Campus Beat Reporter
On August 8, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced via Twitter that it plans to design a new category centered around “achievement in popular film.” Films fitting this category would be blockbusters that do well at the box office but lack “Best Picture” qualities. If the Academy does introduce a new award category along the lines of “Most Popular Film,” it could potentially be one of the best things to have happened to the Oscars.
Cinema aficionados should understand the distinction between movies that are traditionally considered Best Picture and ones that are blockbusters. The former is a work of the highest artistic quality and aesthetics. The latter is simply a movie that audiences enjoy. As a result, two separate categories should exist to accommodate a wider variety of movies.
Recent years have introduced wildly successful movies that don’t conform to the traditional paradigm of Best Picture (i.e defined by artistic quality and aesthetics), but are outstanding and innovative in their own right. Most notable is Marvel Studios and their origination of the first so-called “cinematic universe.”
Additionally, popular movies are successful because they are able to foster a connection with the audience. “Black Panther” premiered when there was a lack of black representation in superhero movies, while “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” captured audiences’ imaginations and reintroduced a whole new generation to the magic of seeing “Star Wars” for the first time.
As a result, these so-called “popular movies” have merit in their own right. Groundbreaking and meaningful movements such as these should be encouraged to prosper and pursue awards tailored to them specifically, rather than conforming to more traditional awards such as Best Picture.
The Academy has traditionally added awards as needed. According to the Academy website, “Film Editing, Music Scoring, and Song were added to the categories honoring films released in 1934.”
In fact, the Academy shouldn’t just stop at one new award. On Twitter, audiences have been been pushing for more relevant and inclusive awards such as “Best Stunt Work,” “Best Voice Acting,” or even “Best Casting.”
Needless to say, the Academy’s decision has cleft the film community, with one side praising the Academy for its ostensible progressiveness through acknowledgement of popular movies, and the other claiming that the Academy is merely pandering to viewers in an attempt to raise rapidly falling ratings.
According to Fortune, the 90th Academy Awards “averaged just 26.5 million television viewers, a decline of 20 percent over last year’s show and the ceremony’s worst viewership ever.” Naturally, the Academy had to implement overhauls to stay afloat.
However, I believe that at its core, cinema was built on the ideals of democratic expression, and so the Academy’s decision is a progressive move geared toward promoting a more inclusive and nuanced cinematic community.
If the cinematic community embraces this distinction as a signifier of diversity in tastes, more conversations can happen. Instead of just having snarky film critics talking only to each other, anyone who loves cinema would be encouraged to have a valid and equal voice in the overarching conversation.