Given the criticism over the years of the Oscars and the Best Picture category, amplified in recent years by social media campaigns, something like this is a long time coming.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced sweeping new changes to what qualifies as a nominee for Best Picture, with a movie requiring it meet at least two of four standards laid out in new guidelines.
In a statement along with the guidelines themselves, the Academy's leadership said that "these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry," and laid out the specifics of the changes.
Change starts now. We've announced new representation and inclusion standards for Best Picture eligibility, beginning with the 96th #Oscars. Read more here: https://t.co/qdxtlZIVKb pic.twitter.com/hR6c2jb5LM
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) September 9, 2020
From 2022 and 2023, movies will have to fill out a confidential Academy Inclusion Standards form, however, the rules will not be strictly enforced until 2024 for the 96th Academy Awards. For the 2024 Oscars, movies must meet two of four standards.
The four standards include on-screen representation, narratives, and themes, creative leadership and project team diversity, industry access and opportunities, and finally, audience development. Drilling down into the standards, there's more to it.
For example, the first standard - on-screen representation, narratives, and themes - states that either at least one of the lead actors or 30% of all actors in the supporting or minor roles must be from an ethnic or underrepresented group, or that the main storyline focuses on underrepresented groups, be it women, LGBTQ+, a specific racial or ethnic group, or people cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Industry reaction to the news seemed to broadly welcome it, with experts pointing out that most if not all movies selected for Best Picture in the previous Oscars - such as 'The Irishman', for example - would have qualified under the new rules. Currently, the 2021 Oscars have been pushed back to April 25th in light of productions shutting down due to the pandemic.
As of now, there are no clear Oscar favourites and with Sundance, the Toronto International Film Festival, and many other movies going virtual this year, there doesn't appear to be a clear pathway from the festivals to the Oscars laid out.