Yesterday the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced the addition of a brand new Oscar category. A mere five months removed from their lowest rated Oscar broadcast in history, the Academy voted in some fairly big changes to their big show. Tops on the list is a new award “for outstanding achievement in popular film.” Really?
First and foremost whether this matters to you will largely hinge upon whether you think the Oscars do. There seems to be a growing number of moviegoers who dismiss the Oscars as a frivolous and pointless entity of no inherent value. They aren’t entirely wrong and I say that as a fan of the Academy Awards. But if you do fall into that group, humor me just a tad.
Much of the early reaction to this has been negative and for good reason. While “eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming“, it’s hard to see this as anything other than desperate pandering. The Academy folks are clearly feeling pressure to increase viewership but come on. Talk about ridiculously transparent.
Don’t get me wrong, I get the logic. There is a chance the broader, more easygoing movie audience will tune in if the big box office blockbusters they love are in the running for a statue (I kinda doubt it, but maybe). And if the blockbusters are there so will their A-list stars. They will be on television strolling down the red carpet and talking about their movies. I get all of that. But does it in any way make ‘Best Popular Film’ anything more than a token award?
In an attempt to possibly quell any negativity, the Academy came out a short time later and clarified that a movie could be nominated as both Best Popular Film and Best Picture. Well that could seemingly snuff out any potential suspense for the new category. Let’s say “Avengers 15” is the only film nominated in both. Since it would be the only ‘popular’ movie worthy of a Best Picture nomination, it’s petty obvious it should win the ‘Popular’ Oscar, right?
And what about the prestige of the Academy Awards? Sure, sometimes they miss the mark (the last two years have shown that), but in many eyes the Oscars have maintained a pretty high standard and stature. While not without their scars, it’s part of what makes the Oscars special. I’m not sure this kind of pandering helps that reputation.
And couldn’t the very existence of this category give Academy voters an out when it comes to these types of movies? Why give them the Best Picture consideration they deserve when you can toss them a bone here? It could make for some easy and not-so-veiled marginalization.
As you can probably tell I’m all in for the Academy giving more consideration to quality box office hits and they’ve done so in the past. But for every “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” and “Titanic” win you have multiple “The Dark Knight” and “Wonder Woman” snubs. I can’t see a scenario where a Best Popular Film category solves the issue. A little more Hollywood introspection, maybe. But this, nope.
My favorite movie of the year so far is “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”. As of right now do I believe it should be a Best Picture nominee? Absolutely. Would I be remotely excited if it was in the Best Popular Film category instead? Absolutely not. So I’m sorry Academy, your experiment doesn’t work on me. Then again I was already going to be watching, even without a new gimmick award.
What say you? I would love to hear your thoughts on Oscar’s new addition.