I imagine that AMPAS President John Bailey is currently doing his best Gob Bluth impression in his living room and saying “I’ve made a huge mistake.” Cut to black, roll credits, and play Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence, because the fact of the matter is that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences just made a lot of people mad.
In a message to its membership, The Academy made note of the following so-called ‘improvements to the show:’
“1. A three-hour Oscars telecast
We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.
To honor all 24 award categories, we will present select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined). The winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.
2. New award category
We will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.
3. Earlier airdate for 92nd Oscars
The date of the 92nd Oscars telecast will move to Sunday, February 9, 2020, from the previously announced February 23. The date change will not affect awards eligibility dates or the voting process.”
So, in short, the two major changes to the tradition and system of the Academy Awards are that, first, they are introducing an award for ‘Best Popular Film,’ and, second, select below-the-line awards will be presented to its winners during commercial breaks.
As I wrote in a series of tweets a little while ago, The Academy just revealed how desperate they are to get eyes on their show — to stay relevant — but their way of getting people to watch along is by lessening the show as it is right now. By announcing the popular films-category the Academy is admitting that the Best Picture changes — i.e. increasing the nomination limit — didn’t work as intended.
Also, now that they will no longer present all of the awards live on-air, but during commercial breaks, they are being unbelievably disrespectful not just to fans of the show, but especially to those people nominated for below the line category awards. People like me get incredibly involved with the below-the-line categories, and by disrespecting those nominated in those categories, the Academy is showing everyone that being hip is apparently more important than acknowledging filmmaking expertise and craft.
The next thing you know, the winners will be slimed on stage like at the Kids’ Choice Awards. These are some really bad moves that The Academy has made. By commercializing an awards category it is ruining the show that many love. This is a huge disappointment.
What if Get Out came out when this category existed? It was a popular film, but it was also one of the best films of the year. Would it be nominated for Best Picture and Best Popular Film? Or would voters ignore that film in the Best Picture category that often ignores animated, documentary, and foreign films?
Also, by having a Best Popular Film category, the Academy is essentially giving a consolation prize to films that it would never have nominated for Best Picture in the first place, so that they can’t be criticized for not giving a popular film the award for Best Picture going forward. By having both a Best Popular Film and a Best Picture category, they are both undermined and made less prestigious by each other’s existence.
I don’t think this category will help the Oscars get significantly more viewers. And if I’m right, then they just announced a new category that does nothing for the Oscars, it only makes the ceremony and the little golden man less prestigious.
Although I think this is an awful move that the Academy has made, it also isn’t a completely new idea. At the very first Academy Awards, they essentially had two Best Picture categories — Outstanding Picture and Best Unique and Artistic Picture.
It remains to be seen what constitutes a ‘popular film.’ But it doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. This is all about ratings and attention, and most certainly not about acknowledging and honoring the best in filmmaking.
Update: On September 6th, 2018, the Academy postponed the introduction of the Best Popular Film category. It will not be introduced for the 91st Academy Awards, but it may still be introduced in future ceremonies.
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen