Oscar Gonna Oscar

The Academy really wants to stay relevant, but boy oh boy does it do a terrible job as the movies are dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Yesterday, in all its wisdom, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced a new category for the Oscars along with a couple changes.

Basically, it is acknowledging that the Oscars just aren’t nominating movies people are watching and thus not getting good enough ratings for its telecast. But it’s a cheap move. Ten years ago, they already expanded the number of Best Picture nominees from five to as many as ten for the specific reason of making room for more popular fare that was also critically well received. Now with a new category for achievement in “popular film” it makes the awarding of Oscars to a popular movie even more of a consolation prize. To say nothing of the fact that popular movies don’t need an Oscar because they already won their prize as it were at the box office, which goes hand in hand with the idea that a lot of lesser seen “Oscar bait” movies would not otherwise be recognized or be on the radar for most of the viewing public without a ceremony like the Oscars.
But it even further drives a divide between what are seen as “popcorn fare” and “prestige pictures”. Quite frankly, it’s cynical snobbery and also betrays what little genuine purpose behind showcasing the Magic Of The Movies that remains.
Do we really think Get Out, which was nominated for Best Picture last year (and won Best Original Screenplay) would be thought of anything more than a popular horror movie and then gotten shuffled off to the Popular Film category had it existed then? Same for Mad Max: Fury Road or The Martian in 2016? Those are all excellent movies. They are also popular movies. Do they not deserve recognition for Best Picture? Heck, the first year the Academy expanded the Best Picture nominees from 5 to 10, Best Picture nominees included James Cameron’s Avatar (the most popular movie of the year by far) and Up (the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture since Beauty and the Beast). The following year, Toy Story 3 was also nominated for Best Picture, but we haven’t gotten one since then despite many excellent animated films in recent years, some of which I think rival their live action contemporaries. But then we have the Best Animated Film category to thank for that.

And then there’s the move to keep the broadcast to 3 hours. On the one hand, sure, this is a great idea because the Oscars is always long. On the other, their solution to this is to continue to hand out awards to, shall we say, “less prestigious” categories during the commercial breaks so that the hard working artists who work below the line won’t even get their due.

This all comes when many people have pointed out that the Oscars sorely lack a category to recognize stunt performers & choreographers. These are often the scene that the big budget popular movies rely on, too, so what a great way to find another way to recognize popular films while also shining a spotlight on people who otherwise aren’t widely known.

I could go on about the Academy needing younger and more inclusive and diverse membership, but this has all been said more succinctly by much better people than me.

Am I still going to watch the Oscars every year? I always do. I still love movies. I love seeing them celebrated. I love being exposed to movies I would otherwise not have seen. The Academy just needs to be better about doing it.

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