Opinion: The New Oscars Category Is A Desperate Choice

The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, are known as pretty much the most prestigious awards show in the game. But even the Oscars aren’t immune to waning audiences and a burning desire to stay relevant. Sadly, their latest attempt is more desperate than ever. Their inclusion of an award for “outstanding achievement in popular film” is vague enough to mean many things, but succinct enough to mean one thing: they’re chasing after those big-budget, fan-fueled films that don’t often see the light of day in an Oscar race. And it plays more as a panicked attempt at relevancy than the desire to actually honor the Marvel Cinematic Universe or please Mark Wahlberg beyond measure.

Many of the biggest movies of the year often get snubbed by the Academy. It makes sense, though, considering the Academy awards films for artistic achievement, which many big-budget behemoths, well, lack. But this is what makes the Oscars great: they’re exclusive, only awarding the best of the best. The Academy members get to pick the films that many times aren’t recognized with piles of money and give them their just desserts in the form of little gold statues. It’s alright that they’re not doling out awards to the Fast and Furious franchise because those movies are making more than enough money to compensate for the lack of award-worthy elements. But with this new category, the Oscars have jumped the shark in their most desperate move yet.

The Academy said that films will be eligible for both this new category and “Best Picture.” Which begs a few questions here. For one, what’s the point if this new category may include the same exact movies as the “Best Picture” category? And, maybe more importantly, who’s saying that Oscar-nominated films aren’t already popular? Get Out was one of the most popular movies of 2017 and saw an Oscar nom for “Best Picture.” Titanic was the highest grossing film of all time for several years and won “Best Picture” in 1998. The Oscars do nominate popular films to the “Best Picture” category. Do you want to know when they do this? When they’re actually good!

Here’s the thing: the idea of a category based on popularity isn’t going to encourage people to nominate hugely popular and high-grossing films to “Best Picture.” They’re already going to have “their” category. Look at “Best Animated Picture” — a category made specifically due to the upswing in quality of animated work. You know how many animated films have been included in the “Best Picture” race since? Two. And mostly because excluding Toy Story 3 would have caused public outcry. And probably very fair and understandable rioting. My point, though, is that the inclusion of new categories for different kinds of films don’t promise them a ticket to the exclusive club — it just throws them a bone while the same types of movies win the big awards. A.k.a they’re trying to draw in new (and, undeniably, younger) viewers by honoring their supposed fave movies.

4. This is just The Dark Knight effect but with Black Panther

Back in 2009 The Dark Knight was the biggest movie. It was wildly popular among critics and fans, making tons of money and getting reviews that superhero movies don’t often get. Heath Ledger‘s performance was praised, rightly so, and led to an Oscar nomination. But the film was completely left out of the “Best Picture” category. And people were pissed. So the next year the “Best Picture” nominee number raised to 10 (now it’s 5-10, depending on the year) to try and accommodate more diverse films. It’s the same situation, though this time the movie likely to get shut out is ahead of the game.

It’s no secret that Kevin Feige has been shopping the massive MCU hit Black Panther around for Oscar consideration. This new category is the Academy ensuring that one of the biggest films of the year gets a significant nomination. But here’s the thing: Black Panther is actually a great movie. So why the hell shouldn’t it be a shoo-in for a “Best Picture” nom? By creating a whole new category seemingly for this specific movie the Academy is already diminishing it’s award-worthiness. And completely undermining everything it thinks it’s doing. To me, they’re saying “this is a category for superhero films and genre mainstays that will never be Academy darlings.” It is, frankly, insulting to the actually-great films that are also super popular. What needs fixing is not the award categories but the voters’ attitudes about genre-specific films.

3. It puts the Oscars on par with the MTV Movie Awards & that’s not okay

What’s next Oscars, a “Best Kiss” award?! For real, though, this change is showing that the Oscars are trying anything and everything to draw in viewers. And they’re doing it at the expense of the aim of the entire show: giving awards to deserving films! By deeming “popularity” an award-worthy trait they’re really just putting themselves on par with the People’s Choice Awards and the MTV Movie Awards. Which are fine, and fun, awards shows! But they’re based on popularity. There is no pretense there. The Academy Awards, on the other hand, have always held much different – and much higher – standards.

The Oscars have always been the endgame. That’s the award that every actor, actress, director, producer, and anyone working in the film industry wants. A Golden Globe is fine and a SAG is nice, but the Academy Award is where it’s at. I know when I’m sitting in front of the mirror practicing my award acceptance speech it’s always an Oscar. But this new category opens the floodgates for more categories that aren’t on par with the reputation the Oscars have rightfully earned. Ones that don’t honor the work it takes to make a film but honor how many Tweets there were about it or how many pre-sale ticket records it set.

2. There are more deserving categories that the Academy should add

I’m not denying that the Oscars need some new categories to keep things fresh. They just definitely don’t need this one. There are several deserving people in Hollywood who never get their due. Did you guys know there is no “Best Voice Actor” category? Or one for casting the perfect ensemble? I can think of many categories that would award skill and hard work that aren’t based solely on popularity. There are also many that would be a perfect way to open the door to including more genre-specific films into the fray. An award for stunt coordination, for example, would be most welcome from the likes of the MCU and action thrillers alike. That’s how the Oscars can recognize popular films for the things they do so well instead of just for their “popularity.”

1. The other Oscars changes aren’t much better

Yeah, I’ve got opinions on the other new stuff they announced, too. Aside from this new category, the live telecast is now going to be shorter. They’re adding a whole new category, shortening the telecast, and focusing more on “entertaining.” Meaning, the reason these people are even there — the awards — will mostly be given out during commercial breaks. We inch closer to a world in which the Oscars is literally three hours of musical numbers, and the five main categories everyone cares about.

I get it — that does sound much more entertaining than a long, drawn-out telecast. Especially when you probably haven’t heard of half the people winning awards. But who are we to steal that moment from people who worked so hard to achieve it? You know – the ones who should be able to thank their friends and family live on TV like Bradley Cooper gets to. It’s unfair and the antithesis of what the Oscars are. The entire point is the honor those who deserve it. It seems incredibly insensitive to say that those who deserve the awards don’t deserve the air time. Because, whoops, sorry — that now belongs to the most popular film of the year.

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