The Academy’s New Award for ‘Popular Film’ is Absurd

The Academy just dropped the ball big time. Not content with making one change that annoys the film industry, they’ve made three! None of them however have caused as much noise as the idea to introduce an award for achievement in popular film. There are a lot of reasons why this is a dreadful move and I’m here to vent about a few of them.

…by introducing this award, it’s not celebrating blockbuster films, it’s actually invalidating them more than ever.

This year has seen a noticeable rise in people rallying films that tend to get overlooked come awards seasons to be recognised. This month I’ve seen a lot of comments about how Mission: Impossible – Fallout should be considered in the same way Mad Mad: Fury Road was in 2015. But I think we are all well aware of what film is mainly responsible for the introduction of this award – Black Panther. Now, the success the film enjoyed was not only down to how good the film was, but also down to the fact it sent shock waves through Hollywood. A prominently black cast brings in a audience, who knew? (Literally everyone who is open minded). If Black Panther did manage to snag a Best Picture nomination, it would be a huge moment in Oscar history. A big budget blockbuster going toe to toe with the critics’ favourites would signify a huge shift in how the Academy works. The problem is, by introducing this award, it’s not celebrating blockbuster films, it’s actually invalidating them more than ever. Instead of being celebrated as an equal, they’re basically being pawned off into a disguised participation category. It may do well to please the rallying cries for films like these to be recognised, but in reality it’s just further highlighting the fact that The Academy will always overlook blockbuster films when it comes down to the nitty gritty.

…what actually constitutes as a popular film?

Another big dilemma with this all is what actually constitutes as a popular film? There’s no denying that Black Panther and Mission: Impossible – Fallout are loved by fans and critics alike so would be considered, but what about films like The Greatest Showman? Critics hated it, while fans adore it. Would The Academy be willing to nominate films like that, or is a film only popular if both fans and critics enjoy it? Do we take box office into consideration? Are the top five films the nominees? If that’s the case, last years nominations would’ve included the fan dividing Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It may have made the most but it most certainly isn’t a popular film amongst some fans. Also, if this award had existed last year, might we have seen Get Out pushed out of the Best Picture race and instead be the frontrunner for this new category? It was undeniabley one of the strongest films on show, but it definitely wasn’t your typical awards season contender. By nominating films as groundbreaking and superb as that for the Popular Award, do we then see it not get a look in for the main one?

How hard is it to make a popular film? 95% of the times it’s a big studio summer release with a humongous budget and an advertising campaign that lasts for months.

On the back of this point, I think it’s abundantly clear that this award will not be seen in the same light as other Oscars. In the same way some don’t take the Golden Globes as serious as others, this new award won’t be viewed as highly as other wins. And to be honest, it’s a valid point. How hard is it to make a popular film? 95% of the times it’s a big studio summer release with a humongous budget and an advertising campaign that lasts for months. And on top of this, most of them are a sequel or set within an established cinematic universe so the fan base is already there. Now, if a film like Sorry To Bother You won over something like …Infinity War, that would feel more earned. An independent film telling a fresh and original story that I haven’t seen a single piece of negativity about. The film has become popular on its own merit, not due to an overblown advertising campaign or an established franchise. The film is also receiving thousands of calls to be distributed internationally because at the moment we are all being deprived of seeing it. That’s the kind of popularity you can’t buy and is much more deserving of it than what’ll probably go on to win.

We don’t need an award celebrating 5 films everyone has seen that made over $800 million.

The Oscars have awards that single out documentaries, foreign films and animated features because these categories don’t get highlighted enough and are often overshadowed. Popular films on the other hand are the polar opposite. We don’t need an award celebrating 5 films everyone has seen that made over $800 million. Adjusted for inflation, 9 of the 10 highest grossing films have won Oscars. Without inflation, only 2 of the top 10 have. We all want a variety of films to have a chance of winning awards, but maybe it’s time to realise modern blockbusters just aren’t as good as nominated films. In my opinion, Black Panther shouldn’t be in the running for Best Picture, but if they won this new award, it would look like The Academy is taking pity on them and giving them a concelation prize to stop the vocal outcry they’ll recieve when it isn’t nominated. That doesn’t feel right.

…why can’t we celebrate more deserving achievements in cinema?

Finally, and this is easily my biggest problem with the issue at hand, if we’re going to make new categories, why can’t we celebrate more deserving achievements in cinema? Stunt work has been crying out for some recognition and is long overdue the attention. Casting directors are the only member of the crew who regularly appear on opening credits that aren’t rewarded for their work. How about an award for voice work within animation? Motion capture performances? They could also take a leaf out out BAFTA’s book by rewarding debuts from first time filmmakers. Or how about an award for best soundtrack? The right song can make or break an entire film. But no, let’s reward a film for being popular because that takes a lot more skill. I can’t undertsand how they thought this idea would bring anything but a negative response from the film community. It’ll be interesting to see how The Academy respond to the criticism and if they’ll take any action about it. I for one don’t think this is the end of this issue by a long shot.

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