This year the Oscars have changed the Best Picture category from 5 back to 10 nominees. There has been a small amount of debate about whether this is good, bad, or meaningless for the award, so I figured I’d throw in my two cents. About a month ago I heard a story on NPR while driving home from work that came to the defense of the additional nominees. You can find the online version of that story here. Essentially the argument was that it opens up the category to include movies that most Americans have had an opportunity to see and not just the small indie films that have dominated the category in recent years. Thus expanding interest in the awards in general and giving a nod to some of the big blockbuster successes of the year. Besides, there is no harm in recognizing a few more titles that aren’t going to win anyways.
As you might of guessed, I don’t agree. A huge number of films come out each year, both big and small budget. The majority of Americans are only exposed to a small number of them and actually see an even smaller slice. Of those, it is always disproportionately swung in favor of the blockbusters with advertising budgets larger than most films entire budgets. These films are heavy on special effects and stars and usually light on story, character development, and dialog quality.
The Best Picture category is for the films that really excel to have a chance to be singled out from the year’s huge junk pile. By expanding the category back to 10 films with the express purpose of including big budget crap heaps like The Blind Side, you are destroying that distinction. A Best Picture nomination, rather than confirming the average American cinema goer’s opinion, should provide a quality list of movies to expand a movie watcher’s horizons. Now you are going to see The Blind Side sitting on a shelf advertised with the same claim to quality as A Serious Man. This further reduces movie watchers chances of seeing the best movies of the year. When a small film is nominated for Best Picture it usually receives a wider, extended theater release as well as expanded DVD distribution and therefore increased exposure to the American masses. Expanding the field to 10 will be pushing lower quality movies up at the expense of the very best.
When I was a kid and played sports at the YMCA my dad would always be angry that they gave trophies to every kid and not just the champions because it made that trophy meaningless. While it is absolutely absurd to make this distinction in a league of 8 year olds who spend more time picking flowers than paying attention to the soccer ball, this is a serious consequence worth noting for an award toted as the ultimate accomplishment in film. What would you think if the IOC added a 4th, 5th, and 6th place medal to the Olympics so smaller countries would be more interested in watching them?
While there are countless examples of great movies that have been left out over the last 65 years, this year is a perfect example of how this change won’t fix that problem. In my opinion the change is a shameless attempt to boost ratings and in turn advertising revenue for the awards show at the expense of the awards themselves. While it is easy to say doubling the field at worst doesn’t hurt the award and at best creates a stronger list of great films everyone in America will enjoy, I think this is short sighted and just one more way the American film industry is conditioning viewers to accept worse and worse films at higher and higher ticket prices.
Last night I had quite a scare when I thought my external HDD, where I store all of my media, important documents, and past work, was corrupted. I spent about 20 minutes frantically trying to find my files while cursing that I hadn’t backed things up to another location. Eventually I managed to get everything to show back up. Still not sure what the problem was but I am counting it as a blessing and a second chance to learn that I should back things up before I lose them.
So I thought why not write a small list of things people can do to keep their important files from being lost and give some links to some good resources.
- If you have a laptop and you treat it like a bombproof Frisbee like me then it is definitely a good idea to have an external HDD that you regularly backup your system to. Mine sits on my desk and runs an automatic backup once a week that keeps everything necessary to replace my whole OS installation. This is really easy to do and there is a variety of tutorials and free software to help. My only recommendation here is to automate the process so you don’t need to rely on yourself to do it regularly. This is a pretty good free piece of software to do backups with. SyncBack
- Save the things that really matter to multiple places. For me that is bank records, the lease for my house, password information, photos, past projects, important emails, and other assorted documents. These were the items I was devastated about losing last night. I took all of these things and burned them to a DVD and a spare flash drive the moment I found them again. Then I took one copy and buried it in an unmarked location somewhere in the DFW area… No, but the safe where you keep your passport, SS card, gun, money, and drugs is probably a good place to put a copy of this stuff as well. (Remember to put at least some kind of password protection on this as you definitely don’t want your trusty backup full of bank records and passwords being picked up by anybody else.)
- Back up your data online. There are almost an infinite number of websites that provide this service and LifeHacker already has a great post on this so check it out for what to do. This is the best means for protecting your files and easy to do. You can get a decent amount of space for free or unlimited space for quite cheap.
I hope this leads at least one other person to back up their files before it is too late. This is one of the most preached topics on the internet and I’m sure that like me you have been aware of this for years. Also like me I’d guess you don’t actually heed this warning either. Maybe today should be that day you change your mind. Remember that on a long enough time line all HDDs will fail and that that time line is probably shorter than you think.