For a long time, there has been a debate in many a circle about how the Academy Awards/Oscars tend to seemingly ignore or turn their nose up at the types of films that are more likely to be the huge box office earning summer blockbusters. Relegating the likes of superhero films or science fiction epics to only receive technical awards and not any of the big acting, directing or best picture awards.
Viewership of the awards show has dropped steadily for years (the most recent show being the lowest rated with only 26.5 million viewers) for numerous reasons, the divide between the films Hollywood thinks are award-worthy and what the actual public sees no doubt one of the reasons.
Turns out that the Academy is ready to address this divide, but not in the way that most would have expected or perhaps even liked.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences president John Bailey announced to Academy members that the Board of Governor approved various changes to address issues surrounding the show including capping it at 3 hours (instead of the up to potentially 4 hours) meaning some awards will be handed out during commercial breaks and filmed to be shown later in the broadcast as well as moving up the show from the end of February to closer to the beginning of the month.
The biggest change and the one that centers around blockbuster/superhero/etc films is the addition of a brand new category for “outstanding achievement in popular film” with the requirements to be eligible for that category to be revealed at some other future point. Essentially it’s a way to give a wink and nod to the big blockbuster films without actually letting them into the nominations for the bigger awards.
This change was met by outcries online from both sides of the aisle as many feel that it’s a slap in the face to films as art and inclusion of “popular” films will cheapen the event while many others feel it’s a slap in the face to the popular films that more of the audience are actually seeing by essentially being a participation award since they can’t ever get a shot at the big awards.
There is not even a guarantee that such an award will help the divide because without knowing the criteria there is no telling what “popular” films will make it in. A film like Black Panther that brought in huge box office and changed how many think about films with majority black casts could make it in but then lose to another film that maybe isn’t one the Academy voters would normally vote for but it’s closer to the types of films that they like such as a Mama Mia: Here We Go Again. Both fitting the description of popular but not likely to be nominated for bigger awards but pit against one another in a runners-up sort of category.
It remains to be seen if this move will help the Oscars gain back any ratings next year, but the initial backlash on all sides seems to point towards possibly the opposite becoming true.