So here's the thing.
It was a big surprise when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced back last June that they were going to be having ten Best Picture nominees for this year's Oscars, rather than the five nominees that have been standard for the last sixty-odd years. The main reason for the change was to address concerns that the films being nominated just had no popular appeal, and that the nominations were going to more elitist films rather than popular entertainments. Just look at last year, when nominations went to films about a gay local politician or one guy interviewing another guy, while at the same time a well-made and hugely popular Batman film was completely ignored. Reduced viewerships for the Oscars were blamed on that fact - no-one is watching the Oscars because most people haven't even heard of Slumdog Millionaire, while not even the host of the Oscars saw The Reader, and therefore no-one cares enough about the films being nominated to see which one wins. Hopefully an expanded list of nominees would allow for some of the bigger popular films to get on the list, and therefore hopefully prompt fans of these films to watch the ceremony.
And it does seem to have worked - of the ten nominated films, five have grossed over $US100m. While the list does feature a number of the usual smaller, lower-profile films, there are a lot of films that people will have heard of and most likely seen. But the funny thing is that it wasn't necessary. It's easy to identify the five films that would have been nominated in any normal year, and of those five films, two (Avatar and Inglourious Basterds) were genuinely popular hits with a substantial fanbase. In other words, they expanded the number of nominees to allow for the inclusion of more popular films in a year when the popular films were going to be nominated anyway.
[Comments on all ten Best Picture films - Avatar; The Hurt Locker; Up In The Air; Precious (Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire); Inglourious Basterds; A Serious Man; Up; District 9; The Blind Side; and An Education - after the jump.]