Academy Puts ‘Best Popular Film’ Oscar on Hold Following Backlash
The Motion Picture of Academy Arts and Sciences recently caused quite the internet stir when it announced the addition of a new category honoring “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film.” The category, more commonly referred to as “Best Popular Oscar,” was quickly called out for being little more than a thinly-veiled ratings grab and an attempt to cash-in on the success of blockbusters like Black Panther. Though it was initially planned to make its debut at the upcoming 2019 ceremony, the Academy has decided to place the category on “hold” for the time being.
In its official statement, the Academy cites “challenges for films that have already been released” as its central reason for delaying the category’s inclusion:
While remaining committed to celebrating a wide spectrum of movies, the Academy announced today that it will not present the new Oscars category at the upcoming 91st awards. The Academy recognized that implementing any new award nine months into the year creates challenges for films that have already been released. The Board of Governors continues to be actively engaged in discussions, and will examine and seek additional input regarding this category.
However, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson admits that the widespread internet backlash had something to do with it:
There has been a wide range of reactions to the introduction of a new award, and we recognize the need for further discussion with our members. We have made changes to the Oscars over the years—including this year—and we will continue to evolve while also respecting the incredible legacy of the last 90 years.
Those changes include the expansion of the Best Picture category to allow for up to 10 films in any given year. That change was made in response to another bit of backlash, when Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight failed to merit a Best Picture nom despite massive critical acclaim. Historically speaking, the Oscars tend to ignore blockbusters, superhero films, and the horror genre (making rare exceptions for the latter). The Best Popular Film category would allow for those films — like last year’s Get Out and this year’s Black Panther — that are both commercially successful and critically adored to receive awards recognition from the Academy.
But many (myself included) felt that the award was more insult than honor; by designating a film as “most popular” instead of “best,” the award recognizes commercial viability over quality — and these two things are not mutually exclusive. Films like Black Panther and Wonder Woman may never win Best Picture, but their massive box office success shouldn’t mitigate the fact that they are good movies — great, even — and deserving of serious Best Picture consideration.
While the Best Popular Film category won’t be included in the 91st Oscars, other changes will take effect, including the shortening of the telecast to three hours, with selected awards given out during commercial breaks and edited highlights aired later in the evening. Based on past attempts to cut down the show’s length, that should go over real well.