Every year, I make an effort to see every movie nominated for an Academy award. Not just best picture, but every movie with a Best Actor/Actress nomination, Best Screenplay, even a few of the foreign films when they come to town. So you can see I was overwhelmed when they announced not five, but ten best picture nominations. I figured Up In the Air, Precious, and Inglorious Bastards would be nominated, but The Blind Side? Up?
After listening to NPR commentary and reading the buzz around the blogosphere, I learned that the big reason behind the ten nominations is to include more mainstream movies that people who don't live near an art house theater or get every movie in their local Cineplex, would see.
Without going into the politics and saying whether I agree with their decision or not, this reasoning intrigued me. Before, the movies nominated were more obscure, often unavailable to the small-town crowd. They wanted to nominate movies available to everyone. Last year, more people saw THE DARK NIGHT than any of the pictures nominated for best film and therefore, in hindsight, they felt DARK NIGHT should have been one of the nominees.
Looking at the Edgar list this year, I see only a couple of small presses and those are in the Paperback Original and Nonfiction categories. None of the Best Novel and Best First Novel nominees are from independent publishers. In the past there have been a couple (SOUL PATCH by Reed Farrel Coleman, HEAD GAMES by Craig McDonald) but this year, zip.
So both prestigious awards have decided mainstream is the way to go, that nominees should be available to anyone who lives by a cinema or a Barnes and Noble. In both instances, I believe the awards should go to the best of the best, not the best of the most readily available. But the Oscars expanded their list to ten nominees. The Edgars are keeping theirs at six, which means in order to include a book by a big publisher, someone from a small publisher is getting pushed out.
All of this year's nominees are talented authors who deserve the honor and recognition. Like the Oscars, I attempt to read all the Edgar nominees, and I can tell you all of them are great books. But aren't there also some brilliant books put out by smaller houses that deserve to be on that list? And were they not nominated because they weren't mainstream enough? Did the judges hold certain prejudices towards small presses? Or were all books considered equally and nominated solely on their merit and the best books just happen to be from big publishers?
No matter the reasons behind the selection process, I believe these prestigious awards should go to the best movies and books of this year, regardless of availability. Of course, the term "best" is subjective, but I feel that's more true for movies than mystery novels. Good writing is good writing, regardless of publisher, and it's hard for me to believe that the best writing of 2010 all came out of big houses.