The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is so desperate to improve the ratings for their Oscar® telecast that they have created a new award. The Academy will soon have a popular film category to make sure the films moviegoers actually watch have a presence at the annual ceremony.
Simply put, this is how the blockbuster films of Marvel Studios, DC Films, Lucasfilm, and others will be recognized each year. As the Academy phrased it in a letter to members announcing this and other changes today, “We will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.”
At first glance, it seems nice that popular films, like the ones based on superheroes and Star Wars, will finally get more recognition during the Oscars®. Below that very thin surface, however, this feels like nothing more than a pitiful attempt at pandering. The Academy is punting instead of dealing with the real problem.
The Academy has many issues within its membership and the votes they cast. One of those issues is the automatic, pretentious dismissal of any and all blockbusters. A modern crime drama that portrayed our post-9/11 world better than any other film up until that point wasn’t “real art” in 2008 because the film centered on a man dressed as a bat and another guy dressed as a clown.
The same story played out in various iterations over the course of the next decade. Now, rather than challenging members to expand their view of what films are eligible for the most prestigious awards, the Academy has opted to create what may ultimately amount to little more than nominations for participation.
Not every blockbuster deserves Academy recognition. Assuming this new category, like Best Animated Feature, is given five nominees, there will be years in which some popular films get nominated just to fill out the list. A Best Picture nomination should be the reward for a blockbuster that truly stands out, as The Dark Knight did in 2008, followed by Wonder Woman in 2017, as well as Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War this year.
This will only make it harder for deserving popular films to be nominated for Best Picture. Most Academy voters, based on their history, will likely feel that this new category is “good enough” for those films. In this shameless ratings grab, the Academy has only reinforced the idea that popular films are inherently different and, frankly, “less than” all of the usual dramas voters prefer to recognize in the Best Picture category.
The only upside to the popular film category is that the one winner each year may actually deserve it. As far as superhero movies and other blockbusters may be from a Best Picture nomination, the distance between those films and a Best Picture victory is even greater.
The people who make these movies we love will finally have a little something extra to show for it. That does not change the point, however, that they already have and will continue to deserve recognition right alongside (and in the same categories as) their peers who make the usual “awards fare.”
SOURCE: The Hollywood Reporter