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Kai Ryssdal: To lighter fare now -- Oscar nominations were announced this morning. And if you believe the hype, the big contest is going to be between "Avatar" and an indie movie called "The Hurt Locker." But even the long shots have probably already started drafting their acceptance speeches. Not just the stars, either. You know, the biggest moment on Oscar night is when the Best Picture winner is announced and all the producers file up onto the stage to pick up their little statuettes.
But when the Best Picture nominees were unveiled this morning, there were some specifics kind of missing.
OSCAR NOMINATIONS: "The Blind Side," nominees to be determined. "The Hurt Locker," nominees to be determined.
All right, wait a minute. The movies have Oscar nominations, and they still don't even know who the producers are? Marketplace's Stacey Vanek-Smith has more.
STACEY VANEK-SMITH: The job of movie producer sounds really important and really vague. Traditionally, the producer was like the CEO: Hiring and managing staff, handling payroll, attracting investors. But since the big studios split up and everybody started getting into the movie business, things have gotten complicated.
Mark Lacter follows the business of Hollywood for L.A. Observed.
MARK LACTER: Production companies, hedge funds that finance movies, we have all kinds of different entities and more people mean more producers and more producers mean more credit.
And less credibility, says Alex Ben Block, senior editor of the Hollywood Reporter.
ALEX BEN BLOCK: Even worse than a catch-all, they become a joke. So many times, personal manager or the uncle of the star or somebody was able to use their leverage to say: I'm the producer.
The result was that a movie would often have more than a dozen producers, which can really be a drag on an awards ceremony. So about five years ago, the academy ruled that only three producers could accept the Oscar for Best Picture. Getting Hollywood types to stand down wasn't easy, so the Producers Guild had to start holding hearings and snooping around.
BEN BLOCK: They will actually reach out now to people who worked behind the scenes on a movie, the maybe make-up people or cinematographers and they say: What exactly did this person do?
Ben Block says the process can be such a cat fight that sometimes producers aren't named until just days before an awards ceremony. So, if "The Hurt Locker" or "The Blind Side" gets the Oscar for Best Picture, it's not clear who will be thanking the academy.
In Los Angeles, I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith for Marketplace.