While I don't approve the of the academy's decision to bring back the 10 nomination system, one can't help but wonder what could've been. I've decided to go back through the year 2000 and guess at what could've been nominated had this system already been in place. I've based these guesses on Golden Globe Nominees and Winners as well as if they received a nomination for their screenplay. Remeber there are technically 10 screenplay nominations every year (adapted, original) but only five director nominations and those usually are in line with the Best Picture nominations. The actual nominations are listed first followed by the five that would've been nominated under the new rule. I've also given a reason for the each one of the 6-10 as well as the nomination that would have had the best shot.
2008 was definitely a weaker year for film in terms of quality but there were definitely some underrated films that made this list easy to compile.
2008's Top 5 (According to the academy)
Slumdog Millionaire (Won) Milk, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader, Frost/Nixon
The could've beens:
The Wrestler- Let's be honest, everyone thought this would be nominated before The Reader (HAARRRVEEYYYY!!!). While it recieved 2 nominations (Actor, Supp. Actress) the lack of nominations in Director and Screenwriter (Even if it deserved them) leave me to think it could've been as arbitrary a nomination as The Reader, even if The Wrestler was a much better film
The Dark Knight-This was most likely 6th amongst the academy. It had the most nominations of any non-best picture nominated film (8) and while many of them were technical and none of them were for director or screenplay, this film was favored to be the Gladiator of 2008. An epic, genre blockbuster that had some real depth to it. Also, the previous years best picture winner (No Country For Old Men) was a genre film with depth, Javier Bardem won Best Supporting Actor for playing a hybrid of Ledger's Joker and Eckhart's Two-Face, except more people saw and liked this movie. I would've had no qualms with the academy if this was nominated. I've watched it as much as any other movie to come out that year and I can find something new almost every time.
Wall-E-It was my favorite film that year and I wish it was at the top of the bottom but unfortunately I just couldn't see it happening. It blew me away with it's maturity and willingness to go where it did and show all the kids with the Cars lunch boxes what their future might be like if they aren't careful. Unfortunately animated family films will rarely be serious contenders despite this one also receiving a best screenplay nomination.
Gran Torino- I just saw this after the initial post. How Clint didn't get nominated for best actor or director is a mystery. Yes he is playing an older Dirty Harry and sometimes the comedy comes from the shocking, racist remarks his character makes but the performance has more depth to that, the movie goes. The only reason I can think of why the academy didn't nominate this for best picture is because they have already shown Clint plenty of love (Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and a smaller amount with Letters From Iwo Jima) even if this was better than Baby. Many thought this had the most timely oscar campaign and would garner a nomination. With 10 there would've been no excuse not to.
Happy-Go-Lucky- Based on this list, the 10 nomination change could do exactly what the academy wants: more underdogs! This was one of the most underrated and under seen movies of last year and also one of the best (Boom! Hyperbole!). It was nominated for Original Screenplay and one can't help but think, Sally Hawkins might have picked up the best actress nomination if not for the infamous Kate Winslet nomination screw-up (I'm working on a better name). She was wonderful in this movie but the real reason it gets the last spot of the nominations is because it is the real indie darling that should've been. By the time of the nominations it was pretty much a no-brainer that Slumdog was going to win. This was as quirky, kitchy but much better than either Juno or Little Miss Sunshine and if there is one thing the Academy has come to love in the past few years, it's quirk.
Honorable Mention: In Burges ,Vicky Christina Barcelona*
*Was in the original ten but has since moved since I've seen Gran Torino.