When the Academy announced last June that it would be expanding the Best Picture category from five to ten films, my first thought was: maybe The Hurt Locker has a shot to be nominated now. At the time, I was pretty sure I was in for a fight to help promote my favorite film of 2009, but a good buzz took hold and hasn't yet let up. But that first hope was also a good first impulse. Maybe the list of ten nominees would include some of the offbeat films that don't usually get considered. It might be a good chance to nominate the kinds of things that were snubbed in the past: some comedies like Tropic Thunder or Hot Fuzz, or some exceptional summer action movies like The Dark Knight or The Bourne Ultimatum. Or perhaps some odd indie movies like Che or Wendy and Lucy.
But then the reality set in. This would require the Academy to adopt an entirely new way of thinking, not just the simple changing of a number. Indeed, everything that is nominated this year fits a certain criteria; they're not actually picking the best films of the year. They're picking the best of a certain kind of film. It has to be prestigious in some way. It has to be somewhat important, either with a message or in tackling a certain kind of serious problem. If it's a comedy, it has to be a bittersweet comedy and not a flat-out funny comedy. It can't be a genre film unless it's a very long one or a hugely popular one, and it can't be a sequel (or a reboot; hence the snub for Star Trek).