The Oscars Strive For Relevance, Add “Best Popular Film” Category

August 9, 2018
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Tacitly admitting that good movies aren’t popular and popular movies aren’t good, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that a new Best Popular Film”category is being added to the Oscars line-up, finally allowing action movies starring Mark Wahlberg and comedies where suburban mums get ka-raaazy a shot at a participation ribbon.

This is just one of a number of changes outlined by Academy President John Bailey and CEO Dawn Hudson in a letter sent to Academy members, apparently unaware or uncaring of the pandering nature of the decision:

Dear Member,

Last night, the Board of Governors met to elect new board officers, and discuss and approve significant changes to the Oscars telecast. The Board of Governors, staff, Academy members, and various working groups spent the last several months discussing improvements to the show. Tonight, the Board approved three key changes:

1. A three-hour Oscars telecast. We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide. To honor all 24 award categories, we will present select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined). The winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.

2. New award category.We will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.

3. Earlier airdate for 92nd Oscars. The date of the 92nd Oscars telecast will move to Sunday, February 9, 2020, from the previously announced February 23. The date change will not affect awards eligibility dates or the voting process. The 91st Oscars telecast remains as announced on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world. The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.

We are excited about these steps, and look forward to sharing more details with you.

John Bailey and Dawn Hudson

The key takeaway here is this part: “Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.” Exactly what, in the eyes of the Academy, constitutes a “popular film”? What differentiates it from a “best film”? Can a film be nominated across both categories? Will producers and studios be happy with a Best Popular nom instead of a Best Picture? Will Tom Cruise accept on behalf of Mission: Impossible – Fallout? (calling it – will take bets)

Will producers and studios be happy?

Putting aside the usual argument of whether the Oscars actually reward outstanding achievements rather than outstanding lobbying, the new category is a pretty transparent and tacky move, the motives of which are either a reach for renewed populism and thus popularity, an attempt to placate studios who are sick of their tentpole blockbusters going unacknowledged outside the technical categories, or both. It also works to widen the perceived and wrongheaded divide between critics and audiences – Best Picture is for those stuffy, worthy dramas that reviewers laud, while Best Popular will be for movies “real” people like.

Still, there are a couple of upsides to this. One is that Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige will have a gold statue on his shelf sooner rather than later. The other is that it’s always handy to get the dumbest thing you’ll read all day out of the way before breakfast.

More on this idiocy as it develops.

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