Oscar’s New Category – Best Popular Movie???

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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.

23 thoughts on “Oscar’s New Category – Best Popular Movie???

  1. This category is an attempt for ratings to the masses. I really don’t really care to be honest because being a genre lover of good movies within the context of fantasy, sci-fi, action ,horror etc… more so than drama’s, overstuffed culture preaching pieces that the Academy love , I haven’t watched an award show since LOTR Return of the King won . Plus in general, very rarely is a popular movie a favorite of mine anyways. Take Black Panther, it will be nominated because it fits this bill but after numerous viewings thought that movie was very average.

    In a way, I would have preferred the best genre movie that would include categories that the Academy has snubbed consistently. But bottom line, when they are on again, I’ll be doing something else. I just can’t sit through 3 plus hours of speeches that go off into areas I have zero interest in hearing. Just my 2 cents worth.

    • I think a lot of people share your take on the Oscars. I’ll admit I do love them even with their frustrations. I do like a lot of the smaller movies they give attention to. But they don’t offer much in terms of balance. That’s telling to me.

  2. That was an insightful read, thanks for sharing! I guess I would have shared my thoughts if there were something to talk about. I think the Academy’s mad move does not deserve a debate – it is simply ridiculous. Full stop. I am just speechless. This is such a childish attempt to boost ratings, recommended by ABC actually. I realised they might be all a bit crazy there after the Moonlight/La La Land award switch disaster, but now I am completely certain they are just a bunch of desperate and highly politicised lunatics.

    • It’s bonkers isn’t it? It’s such a desperate grasp for ratings. I think last year hurt them. But tossing out a token award isn’t going to change the way the Academy thinks about those movies.

  3. I get people’s argument that this is just a desperate grasp for ratings and I suppose there is validity to that, but I see this move as a logical one considering the arguments that have been made about the Oscars going back to the 90’s. The criticism that the Oscars are “out of touch” with the masses or what’s popular is a criticism I remember hearing going all the way back to when ‘The English Patient’ won Best Picture. For the better part of 20 years, people have been complaining that “popular” movies don’t get nominated, let alone win. The arguments intensified when ‘The Dark Knight’ was shut out, so the Academy compensated by expanding the number of Best Pictures, so I don’t think it’s just about boosting ratings. This is an attack that the Academy has been facing for 20 years or more. Plus, as a film-lover, I can’t be mad at the idea of trying to bring more people to the table who otherwise wouldn’t come. But, if ‘Black Panther’ gets nominated next year, this point will be moot, but if not, then the category makes all the more sense.

    • I just find it interesting that this glaringly obvious move came on the heels of their worst rated show on record. And I too am all for bringing more movies into the fold. But I think this all gets back to how they consider these films. Does giving them this one category actually mean they are giving them the consideration they deserve? It’s an interesting discussion.

  4. Paragraph #5 is why I don’t like splitting categories this way. It’s the same problem with animated and foreign films*. If one thinks that movies should be judged separately, fine, but then don’t have them be eligible to compete for Best (Overall) Picture. At least this redundancy isn’t as convoluted as the Grammys (they award albums and songs in general *and* by genre).

    *Documentaries are allowed to compete, but they have never been nominated.

  5. I’m going to quote what Rob Lowe said last night on his Twitter account: “Seriously, this ‘best pop movie’ category is the worst idea the Academy has had since they asked me to sing with Snow White.”

    That was vicious and I have to commend Lowe for taking it like a man in the shit he has to deal with as I’ve come to love that guy more than ever as I think he’s a better actor than people give him credit for.

    Back on topic, this is one of the stupidest ideas in the world. This is like MTV Movie Awards bullshit. Hey, let’s give an award to the highest grossing movie of the year and it’s another fucking Transformer movie that no one liked. Might as well put the Oscar in the fucking garbage if they decide to pander to the lowest common denominator. The Razzies are now more prestigious than the Oscars at this point.

    • Just to point a fact, TRANSFORMERS has never been the highest-grossing movie of any year since it started back in 2007, according to Box Office Mojo, but THE DARK KNIGHT was the highest-grossing in 2008. Would you object to that movie getting an Oscar? Plus, depending on how the nomination process works, I don’t think a movie that’s so critically-panned would get nominated, but if this process allows for something like THE DARK KNIGHT or WONDER WOMAN from last year, which was totally overlooked, or LOGAN, which a lot of people liked, then I’m all for it.

      • I never objected to The Dark Knight getting an Oscar consideration but are you going to support a lame category that could something as awful as The Emoji Movie an Oscar nomination because it made so much money? If you support that, then fuck you.

    • Lowe with the hammer! Spot-on. To me this is dopey beyond measure. And obviously people are seeing through it. I would love to hear their closed-door conversations regarding the backlash.

  6. It’s a logical move. We already acknowledge that animated films, foreign films, short films and documentary films deserve their own category so that they can be judged and celebrated by a uniquely appropriate lens. Nothing wrong with trying out a separate category for blockbusters. Yes it will be a lesser Oscar than the pure “Best Film”, but so what? Every other Oscar is a lesser Oscar than the “big one”.

    • I guess I would argue that none of those other categories are as glaringly obvious in their origin. Foreign, doc, and animated aren’t there as a desperate attempt to get people to watch. At the same time the categories make it easy for the Academy to marginalize these films when it comes to Best Picture. I think that could be even more true when it comes to popular film. You make some good points though. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

  7. I too find the addition of this category a little bizarre; however, I do believe that some blockbuster/ popular films that are fantastic, e.g. Blade Runner 2049 and Baby Driver from last year, are often snubbed out of the Oscars harshly. Therefore I believe, despite it lacking real significance as an award, it may serve as a consolation to all those involved in making such fabulous, popular films. Great post.

    • Thanks for reading. I agree that the Academy has a history of being too dismissive when it comes to movies like Blade Runner, etc. Even after expanding the number of Best Picture nominees.

  8. I’m with you in thinking this new category is shameless, and pointless pandering. I don’t think more people are going to tune in because a popular film might win an award dedicated to popular film. People who love the Oscars are going to watch the Oscars. Other people probably won’t. If they want to increase viewership, they should start with considering popular films more seriously for other Oscars, so long as they are deserving. There’s really no reason, other than a pretentious bias, why superheroes, horror, sci-fi, comedy, or any other genre routinely have their very best films totally ignored by the Academy seemingly because of the genre in which they reside.

    Getting the show down to 3 hours is also a good move, but I don’t like the way they decided to go about it. The first place they should start is all the ridiculous filler that adds a lot of empty minutes to the broadcast. The host doesn’t need to go on for 20 minutes to open the show, nor does he need to take a bunch of celebs to the theater across the street, or any other bloated skit they come up with. I’d rather they got rid of that stuff, which is rather hit-or-miss in execution, than rob winners of their moment to shine.

    • 110% agree! Very well put. I too think the three hour move is good but really dislike that they won’t be airing the “lesser” categories. As you said, the hit-or-miss comedy sketches are far more of a time hog.

  9. I’ve long since given up on these big award shows. I would say about 75 to 85 percent of the time, I tend to disagree with a lot of the choices they make. This new category smacks of desperation for ratings and younger audiences. To me, these award shows are no longer relevant. It’s blogs like this one and certain YouTube channels that I tend to pay more attention to.

    • I think you are in the ever-growing majority. And I absolutely agree, it reeks of desperation. And it has become pretty obvious that many people are seeing right through it. Thanks for the thoughts.

  10. Great post! I think the Academy kept digging themselves a bigger hole every time they passed up blockbusters that were exceptionally good. AKA Mad Max: Fury Road getting recognition it deserved was a miracle. I was initially supportive of the new category because I’ve felt a lot of popular movies have been snubbed over the years that should’ve been nominated, and finally some of my favorites could have a category of their own. It’s honestly the only way I’d see Fallout getting nominated, even though it deserves a general Best Picture nomination. Contrary to popular belief, the nomination process is open to films released by major studios throughout the year, but the Academy’s vision is so limited, they only choose films that come out during Oscar bait season. The Academy touts itself as being more diverse but they really aren’t. I hope they eventually recall the popular film category, and start looking at their voting and nomination process instead.

    • The me so much. Great comments. I love what you said – “The Academy’s vision is so limited.” That is sooo true. It’s one of the reasons I feel this is a vain attempt on their part. I don’t see this actually changing the real problem which is their willingness to be more receptive of these ‘bigger’ films. It will be interesting to watch as we get closer to award season.

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