The Academy Awards adds a new category. Why?

Hi everybody,

Your favorite neighborhood Sphinx here. Earlier this month, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences made an announcement that it would be making a new category for the Academy Awards next year. The category is currently being titled “outstanding achievement in popular film”. Wait, what the heck is this?

According to their announcement, “key details will be forthcoming”, but I’m going to assume the following: this is to give out an award for a movie that is highly popular (if not the most popular), and was rated highly among critics as well. So is this an equivalent to a participation award? Hey Black Panther, you did great, made a ton of money, and everybody pretty much liked your film, but you’re not “best picture” worthy, so here take this award instead. What is the point?

Before 2009, five movies would be nominated for best picture. But starting in 2009, the Academy increased that number to ten titles, and currently allows anywhere from five to ten films, yet recent years have seen eight or nine typically. That’s a lot of movies. You’re telling me that a highly regarded, “popular” film couldn’t take one or two of those spots in a given year? Personally, just give the film a nomination even if it doesn’t have enough to truly win the award. At least at that point you have recognized that it was a significant film for movie goers that year. Adding a whole new category of five to ten “popular films” that are separate from best picture sounds dumb.

The Academy is even more out of touch with the public too if it thinks this is going to help the drop in ratings it keeps experiencing. For me personally, I usually like to watch all of the best picture nominations before the Oscars so I can decide myself who I think should win. But the casual movie watcher isn’t going to do that, and instead sees a long list of movies that they’ve never heard of, and then choose not to watch the awards.

On top of that, the award show is already way too long as well. It always runs past its three hour time slot. Adding another award will either push another award off camera or make the event even longer (even though the Academy does say they are committed to a three hour show limit), which there’s only so much conceitedness a person can take. And even with all the flash and glamour of the evening, they still can’t get things right.  

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It’s easy to see in hindsight where the academy has gotten some of it’s past winners (and losers) right or wrong. That’s a fun debate if you are ever stuck in a room with a fellow film lover (just a quick mention - Citizen Kane, The Exorcist, Star Wars - three movies that have left such massive impacts on films, lost best picture in their given year). Who is going to have those same arguments about “best popular film”?  What specifically does the Academy have criteria-wise that doesn’t allow those critically acclaimed, popular movies added to the best picture category? In the end, just like with so many forms of entertainment, people are going to have their own preferences on things. Keep enjoying the things you love, but be willing to branch out and see and do things you typically wouldn’t.

Nick Fotiu