The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced an entirely new category to honor the year's most popular blockbusters, a move that has sent shockwaves among film critics and film communities online.
On Aug. 8, the Academy detailed a number of changes to the Oscars, including its intention to add a new category for achievement in popular film. How a film qualifies as "popular" is still uncertain, and the Academy has yet to announce when this change will take into effect.
Academy Announces Best Popular Film Award
It's already clear, however, what the purpose of this award is: give blockbuster pictures a chance to walk away with their own Oscar trophies. It's not that big blockbusters don't get nominated for or win Oscars, but that doesn't always happen, and the Best Picture category has typically been reserved for indie flicks with critical acclaim and so-so revenue.
Oscar Best Popular Film Backlash
Many have taken to Twitter to criticize and express dismay over the Academy's decision to add the category in question, which some view as an excuse not to nominate critically acclaimed blockbusters such as Black Panther for Best Picture. Some even go as far as to regard the Best Popular Film award as a "fake" Oscar or the Academy's attempt to give consolation awards to films it doesn't view as worthy of high-tier Oscar awards.
Reporters from Variety, including Meredith Woerner, Stuart Oldham, and Kristopher Tapley, were among the first to comment on the new category, calling it "lazy," "staggeringly ham-fisted," and "a HUGE step back for genre film."
The Academy has long been accused of snubbing commercially blockbuster films whose genres aren't typically considered Oscar-worthy. For example, last year's Wonder Woman was a groundbreaking reinvigoration of the dormant female superhero landscape, and it won the hearts of both critics and regular moviegoers, but it was shut out from the ceremony despite a huge campaign to get it nominated.
Making space for "popular" films essentially causes a disparity among mainstream and lesser-known cinema — which sends a message that while all films deserve critical merit and scrutiny, some are just more deserving of "better" merits than others. It's a confusing concept to grasp and antagonizes films against one another instead of celebrating them.
Here are some reactions from Twitter:
"I would have voted for Black Panther for Best Popular Film twice if I could have." pic.twitter.com/sYc6l9rXXV — Ross Miller (@rosstmiller) August 8, 2018
Oh, Christ. AMPAS just announced that it will be presenting some awards off the air, and creating a new category to honor "popular films." These are bad, pandering, desperation-based decisions and I hope they reconsider. > — Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) August 8, 2018
I wish instead of creating a weird category for "popular movies," the Academy would investigate the REASONS certain films are popular and honor achievements in stunt choreography and motion capture. — Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) August 8, 2018
2018: The Academy announces a new award for "Popular Film”! 2020: The Academy announces a new award for “Best Cinematic Universe!" 2022: The Academy announces a new award for “TV Shows that Feel Like 10-Hour Movies!" 2024: The Academy announces that “gifs are the new cinema!” — david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) August 8, 2018
You know what doesn't get enough recognition? Extremely popular films. — Scott Tobias (@scott_tobias) August 8, 2018
adding a “popular film” category sounds both incredibly vague and incredibly lame, but refusing to broadcast technical awards is much much worse and more depressing — David Sims (@davidlsims) August 8, 2018
“Achievement in popular film” is rich white for “Black Panther isn’t getting a Best Picture nom” https://t.co/8Wkrt1FXUw — Phillip Henry (@MajorPhilebrity) August 8, 2018
The sad thing about the new 'popular film' Oscar is it becomes a way for the academy to 'acknowledge' the success of big films (i.e. Superheroes) w/o risking the credibility of their prestigious awards. Yo, we're hip, we LOVE Black Panther, however we just won't take it seriously — Jonathan Burdett (@jburd22) August 8, 2018
a prize for popular films already exists and it's called money — erin “my wonderful son” ryan (@morninggloria) August 8, 2018
worth noting as the Academy creates a popular film category that most Oscar movies are fairly conventional pop dramas and the Academy doesn't do much to honor the genuinely weird or groundbreaking or experimental in the first place — Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) August 8, 2018