Can BCS Save the Oscars?

Now that the 82nd Academy Award nominations for best picture are in and we are relieved to find that “Nine” is nowhere included among the 10 nominees, Oscar voters can breathe a sigh of relief and face the task at hand: what is the best picture of 2009?

It’s a knotty problem. Do you go with box office behemoth “Avatar,” or spindly little character-driven “An Education?” Should the voters go out on a limb with “The Blind Side” or take a safer route and go with a critics’ darling like “The Hurt Locker?”

On the face of it, the task facing the 5,800 voting members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences seems schizophrenic. Is “Up” better than “Up in the Air?” How do you compare “Inglourious Basterds” to, say, “A Serious Man?” And what about “District 9?”

So, I propose a solution. Scrap the voting and go with a system that not only works, but creates so much happiness and contentment that it is bound to solve Oscar’s dilemma. Adopt college football’s Bowl Championship Series (BCS) format. That way, the big teams (“Avatar,” “The Hurt Locker”) can compete for the National Championship (Best Picture) while throwing a few crumbs to the smaller teams (“An Education,” “A Serious Man”).

Of course, the Academy will need to go to a combination of polls and computers. The polls won’t be difficult. Hire Gallup to poll the Academy voters prior to their vote. See what the mood of the voter is. Did “District 9” play to a tougher audience than, say, “The Blind Side?” How many quality tickets did “Precious” sell compared to “Avatar?” Does having Harvey Weinstein behind your picture grant you a leg up in the standings?

Computers are another issue. Like we say, strength of schedule, tickets sold, foreign tickets sold, reviews on Rotten Tomatoes–these all should be tossed into the mix along with popularity of the producer, box office appeal of the actors, on set demeanor of the directors, and whether the screenwriter was drug free at the time he or she penned the work? All are important for a computer analysis of the best picture.

In case of a tie, those pictures should be viewed in 3-D.

Since we’re talking wholesale reforms, let’s dispense with Oscar campaigning. Do we really care how many interviews Jeff Bridges or Sandra Bullock give? Must we endure Jim Cameron’s insufferable arrogance every decade or so? Do we really care if he was once married to Kathryn Bigelow? And hasn’t Meryl Streep’s closed-eyelid witticisms grown a bit stale?

But back to the BCS. I really think this is the solution. This way, “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker” will vie for best picture at the Oscar Championship Game. ABC can rest assured that “An Education” won’t win and screw up the ratings. “Inglourious Basterds” and “Up” can play in the Fiesta Bowl, “Precious” can take on “Up in the Air” in the Sugar Bowl; “District 9” will battle “The Blind Side” in the Cotton Bowl and, to show we really care about small movies, “An Education” can take on “A Serious Man” in the Poulan Weedeater Bowl.

It all makes perfect sense.

And you can bet it will generate controversy for years to come.

About Robert W. Welkos

Executive Editor: Robert W. Welkos is an award-winning journalist who covered the entertainment industry for 15 years as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. During this span, he wrote extensively about the movie industry from turmoil in the executive suites, the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and box office hits and bombs to visits to movie sets as well as profiles of top stars and A-list directors, cutting edge features on the newest indie films and visits to famous film festivals like Sundance and Cannes. Prior to entertainment, Welkos worked as a reporter and assistant city editor in The Times’ Metro section where he undertook major investigations for the paper as well as covering breaking news and writing in-depth features. Before joining The Times, he worked for the Associated Press in Reno, Nevada, and City News Service in Los Angeles.

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