Should the Oscars award Best Popular Film?

Photo courtesy of ShareIcon

Photo courtesy of ShareIcon
Inclusivity will make the oscars more accessible

Opinion by Kennedy Erhart

The Academy’s latest category addition to the Oscars, Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film, ultimately makes the award show more inclusive.

Statements from people in the industry saying that the addition of the category will make the Oscars more of something mirroring the MTV Movie & TV Awards couldn’t be more false. The inclusivity of this category addition will ultimately project the Oscars toward audiences that weren’t previously watching because large blockbusters that the casual filmgoer sees weren’t being considered in the major categories like Best Picture. 

The main reason for the addition of this more inclusive category was because of the all-time low viewing numbers from last year’s awards with 26.5 million viewers, when The Shape of Water was the major winner of the night. In previous years, the most viewers were recorded when blockbusters like Titanic and The Lord of the Rings won Best Picture.

The point of the addition isn’t to honor films that aren’t worthy; the idea is to honor films that are highly rated by both the public and the Academy, but not frequently considered in major, non-technical categories.

Screenwriter Larry Karaszewski, who was recently elected vice president of the Academy, said, “I think the idea is to have an award that makes blockbusters better.”

Many Academy members have stated that they would like to see films like Black Panther and Baby Driver, that are an art in their own right and also major box office hits, receive a nomination. 

Mark Wahlberg recently spoke with Variety and said, “Maybe if they’d had the category before, we’d have won a couple of them.” Wahlberg has continuously starred in and produced popular films like Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon which both received incredibly high critic and audience ratings on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.   

Overall, the addition of the new category makes the awards more inclusive to everyday audiences that are more mindful of box office hits. 

The award undermines everything the oscars should stand for

Opinion by Alexander Elmore

Recently, the Oscars announced that there will be a new award to honor the Best Achievement in Popular Film. The thought behind this award is that by nominating blockbuster films, viewership will increase. 

Fundamentally, the popular film award significantly devalues Best Picture, the only Oscar that the general public cares to know the winner of. The title of the award implies that whatever films are nominated for Best Picture are not popular. It has not yet been determined how Academy voters will differentiate between what films get nominated for Best Picture or Best Popular Film, but it will most likely be based on the film’s box office performance. Money is not necessarily a determining factor in quality. 

In 2009, the Academy changed the number of Best Picture nominees from five to 10 films in hopes that more blockbusters would be nominated, but this change mostly allowed for more independent films to receive attention. If the Academy were to simply nominate blockbusters for Best Picture more often, there would be no need for a Popular Film Oscar.

Additionally, the award becomes a paradoxical solution to the very problem it is meant to solve. Black Panther has been such a critical and commercial darling this year that it was all but guaranteed a nomination for Best Picture. This would’ve helped the Academy stay relevant, as the film was a cultural phenomenon within the United States and its nomination would prove the Oscars recognized that. Now, however, its Best Picture nomination is thrown into question in favor of this newly established award. 

The award also likely means films that don’t really deserve recognition will become nominees so that a quota will be met. For example, while Black Panther deserves a nomination, does Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom deserve the same nomination as an important and artistic blockbuster that has raised the bar for the genre? No, but they both grossed $1 billion and therefore make the Academy seem in touch with what audiences want.

It should not be the goal of the Academy to simply cater to what they think will make them popular; it should be in the awarding of standout filmmaking regardless of how commercially successful that film is.

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