To combat dwindling ratings and address long-standing audience apathy towards the annual Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science (AMPAS) are introducing some radical changes for the Oscars. The ceremony, which typically runs over four hours, will be cut down to three, with smaller awards of less notoriety handed out during commercial breaks. It will also take place two weeks earlier. Although the biggest change is the introduction of an undefined award for a "popular film".
What does "popular" mean? The Academy doesn't even seem to know, saying it will define the rules later. Whatever it does, Screen Rant's editors and writers aren't too impressed. Here are our thoughts on the development.
Rob Keyes - Editorial Director
Today’s decision to add a “popular film” category and adjust the live Oscars broadcast highlights the larger problem of The Academy simply not ‘getting it.’ Showcasing less awards, and dumbing down the entire ceremony to offer shout-outs to movies that perform better at the box office doesn’t solve the problems of the Oscars – it makes them worse.
The problem, aside from the obvious diversity issues over the years and the awkward support of talent involved in sexual harassment cases, is that The Academy isn’t recognizing the actual ‘best’ in its categories. A limited selection of “Oscar bait” films are chosen and seemingly nominated for every category, often including technical awards where there dozens of more deserving motion pictures.
The ‘Best Picture’ category for instance, can support 10 nominees but the Academy refuses to use all of available slots. The Academy also only recognizes films that get costly awards campaigns, not actually the best films that open theatrically. Do we even need to get into the lack of recognition for talent performing motion capture work or dangerous stunts?
Drop this ‘Popular Film’ nonsense and give Andy Serkis, Black Panther, and Tom Cruise some love.
Alex Leadbeater - Lead Features Editor
I love the Oscars. Not because they mean anything but exactly because they don't. They're all pomp and taking regular movie discussion far too seriously. That's why the Moonlight/La La Land fiasco was so delightful; the entire thing is one tweet away from disaster. That said, I did find this year's race and ceremony rather boring. Everything was so predictable - even in a year (mostly) lacking in Oscar bait, the Academy had still fallen into obvious picks.
Something clearly needs to be done, and recent moves to diversify the membership were very promising. These new changes, though, aren't going to help. I've written at length about this already - in the not-so-subtly titled The "Popular Film" Oscar Is An Insult - but, basically, going for a popular Oscar creates a "special guest star" award for big names while also shutting them out of consideration for the bigger categories (something that's been a problem for a while). Cutting down the telecast, meanwhile, just means the more technical categories (where bigger films typically reside)§ are going to be even more overlooked. It's trading one problem for another.
I don't know what the solution is, but these changes are simply the Academy ignoring what's wrong with them.
Chris Agar - Associate News Editor
I think the Best Popular Movie category is an absolute joke. The whole idea behind expanding Best Picture after The Dark Knight's snub was to ensure more "popular movies" got nominated in that field, but instead, the Academy is creating an unnecessary division. I also feel it's a slap in the face to a majority of Oscar-nominated films that aren't "popular" (at least, in terms of box office gross). It basically tells them they aren't relevant to general moviegoers and makes the whole thing even more of a mess.
If First Man wins Best Picture this year, but isn't nominated in Popular Movie, how should Damien Chazelle feel? The Academy should just nominate genre films in Best Picture. There's no reason why they can't, and it would make everything easier. This is a step backwards for the Oscars, as evidenced by the negative reactions.
Stephen Colbert - Associate Features Editor
As film criticism has already drifted further and further to simplistic aggregate scoring systems like Rotten Tomatoes, the Academy is only reinforcing this divide, sorting more mainstream or "popular" films into their own insulated category instead of finding a way to adequately compare and recognize non-Oscar bait films on their own merit.
This new category will be seen as little more than a consolation prize at best, and at worst it could actually pull popular films out of the Best Picture category. If the goal is to create more opportunity for recognition, then dividing by budget or genre or awarding an "all around" award for films that win multiple technical categories would be a much better approach. Instead, this rule virtually guarantees that the Best Picture category remains "unsullied" by more mainstream fare, virtually nullifying the intent behind the category expansion after The Dark Knight's snub.
Danny Salemme - News & Features Writer
It’s really no surprise that the Academy would implement new changes into the Oscar ceremony, but they’re definitely not reading the room. Nor do they seem to understand their audience. Their audience is movie nerds, fashionistas, and friends of movie nerds and fashionistas. Pander to them. Don’t pander to the casual viewer who probably isn’t even getting through the first twenty minutes. The best part of last year’s ceremony was a four-minute montage highlighting the magic of movies. That’s what the audience wants; not some gold-coated throwaway carbon copy of the People’s Choice Awards.
Even worse, it’s a slap in the face to all the movies the Academy hinted at recognizing when they expanded the Best Picture nominees to ten slots in the first place - let alone to all the winners whose categories will air during… commercial breaks? Really? The Academy’s been trying, I’ll give them that. But this is embarrassing.
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