For roughly 90 years, the annual Oscars has highlighted what (is mostly considered) to be outstanding works of film. However, last year’s Academy Awards was the lowest-viewed Oscars on record, and the low rating has led the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to initiate some changes for the upcoming 2019 awards show.
On Wednesday, the Academy announced its decision to form a new award category for best popular film and many commentators, including many within the entertainment industry, were critical of the idea.
First, many popular films have been nominated for or won the best picture Oscar, creating confusion as toor why there is a need for a separate category for popular films. If the most popular films amongst the general public already garnered Academy recognition, there does not appear to be a legitimate reason for further separation in the categories.
Many speculated that this decision was a way for the Academy to recognize “Black Panther,” Marvel’s critically acclaimed 2017 film, without nominating it for best picture. Others have compared it to the Academy’s version of a participation award, with the winning film being seen as “good” to the public but not to the Academy. For a successful film like “Black Panther,” which was praised for many aspects, its potential exclusion from best picture in favor of the new Oscar award has many riled.
But perhaps some of the biggest critiques, especially from within the film industry, is the seemingly rushed decision on the part of the Academy for the creation of this new category.
The organization has not currently released any definitive criteria on what the eligibility requirements will be for the award or even what constitutes a “popular film” in the eyes of the Academy. The lack of information has left many confused about what direction the organization will take when deciding the films that will be nominated. In addition, the lack of definiteness from the Academy is leaving a trail of confusion as to how the Oscars campaigning for the category is going to work.
“I feel like I don’t have any information yet, so I don’t even know how to have a conversation about it,” one consultant told “Variety.”
The Academy already had to issue a clarification almost immediately after its announcement to dispel early reports that films could only be nominated for either best picture or best popular film, but the lack of clarity about eligibility requirements for the new category does still hold some potential issues for how films will be placed into each category.
Although the Academy is attempting to make an effort to increase the Oscars’ viewership, the newest change has only created confusion and controversy, which might actually threaten the Academy Awards’ future successes.
While it is too early to tell if the backlash will cause the Academy to rollback its latest decision, it might cause the organization to truly think critically about what the general public really wants when it comes to entertainment.