By Adam Spunberg

After several months of hysterical tweeting and ravenous Advil consumption, we finally get the results of Best Picture expansion. As with many groundbreaking events in life, sometimes the actual transition has to happen before the effects can truly sink in. Now we can really pose the question: Has the Academy succeeded in bringing more mainstream interest to the show, or has its flagship category become too diluted?

Unfortunately, while the five extra nominees should quicken the pulses of a few eager fans, the end result is something of a charade. The biggest problem is that anyone can pick out the tag-alongs from the already-theres, and it has nothing to do with possessing some great insight or film savvy.

Best Picture may have expanded to 10 nominees, but the other categories remain unchanged. That includes Best Director, which – in the five-for-fighting days – often sported the same quintet as Picture. For 2009, we have Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Up in the Air, and Precious competing for Best Director honors. What does that say for District 9, An Education, A Serious Man, Up, and (gasp!) The Blind Side? Should we even bother putting them on the ballot when it’s so obvious that they’re the bottom feeders?

Put Directing aside and take a look at the Screenplay awards. Eight of the Best Picture nominations found a spot within Best Original Screenplay or Best Adapted Screenplay. Missing? The Blind Side and Avatar. We can excuse Avatar, since we all know it wasn’t the dialogue that drove that film (“Look at all that cheddar!”), but that’s strike two for The Blind Side.

What about Cinematography? Making it from the Best Picture list are Avatar, The Hurt Locker, and Inglourious Basterds. While not a tell-all category by any means, The Blind Side’s omission from Best Director, a Best Screenplay, and Best Cinematography has pretty much assured any viewer that its inclusion was a sham. Sorry Michael Oher.

Perhaps one could argue that by giving a movie like The Blind Side a spot, the nomination itself serves as its own form of recognition. There is definitely some truth there, but how meaningful is that honor, truly, when the field has been so trivialized? The Blind Side simply does not belong.

On the flip side, the new format is not without benefit. At long last, we have an animated, Pixar film in Up that breaks the barrier. Expect that to be a trend in the coming years, as long as the 10-movie system is in place. Also, a thought-provoking sci-fi epic like District 9 gets a little more spotlight, and the glorious An Education (probably sixth on the Academy’s list) might enter the consciousness of the everyday filmgoer. These are all worthy causes.

In summary, I would have to say that the expansion has been a failure, but it is has its merits too. If the ceremony is in such need of a shakeup, why not compromise at eight films instead of 10? That way, at least all the nominees have a decent chance of garnering extra nominations in Directing, Screenplay, and/or Cinematography.

Of course, maybe the most sensible option would be to recall the famous song from worthy 1971-nominee Fiddler on the Roof: Tradition! Some things are best left as they were, if for no other reason than to honor the standards of yesteryear.