Popular Film Oscar category: A pointless and pandering misfire


The Oscars have seen the need for some change to their structure, leading to the announcement of a brand-new category in the line-up: Achievement in Popular Film. Needless to say, many fans were outraged at the decision – and for good reason too.

Though the outer purpose of something like the Academy Awards is to honor major achievements in the world of film, at its inner core, the Oscars is a business. It is a business that thrives on hot button topics and people feeding into the Oscars to help their business prosper. It has been this way for close to a hundred years now and its doubtful that it’ll ever stop. But that doesn’t mean that the desperation of the Oscars won’t come back to bite them in the butt when trying something new.

Venturing into unfamiliar territory can lead to some great decisions with long shelf lives, but the Oscars seem to have taken it a bit too far by announcing several new changes to the Oscar ceremonies, starting in 2020. Firstly, the broadcast is set to be cut down to three hours in the hopes that people won’t think the show is overly bloated and hard to watch. By itself, this isn’t the worst change ever. The Oscars feel excessive as is, so a shorter runtime could be beneficial for those watching on a Sunday night, but not feeling like wasting over 4 hours watching people receive awards.

Where the Oscars have messed up is their method in cutting down the runtime. It was announced that the Oscars will not air some of the Oscar wins and speeches, with plans of having them set to happen during commercial breaks, forcing the smaller Oscars to miss their chance of being seen on TV. Despite good intentions, this does nothing but devalue the smaller Oscar categories even more than they already were before.

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The technical Oscars are typically seen as the warm-ups of sorts, implying that their work was not as important to the final product of the film as someone’s acting. It’s not unrealistic to say that people watching at home might care more for the Best Actor award, as opposed to something like Best Film Editing. What those people, and the Academy, don’t seem to realize is that something like Best Editing can be instrumental in making a character’s performance and the overall story flow together so seamlessly.

The editing in Birdman, for instance, is nothing short of genius, cleverly disguising the film to seem like one large take. Though the direction certainly helped, it was the editor(s) that made the film flow like water and suddenly their work is not important enough to honor on live TV? No way.

The Walking Dead, Oscar nominations 2018
NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 25: Overview of Oscar statues on display at ‘Meet the Oscars’ at the Time Warner Center on February 25, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images) /

But funny (not really) enough, this decision wasn’t even the most bizarre one that the Oscars made, with their decision to include a brand new category called Achievement in Popular Film being their most perplexing and out-of-touch decision. It’s too early to see exactly how this will affect the nomination process, seeing as how the criteria for netting such a nomination is still being work-shopped, but the reaction has been unsurprisingly negative.

Critics (myself included) of this decision are arguing that the Popular Film Oscar is nothing more than a consolation reward for financially and critically successful mainstream films that would otherwise be left out of the Oscars in favor of more traditional Oscar fare. It is seen less like inclusion and more like complete segregation, effectively implying that mainstream blockbusters have less to offer than traditional “Oscar bait” dramas with significantly heavier topics that are covered. “Popular films” are often the mainstream smash hits that resonate with the general audience but not so much with Academy voters, creating a sharp divide between voters and viewers in the process.

Black Panther
Photo courtesy Marvel Studios, Black Panther via LG PR /

There have been reports floating around that Disney themselves pushed for the change, likely for the reasons of having their traditionally mainstream hit films stand more of a chance at being nominated for and winning an Oscar than before. All of this comes on the heels of a very successful year for Disney, with Black Panther garnering near-universal acclaim for its empowering message and tackling the complex issue of globalism with considerable thought and care. It was so popular and well-liked that the film, even before this announcement, had gained major Oscar buzz, with many feeling it would be the equivalent to this year’s Logan or even Get Out, both popular films that were nominated for (and in the latter’s case, won) Oscars for their troubles.

But the announcement of the Popular Film Oscar has put Black Panther at a disadvantage of sorts, because now the film risks having a reputation of “not being good enough” to compete with “real films”, despite all of its success. Now, it’s not entirely known WHEN the Popular Film Oscar change will take place. Some reports have it debuting in 2020, while others seem to be sure that it will happen with next year’s Oscars, so it remains to be seen just how it will affect this year’s race, but as for the future, the addition of this pointless “participation badge” only highlights the Academy’s lack of self-awareness and centuries-old mindset.

Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos
Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR..Thanos (Josh Brolin)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018 /

The Academy is so obviously trying to pander to general audiences who don’t particularly care for the usual Oscar fare, but rather than opening their minds to the many blockbuster films that have legitimate passion and creativity behind their production, it is all lumped together into a lackluster category honoring the “best in popular film”. It implies that popular films, no matter how masterful they can be, are not worth honoring, which is just disgusting, if I’m to speak plainly.

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Gary Oldman can have heaps of praise chucked at him for his performance in Darkest Hour (a film I’m positive has not stood the test of time even from its release date last year), but God forbid the stunt coordinators and choreographers behind Mission Impossible: Fallout, the work put into Josh Brolin’s amazing performance in Avengers: Infinity Warand the great work put into A Quiet Place be honored for their efforts. We will see what happens, but as of now, not even the Best Picture win of Crash is comparable to how poorly thought-out this decision is.

What do you think? Are these changes going to benefit the Oscars or is it just another nail in the coffin? Sound off in the comments below!