The Oscars is one of the few awards shows that can cause angry shouting no matter what they do. But instead of calling out the Academy for things that it hasn’t done, like when people were upset about the lack of nominees of color, they’re upset by something they did do. Namely, that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has added a new category: Best Popular Film.
This new category would be, ostensively, for films that do not necessarily fit the Oscars typically artsy criteria for best picture, but were films that were still beloved by audience. Most likely, this category would feature superhero films, action movies, romantic comedies, and anything else that made a boatload of money without being particularly “artistic.”
The change was made as a move by ABC to boost viewership of the awards, which has its worst year in 2018 with only 26.5 million people tuning in. They have also chosen not to air the technical awards in order to save time on the broadcast, doing those portions of the ceremony during the commercial breaks. Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in a letter to members that the board has “committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours.”
It would be an understatement to say that the change has not gone over well, from news outlets posting op-eds en masse about how terrible the idea is to a tweet storm of sarcastic quips and general indignation. They claim that this very transparent cash-grab only further reveals the elitist nature of the awards and those appointed in the Academy. Here’s just a smattering of the conversation happening:
So ABC which is owned by Disney changed the categories for the Oscars by creating a category that creates more Oscars for films by Disney. Cool cool cool.
— Peter Labuza (@labuzamovies) August 8, 2018
I'm excited for the new Popular Films category in the Oscars. Finally, something to stir some online debate among fans of Star Wars and Superhero movies. Oh. Oh, no.
— Joseph Scrimshaw (@JosephScrimshaw) August 9, 2018
ABC is about four or five years away from letting us pick Oscar winners from home by calling a 1-800 number during the live broadcast
— Eric Haywood (@EricHaywood) August 9, 2018
The Oscars are adding a new award category:
“Best Popular Film”
Which is easily translated to:
“Please watch the Oscars again”
— Brandon Calvillo (@BJCalvillo) August 8, 2018
Will this level of criticism force ABC to roll back those changes? Probably not. And while the Oscars are, for all intents and purposes, Hollywood patting itself on the back and studios trying to get more money, there are definitely some non-Oscar-bait films that deserve a little more recognition.
The 91st Academy Awards will air on ABC on February 24, 2019.