The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday it will debut a new category at the 91st Oscars: the award for “outstanding achievement in popular film.”
The decision was immediately laughable — the Oscars are not exactly a bastion of artistic achievement to begin with — but it’s also insulting to any blockbusters that get slapped with the label. The misguided attempt to give “popular” films the handicap of their own category does far more to hurt said films than to actually help them.
Details about how the eligibility of these popular films will be determined are, for the time being, in short supply: How will a film be ruled popular enough to compete as a “popular” film? Will it be box office numbers, production budget, or an MLB All-Star-style people’s vote? Will popular movies be disqualified from competing in the main Best Picture category, or could a popular film theoretically win both? Does ABC, which airs the Oscars, actually think this will entice more people to watch its three-hour long broadcast? (It won’t.)
There is no doubt that the Oscars have a problem: The films that win are largely not the films people actually watch. But the Academy is trying to have its cake and eat it too: By cleaving Best Picture into what amounts to artistic and popular awards, you just end up tarnishing both categories.
The decision to split the Best Picture award has some historic precedent — as a failure. At the first ever Academy Awards in 1929, two top prizes existed, one for “outstanding motion picture production” and another to recognize an “artistic, worthy, and original production.” The former commerce-oriented award went to the romantic war film Wings, and the latter craft award to Sunrise, which is often considered the best silent film ever made.
It was the first and last time the awards were divided between “outstanding picture” and “unique and artistic picture” because a single award was quickly understood to be more prestigious. Curiously, today the Oscars website lists Wings as “the first Oscar winner for Best Picture,” putting an inherent emphasis on the values of “outstanding motion picture production” over one described as “artistic, worthy, and original.” Indeed, an “artistic” film category would have been a more sensible addition to the Oscars, since Best Picture was already modeled on the slightly more business-specific award.
There’s another reason to be suspicious of …
Source:: The Week – Entertainment