As if on the cusp of a mid-life crisis, on Wednesday morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences crawled out of its golden tomb and announced a few totally cool new rules for future Oscar ceremonies.
These included promises of a shortened three-hour telecast (we’ll believe it when we see it) by moving “select categories,” like sound and tech, to commercial breaks; an earlier broadcast date; and an entirely new category: “outstanding achievement in popular film” in an effort to create “a more globally accessible” show.
But how does one measure popularity? The most likely culprits are box office and media hype. As many took to Twitter to declare, borrowing a line from Don Draper, “That’s what the money is for!”
Countless films have struck gold at the box office and the Oscars, including Get Out, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Dark Knight, Lord of the Rings, Avatar, and Titanic (until recently, the most popular movie in history). This year, so far, some of the films to bank the most money have included Avengers: Infinity War and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Can we consider these worthy of Oscar gold in the same way we did The Dark Knight? Hardly.
Indeed, the way one rewards a movie with a B-list ensemble led by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is not with a shiny gold statue putting him in the same upper echelon as Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep, but perhaps with plastic popcorn in the vein of the MTV Movie Awards.
In other words, there’s a difference between Most Popular and Best Picture, and by simply making this distinction, it’s clear that a lot of it rests not so comfortably on the movie industry’s insidious class divide.
The introduction of this new category suggests that those films considered for Best Picture are not popular, per se, but rather, highbrow art deemed critical successes by the elite and discerning film community. Which thereby means those who packed theatres this year for Black Panther or Mission: Impossible are more likely to be mere commoners unable to catch the metaphor in the new Claire Denis film, for example, with only the patience for CGI dinosaurs being chased by a semi-shirtless Chris Pratt.
There has never been a category for Best Action Film or Best Comedy, much less for Best Stunt or Motion-Capture. Having been excluded by the Academy for nearly a century, it would be silly not to assume this kind of genre fare isn’t quite as distinguished as, say, the next great dramatic independent film that will have you in tears while questioning the existential meaning of love.
But honestly, Academy, what are you thinking? The same year that Black Panther banked over $1.3 billion worldwide and became the highest-grossing film ever from a black director is probably not the most opportune time for the Oscars to invent an exclusionary category masquerading as being more inclusive.
In just the last year, the awards seemed to be slowly tilting towards a broader future. In 2017, Moonlight, a film with an entirely …read more