I’ve like The Oscars and what they represent for the movie industry. I like the pomp and ceremony that goes with them and I usually recognise the movies they have chosen as worthy contenders (if not always worthy, eventual winners). However I also see The Oscars as an elitist, pretentious side of the movie-making world. A world where the summer blockbuster, popular comedy of the year or even best horror movie gets shunned for a smaller indie movie many have never seen or even a terrible movie with one stand-out performance.
I have written before about how we require a “Mainstream Movie Awards” but The Academy have decided to go a different route. Yesterday they announced that there would be the introduction of an “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film” category. This in itself raises problems and completely misses the point while at the same time recognising an issue exists.
For starters, this makes a clear statement that “popular” movies can not be considered for the Best Picture category. Nobody was expecting Avengers: Infinity War to be considered as one of the best films of the year (although it has taken the spot for my pick so far) and others would also argue Black Panther should be in with a shot (I wouldn’t) so The Academy have decided to get round ignoring the biggest film of the year they would make a brand-new category highlighting it’s own prejudice.
By creating the “popular” movie category The Academy is basically stating that movies which the average, everyday movie-going audiences like and are willing to pay money to see, don’t meet the requirements for Best Picture. It is difficult to say what those requirements are but superheroes, animation, horror or comedy don’t usually meet the required grade.
This leads us to the next sticking point which is how you judge a “popular” movie. Is it ticket sales? Is it audience approval or critical acclaim? If it is anything to do with people actually thinking a movie is of a high quality, then what stops it qualifying for the Best Picture Award? Is this just a “participation trophy” to be given to the movies which everyone rates as the best of the year but don’t meet the “standards” The Academy have set themselves?
And where will this stop? How many movies are allowed in the “popular movie” category? Animation has it’s own category so will it start to include horror as a specific area? Or comedy? By widening the award categories are The Academy actually starting to water down what is considered one of the highest achievements in movie-making?
Regardless of whether you agree with this category or not, it still doesn’t solve the problem that by over-looking specific types of movie you also over-look certain movie-making skills. There are still no awards for best stunt or best stunt-person. Motion-Capture is still a huge part of CGI-laden movies but actors who have shown great talent in these areas, like Andy Serkis, are still being over-looked. How can you recognise “popular” movies if you still refuse to acknowledge the elements which often make these movies so popular in the first place?
Overall, The Academy are desperately trying to stay relevant but have instead demonstrated how out of touch and snobbish they really are. The same types of movies will continue to be nominated in Best Picture while the movies people are actually loving, make-up many people’s “best movie” lists and the ones making the biggest changes in Hollywood and movie-making today, are going to be relegated to the ridiculous “popular” movie category.