Oscars adds new “popular” film category – and it’s wildly unpopular

The latest Academy Award might honour the likes of Black Panther – but shouldn't these films be nominated for Best Picture?

Getty, TL

With criticism in recent years that the Oscars have shunned cinema-goers’ favourites for more niche movies, the Academy Awards have introduced a new category for “outstanding achievement in popular film”.

Advertisement

If the award is incorporated into the next ceremony in 2019, films that are expected to be missing from the Best Picture category – such as Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again – could still earn an award.

However, there’s a little problem with the new category: nobody really likes the idea.

Why? Firstly, some argue movies nominated in the popular category will be less likely to be shortlisted for Best Picture.

And, for many, this follows the story of the Best Animated, Best Documentary and Best Foreign Film categories that failed to bring more appreciation to these movies.

For instance, before the Best Animated category was introduced in 2002, just one animated movie was nominated for Best Picture, Beauty and the Beast (1992). And since 2002? Only two further films have been nominated for the Best Picture award (Up in 2010 and Toy Story 3 in 2011). Movies like Inside Out weren’t in the running for Best Picture despite critical acclaim.

This had led many to argue the new award will simply segregate the films it aims to applaud.

Secondly, how will the Oscars determine what constitutes as popular? Will the nominees solely be based on box office returns? If so, there have been plenty of Best Picture nominees in recent years that were among the top-grossing films (as defined by the best 20 films at the box office).

For instance, last year Dunkirk and Get Out came 14th and 15th at the US box office, but both still picked up a nomination for Best Picture. La La Land, American Sniper, Gravity, American Hustle, The Martian were also top-grossing films in the past five years that received a Best Picture nod.

So, as best and popular films don’t have to be mutually exclusive, will this new category merely create a second-tier Best Picture?

And what about slow-burners at the box office? For instance, if the popular film category was in place at the last ceremony, The Greatest Showman wouldn’t have been nominated based on its box office returns at that point, but the movie then went on to take $1.12 billion worldwide.

Others have pointed out that the Best Picture award was first envisioned to consider a film’s popularity…

And that the problem lies with the Academy voters, rather than film categories:

Advertisement

But hey, you never know, a popular film category could lead to awards the internet is really asking for…


Sign up for the free RadioTimes.com newsletter