to win the big prize.

The Academy is right that expanding the field of nominees rewards good films, but what it fails to do is DISTINGUISH them. Every year there will likely be around ten worthy Best Picture films. The problem is now, there is no distinction between #2 and #10. The Hurt Locker will be in exactly the same class of nominees as Up. Should that really be the case?

While the nominees may be obvious, we still have a suspenseful Best Picture race when it comes to the winner. Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker seem to be ahead of the field, but don’t count out Avatar and Precious. Stay tuned as the Broadcast critics and Hollywood Foreign Press announce early next year. Happy holidays from all of us!