Thursday, August 11, 2022

Oscars add a new category so popular superhero movies can win too


Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences president John Bailey today sent out a missive to AMPAS members, announcing changes to the 2020 Academy Awards, intended to keep them “relevant in a changing world.”

It’s the latest series of changes intended to battle dramatically dropping ratings for the annual Oscars telecast.

The planned updates include;

  • Cutting the telecast to a maximum of three hours long, down from an average closer to four hours.
  • To make the awards shorter, some wins won’t be televised and will be awarded during commercial breaks, in a bid to make the show more globally accessible.
  •  The Academy is planning an earlier airdate for the telecast, moving it up to February 9th from February 23rd.

But the biggest alteration and the one that instantly drew the most response on social media involves;

  • Adding a new award category for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film.

The Popular Film award is also the most major change to the awards list since 2009 when the nominee list for the coveted Best Picture award was expanded from five to a potential maximum of 10.

The addition of a popular movie category seems aimed at rewarding summer popcorn blockbusters, which typically don’t get the kind of awards love outside of the technical categories that lower-grossing, more prestigious art films tend to garner.

In 2009, then-Academy president Sid Ganis attempted to address that issue by raising the number of nominees in the Best Picture category, which backfired; as The Ringer’s Sean Fennessey observed, the longer list was more diverse, but it also diluted the significance of a Best Picture nomination — and ratings for film’s biggest night have continued to drop in spite of the changes.

The initial announcement was predictably met with derision and backlash on social media, largely from film critics and pundits who suggested the purpose of the award was to acknowledge immediately popular films like Black Panther without diluting the Academy’s self-perceived gravitas. It remains to be seen whether the move will help in granting the Oscars some of the popularity of the films they’re trying, belatedly, to acknowledge.


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