Producer Jason Blum is one of the few in support of the Academy's newly-introduced Best Achievement in Popular Film category. To say the planned Oscar changes haven't gone over well with a majority of cinephiles would be a tremendous understatement. Shortly after the announcement, the Academy was hit with widespread backlash, as many consider the category to be an insult not just to the blockbusters it would recognize, but also the more "traditional" Oscar fare that rarely posts record-breaking numbers at the box office.
For years, moviegoers have expressed a desire for the Academy to reward game-changing tentpoles, but this was seen as a rather tone-deaf way of going about it. Even industry professionals have mocked the decision, but not everyone feels this way. While they're most definitely the minority, there are those who think it's a good move.
Speaking with THR at the premiere of BlacKkKlansman (a possible contender in the regular Best Picture category this year), Blum shared his thoughts on the new category and why he believes it's a good idea:
“I think it’s a great thing. I think they have to shake up that show. I think the Academy is so important, and what the Academy does is help us as producers make more commercially challenging movies. In order to do that, the Academy Awards has to be relevant and make people want to watch it. I think they took a step in the right direction."
Blum does make an interesting point, but the case can be made the Academy didn't need to create a new category out of thin air to achieve the relevancy it craves. The intention behind the Best Picture expansion following the infamous Dark Knight snub 10 years ago was to give "popular movies" a greater chance at earning a nomination in that prestigious category. Instead, the Academy has used this as an opportunity to nominate more of "their" type of film, leaving acclaimed blockbusters like Skyfall and The Force Awakens to compete for the technical awards and nothing else. Some Best Popular Film possibilities of years past are arguably stronger works than actual Best Picture nominees, so it's not hard to see how the Academy could have saved themselves a lot of trouble. Separating the two into their own categories only furthers the divide and makes moviegoers frustrated.
What remains to be seen is how the Academy will determine what's eligible for the Popular Film category. Details regarding that should be revealed soon, which will hopefully clear things up and (perhaps) change the general consensus. Of course, it seems unlikely people are going to come around on this, so maybe the Oscars will backtrack and look for a different way to increase ratings (like trimming down on montages and skits). Even though high-profile figures like Blum are on their side, they seem to have taken a major step backwards with this initiative.