Here’s all you need to know about the *sigh* “outstanding achievement in popular film” award
If you’ll allow me to get personal for a swift minute: I’m not a fan of the Oscars. It’s a weird institution, a large collective hug of outmoded back-slappers who are desperately trying to stay relevant - it’s a white males’ tea-party and most other people aren’t invited. Never have I ever judged the merit of a movie on whether or not it has won an Oscar (*drinks*) because I feel it’s redundant. In fact, I’m much more likely to seek out those films ignored by the Academy - there’s a much better chance they’ll be attuned to my sensibilities.
Still, they continue attempting to maintain their relevance in response to dwindling interest - this year’s ceremony was the lowest-rated in history, didn’t you know? Maybe the movie-going public are finally wising up to the irrelevance of the world’s most obnoxious members club.
So what’s their remedy? How do they get the kids back on board? Well, they only recently upped the Best Picture nominees to ten, rather than five - a move which I’m sure had zero effect on anything, other than disappointing five more movie crews - but they’ve now introduced a new category, the first fresh one since Best Animated Feature in 2001. That category? Outstanding achievement in popular film.
What’s that though? What is that, actually? What - if you’ll excuse my French - the merde does that mean?
Clearing precisely nothing up, the board offered the following statement:
“We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world. The board of governors took this charge seriously.”
Good to know. Essentially, it’s an effort by the Academy to include blockbusters - big box-office bangers like Black Panther and Mission: Impossible - Fallout, so that the people that like those types of films will tune in to see them win something. To see them win an arbitrary statue that is awarded long after the film has come out, long after it has proved its worth by conquering the box office and long after almost everyone that saw it rang its praise. Oh, but here’s a small yellow man for your mantlepiece - your film means nothing until you have this, apologies. And if you didn’t win one - sorry, all that work? It was for nothing.
Sure, it’s great they want to include these films - they’re just as worthy as anything else (providing they’re good, of course) - but why weren’t they purposefully included before? Why do they need a new category? It’s extremely patronising to group these films into another section under the mightily condescending “popular” banner - “Stick the cute, silly-looking pigs in another pen where all the pig-novices can go and fawn over them, but make sure you keep the intelligent ones over here, next to the farming industry bigwigs, who can kiss them, who can kiss the clever pigs all day long.”
Why is “popular” a bad thing? If they’re so keen on inclusivity, why shouldn’t Avengers: Infinity War be uttered alongside First Reformed in the same breath? Both films are the proud recipients of an immense number of plaudits - universally-liked movies - but why is one “popular” and the other not? I have always posited - perhaps to the chagrin of anyone that will listen (and if you move away from my table in the pub, I shall simply shout at the nearest available one) - that it takes an immense amount of skill to orchestrate a successful blockbuster movie. If you end up with a solid crowd-pleaser it’s an accomplishment that few on this earth could match - I can’t even begin to think where you would start.
In fact, I feel I - without any discernible skill or experience - would stand in better stead of directing a movie about two people in one room than I would a sprawling epic set across different planets and with a cast of thousands. Maybe a moot argument, sure, and it is of course not to slight any of the worthy Best Picture winners in the past, I’ve just always felt it necessary to lump the other lot in with them - don’t leave a film out because one of the characters can turn into a green ogre.
It would also be remiss of me to ignore the fact that a few box office successes have appeared as main contenders in the ceremony before, like Inception did in 2011, or Mad Max: Fury Road in 2016, but for the most part, if something does the big guns, then it’s not in the running.
So how will this new category work? What constitutes popular? Will a film be required to make a certain amount of money before it is considered? Will it have to breach a particular audience score on Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB? Will Steven from Preston have to publicly say “Oh man, it was absolutely sick” for it to stay in the net? Who will even receive the award? It’s all extraordinarily confusing.
More than anything though, it’s insulting, to the audience, to us - the very demographic that the Oscars are trying to entice. Only like big old cinema popcorn films, do ya? Well here’s your stupid award, that’ll shut you up, now let the grown-ups talk (but don’t forget to pay your entry fee).
Come to think of it, maybe I don’t want The Oscars to lump everything else in with its usual fare (especially if it doesn’t want it, which it so obviously doesn’t). It’s always been elitist, so why not stay that way? Have your silly party with your goody-bags and don’t force yourself to include things you don’t respect - this isn’t Dinner for Schmucks. Sorry, Le Dîner de Cons, my mistake.
By positioning an award as equal, yet hiding it behind the veiled shame of a word which we can all recognise means “lesser”, the Academy are not moving forward, they’re moving backwards, and it’s embarrassing. They’re the adults, and they’re treating anyone who has the temerity to enjoy Tom Cruise flying a helicopter down a ravine, like a child. A child who they’re putting faith in to actually save their arses. Priorities = entirely all over the place.
As it stands, we’ve been promised that “Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming,” but so far, speculation is all we have, and as such, SPECULATION IS GOSPEL, specifically mine, and here it is: this category makes no sense and is very bad and crap.
Still, that’s the decision and this is the brave new future we are all to live in: “Welcome to the 2020 Oscars, please welcome Tony Hawk to the stage to introduce the Academy Award for Best Skateboarding Scene!”