The Oscar folks have met and discussed new ways in which the ceremony can remain relevant in the future, and those changes will include 1) limiting the televised ceremony to three hours (by giving awards during commercial breaks and combining them into a montage for TV viewers, 2) setting a slightly earlier airdate (February 9th in 2020), and 3) establishing a new category recognizing achievement in “Popular Film.”
That last one has set many critics on edge, including several of our own current and former writers.
"Achievement in popular film." pic.twitter.com/IPjFJzhLWW— Courtney Enlow (@courtenlow) August 8, 2018
This is a bad idea borne from fear of irrelevance but no real drive to change. Also you bring this in the year of Black Panther? Subtle. https://t.co/IeknKcgdY3— Kayleigh Donaldson (@Ceilidhann) August 8, 2018
It's also super condescending. How will this not lead to a sidelining of mainstream populist dare, the kind that expanding the category to be 10 nominees was meant to help? It's bad enough animated films seldom make the cut.— Kayleigh Donaldson (@Ceilidhann) August 8, 2018
If that new "Popular Film" category at the Oscars keeps Black Panther out of the Best Picture race, expect backlash.— Sarah (@Cinesnark) August 8, 2018
Kristy, it should be noted, also believes this is insane and insulting and suggests that blockbuster movies will be other’d, which I get and sort of totally agree with except that it’s kind of like “othering” the straight-white men of the film world. I mean, blockbusters films are going to be just fine whether they are recognized by the Oscars or not, though it certainly does feel weird to do it this year when Black Panther is the most popular movie in America, as though the Oscars are saying, “We have to make sure that Black Panther is recognized or we’re going to get creamed. How do we do that!?”
Well, there is a very easy way to ensure that, and that is by nominating it for Best Picture, as it deserves, and I kind of trust the increasingly younger and more diverse Academy voters to do that (but as evidenced by my writing on politics, I am also a very optimistic person, a view that is not often shared in these parts). Clearly, however, the Academy does not yet trust them to do that, either, and in order to ensure the Oscars maintain their relevance, they’re handing out this “consolation” prize.
But I also like the idea of the Oscars maintaining their relevance (I like the Oscars!), and I like the idea of superhero films and other blockbusters — which gain the lion’s share of attention in every other respect except the Oscars — being recognized in some way during the most important movie awards of the year. I like the idea of the Academy voters deciding the Marvel vs. D.C. debate. I don’t know that this necessarily precludes a film that deserves a Best Picture nomination under the traditional criteria from being nominated in that category, just as animated films are occassionally nominated in both the animated and Best Picture categories. But I also believe that — in most years — superhero films don’t deserve Best Picture nominations (I’d put the number I believe deserve BP noms at 3: Black Panther, The Dark Knight and Logan), so on those years, it’s kind of cool to see how Academy voters might rate traditional superhero/blockbuster fare against each other, since at the moment, they’re only compared in terms of box office.
I suspect, however, that I may be the outlier. But consider the likely nominees in that category in 2017: The Last Jedi, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Justice League and Logan. I like that debate. That’s a fun conversation. Logan should have — and I hope would have — won that category, and though it may be considered a consolation prize now, in 10 years it becomes the norm.
And I really like the idea of “Oscar-winning film, Logan.”
But again, I’m probably the outlier, and I also readily concede that this is a bad year to do it unless Black Panther lands both a Best Pic nom and a Popular Film win.
Header Image Source: Marvel