The Oscars’ ill-advised stunt
Last year, the American Academy Awards announced that they were considering adding a Best “Popular Film” category, despite their past refusals to add categories due to the show’s bloated run-time. They’re right mind you, the show is incredibly long (and painfully boring), but we’ll get to that later. The floating of this idea shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise as ABC, the network that televises the Oscars belongs to Disney, which produces multiple mega-blockbusters a year (Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, etc) and rarely earns an Oscar. I’m not saying Disney psss’t down to ABC and said “yo hook us up”, but I’m also not saying they didn’t.
This year Disney will do their best Galactus impersonation and complete their absorption of Fox (minus some televised properties which will be spun-off into the new “Fox Corporation”). Expect the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and all related Marvel IPs to be re-branded at their new home. Deadpool will likely be the exception because it’s a big boy and can actually pay its own rent. I mention this because a) Disney will someday own you, and you should know that, and b) because despite the megalomania, Disney does actually produce quality content and doesn’t need favours to get a “Best Picture” nomination.
But first --
Get in line
What actually bothers me about the potential of a best “Popular Film” category is that it needs to get da-fuck in line. At the very least behind “Best Stunt Coordination” (for stunt coordinators, duh) and “Best Enhanced Performance” (for corresponding FX/make-up leads, and the actor doing motion capture, voice acting, make-up performance, etc). I would even include “Best Ensemble Cast” (for casting department) ahead of “Popular Film”. These studio components, some new, some ancient, are worthy of representation at the industry’s biggest self-congratulatory event.
Cut the fat
The fact that the Oscars are sooo long (and sooo boring), is mind-boggling. We don’t need every musical number to perform, or every movie to be re-represented throughout the show. Go the Super Bowl route, give us a halftime show; every performer gets 5 minutes, that’s 25 total, and then back to the awards. Bundle up more nominations, you don’t need 30 famous people to present 30 individual awards. The host is also questionable, and in fact this year the show will apparently not include one so the event might actually finish on time.
This might be a stretch, but it bears noting that Black Panther, which was released almost a full year ago (February 2018), is seriously being touted for a Best Picture nomination. The consideration of a best “Popular Film” (BP outperformed Avengers for #1 at the domestic box office) in the same year feels like an excuse not to nominate Black Panther for Best Picture. Now there are a few people that will read this and roll their eyes at the idea of a “comic book” movie being nominated, but don’t forget that it’s because Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight was passed up that the Oscars changed the Best Picture category to include upwards of 5 nominees.
What is a “Best Picture” anyway?
I’ve debated this one for a long time. The awards are mostly broken up into specific categories that are easy enough to quantify: best costume (what costumes looked best/most intricate?), best cinematography (what looked prettiest?), best acting (who is Meryl Streep?). The best movie, however, that is a tougher question (similar to “best director” but that’s for another day). Try asking 5 people what their favorite movie is and why, chances are you’ll get different answers and reasons because our tastes are based on subjective opinions. My theory is that Best Picture, if we are to objectively choose one, should go to the most important movie. These are the timeless movies, from Star Wars to the Godfathers, or Schindler’s List to Jaws. The ones that imprinted on our shared culture. This is why, although I don’t even have Black Panther on my personal top 10 of the year, I have no problem with it being nominated or even winning Best Picture. I think it might just be that important an artifact for enough people, and similarly to the original Superman, I think we’ll still be talking about it for many years to come.
Jorge Chaparro is a Montreal based writer
Photo from shutterstock.com