Oscars Adds “Popular Film” Category, Nobody Happy – Update: Oscars Drops Category
by Kyle Smith
Adding a category for ‘popular film’ will only highlight Hollywood’s estrangement from average viewers.
Like many a previous failing state, the Oscars are trying to inflate their way out of misery. Next year, for the first time ever, there will be three kinds of best movie: Best Animated Feature, Best Picture, and now Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film.
The word “popular” is regrettable. We already have a way of measuring popularity: It’s called money. It would be severely redundant for an industry that is already focused on money 364 days of the year to yield on the 365th day as well. AMPAS has spent 90 years trying to build its reputation for artistic discernment; this week it took a big step toward becoming the People’s Choice Awards.
What’s the point of a separate category for “popular” film? It’s bound to be seen, correctly, as a sop. It may also be seen as racist or sexist. Black Panther is at the moment the most popular picture of the year.
If it wins the Oscar for “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film” but not Best Picture, will AMPAS be accused of “marginalizing” black people? And does a film have to make a certain amount of money to qualify?
Alternatively, does “popular” signal not big-ticket sales but rather genre filmmaking in such categories as horror, broad comedy, fantasy, sci-fi, or superhero?
In that case, could the “popular” category be used to honor a film that was supposed to make a ton of money but didn’t — a film such as Blade Runner 2049? If so, then wouldn’t the two top awards be given to arty features, thus nullifying the purpose of recognizing audience taste? The Revenant is an art film that managed to earn $530 million — should it be relegated to the “popular” category?
…ABC is, to an extent, the author of its own misery: It and the Academy should never have let the ceremony get so long in the first place, and it’s presumably at ABC’s urging that the Academy has twice hired the network’s niche late-night comic Jimmy Kimmel to host the ceremony, predictably bringing his lame anti-Trump jibes with him.
…Each year’s teach-the-normals-a-lesson result reminds the audience not to tune in the following year. The masses turn up when they anticipate that movies they liked will win.
by Raquel Laneri
The Oscars are finally acknowledging that their Best Picture picks have been obtuse and lame. (“The Shape of Water,” “Birdman” . . . I mean, they’re not wrong.)
So to rectify their out-of-touch snobbishness, they’re shaking things up — by adding a prize for “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film.”
Apparently, the movies we the people like — such as “Black Panther,” “Wonder Woman,” “Girls Trip” and “Get Out” — are trash not worthy of the night’s top honor.
Thanks, but no thanks, Academy.
by Katie Rife
Yesterday, the film world united in one big, “wait, what?,” when the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences announced the creation of a new award for “Best Popular Film,” a.k.a. the Consolation Oscar for Dum-Dum Movies.
It was a return to the Oscars’ roots, where in 1929 the Academy gave out awards for “Outstanding Picture” and “Best Unique And Artistic Picture”—and then immediately dropped the latter for its second edition in 1930.
Of course, comparing the Hollywood of the late ‘20s and early ‘30s to the Hollywood of today is like comparing a Model T to a planet-swallowing shadow monster, not least due to the consolidation of corporate media that’s led to blockbuster factories Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, Pixar, and Walt Disney Studios all operating under the same corporate roof.
Then there’s ABC, which has agreed to air the Oscars through 2028, tapped late-night host Jimmy Kimmel to host last year’s ceremony—and, oh, yeah, is also owned by The Walt Disney Company.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that a Variety report detailing the decision-making behind yesterday’s AMPAS changes says that executives from the Disney-ABC Television Group have been heavily pressuring AMPAS to shorten the ceremony by giving out awards during commercial breaks, thereby leaving more time for sketches in which ABC talent hype Disney blockbusters like this year’s A Wrinkle In Time bit.
Said executives also reportedly proposed the creation of a “Best Blockbuster” category, presumably while using words like “synergy” and “brand integration.” Variety also says that “network insiders” at ABC are “unmoved” by yesterday’s backlash, which means you’re going to get a musical number about Disney princesses and C-3PO whether you want one or not.
by V. Romo
…On Wednesday, the Academy announced in a statement that it is dropping the widely criticized “popular film” category it introduced less than a month ago from the 2019 awards, saying it has determined the award “merits further study.”
“There has been a wide range of reactions to the introduction of a new award, and we recognize the need for further discussion with our members,” Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in the statement.
The new category was panned by members and the public, who complained the change would be damaging to the industry by pandering to pedestrian tastes.
Ratings for the 2018 awards dropped to an all-time low — just 26.5 million viewers tuned in. That represents a 19 percent fall from 2017 numbers.
The Academy says the idea “merits further study.” But a different, possibly more damaging change is moving forward.
The nebulously defined, controversial Oscar for achievement in “Popular Film” is dead — at least for the 2018 awards cycle. So noted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in a press release sent out Thursday, September 6.
“The Academy recognized that implementing any new award nine months into the year creates challenges for films that have already been released,” reads the press release, entitled “Academy determines new Oscars category merits further study.”
It continues: “The Board of Governors continues to be actively engaged in discussions, and will examine and seek additional input regarding this category.”
…The popular film category was first announced in early August, largely out of nowhere, and prompted extensive criticism from film writers and Oscar fans.
For one thing, the Academy did not suggest how, exactly, it would define the term “popular film,” which led to confusion over whether the new category was meant specifically for blockbusters or could also honor Oscar-friendly movies that break out at the box office. (Think La La Land or Dunkirk.)
For another, it seemed a rather strange decision to make in a year when the Best Picture nominees could well include the $1-billion-plus grossing Black Panther, to say nothing of expected hits First Man (a Neil Armstrong biopic from La La Landdirector Damien Chazelle) and A Star Is Born (the latest remake of the venerable story about a relationship between two people whose careers are moving in very different directions — this version stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga).
In short, the Academy’s choice to implement a new category, with poor definition, largely out of nowhere, seemed doubly weird in a year when the Best Picture lineup is likely to include a bunch of honest-to-goodness hits.
But the popular film brouhaha has obscured an arguably even more damaging change to the Oscars’ status quo. As announced when the popular film category was first floated, the presentation of several awards will be moved out of the live telecast in order to keep the show to a tight three hours. Those awards will almost certainly be the ones honoring short films and some of the more obscure technical disciplines (like the two sound categories).