Best Popular Film
What do these three have in common? The latest changes the Academy has made, with the inclusion of a 25th category: Best Popular Film. What does that mean? Well, to be honest, nobody knows, not even the Academy themselves! They're still working out the details...
Another significant change they made includes condensing the ceremony to a much stricter 3 hour run time, which means the winners of the smaller categories will only be able to have their speeches condensed into a shorter montage run during commercial break, kind of like how the Tony Awards works.
If you've been on social media a lot since yesterday, I'm sure you saw that the response has been overwhelmingly negative. As in, I have not seen even one person who's happy about these changes. At first, I didn't really care much about the Best Popular Film category, but after thinking about it more, and hearing other people's reactions, I do have some things to say.
Now, one thing that has absolutely aggravated me in terms of Oscar talk of next year is the chances Black Panther has. I even heard many say that it's likely to make a clean sweep of Oscars like what Mad Max: Fury Road and Dunkirk did, which I find to be just sad. I'm going to tell it like it is right now: Black Panther is a bad movie (my review is available here). It's lazily acted, the screenplay is full of plot holes, the CGI looks inexcusably cheap, the sets and costumes are hideous to look at, and the fight scenes are nauseatingly choreographed. The only reason why people have responded so positively to this Marvel film is simply because it's got a mostly Black cast. Now, I'm all in for diversity representation, and Sorry to Bother You is currently one of my favorite films of 2018, but you can't just cast non-White people in your film and call it a social commentary. The Academy is not going to snub Black Panther because they are racist White old men who hate comic book movies, they're going to snub Black Panther because it's not a good enough movie for the honor.
The same goes to all these other "popular films" that people have praised: Avengers: Infinity War, Incredibles 2, and Deadpool 2 in particular, they are simply not good movies, and don't deserve Oscar nomination status. That doesn't mean all popular films are bad, I can already sense A Quiet Place is going to find a spot in the Best Picture lineup, and that was a huge hit. I honestly do think it deserves to be there: it plays with silence in an approach that makes it so much louder than noise, all done to show the true communications barrier of the typical American family as fear of the end times broods over their home. I know people have complained that the characters make stupid decisions throughout the film, and maybe they have, but guess what? It's an apocalyptic future, and they're not war heroes or anything, they're an average family! Of course they don't always know what they're doing! If anything, those flaws make them more human.
But I'm getting sidetracked right now, just wanted to put that out there. But looking back on previous years, I can actually agree that there were popular films that were good enough to be nominated for Best Picture, but weren't. If I were an Academy voter, I would have happily put in the names of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Planet of the Apes trilogy, The LEGO Movie, Zootopia, Inside Out, and Coco for Best Picture. So that means the problem is not the amount of eligible popular films, it's the mindset of the Academy voters.
I also have to say the general public has some blame to share too, they're the ones seeing these poorly made money-makers and giving them the status as "popular," while genuinely well made films that do make the Best Picture lineup earn a relatively poor amount of money. I mean, the last Best Picture winner to also be the top grossing film of the year was The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and that was fifteen years ago! So I challenge you to see more of the films that the Academy is already recognizing. It is true that a lot of them are quite difficult to sit through, but keep in mind that movies are more than just a two-hour escape from reality, they are there to inform you about the problems of the world and what you can do to influence solutions to those problems. You think Air Force recruitment wouldn't have skyrocketed if it weren't for Top Gun? Also think about the holocaust survivors who were brave enough to speak up after seeing Schindler's List, or the survivors of the Catholic Priest scandal who also spoke up after seeing Spotlight. Seeing certain movies of high honor does require some courage, but the more movies you watch, the more likely you'll find something that really strikes you personally, and your taste could expand past mindless moneymakers (that is, if that's already what your preference is).
Ultimately, after thinking about it more, my preference for the Academy is that they ditch the "Best Popular Film" category, and focus on including those popular films in their Best Picture lineup. Although as of now, the only film to gross in the 9 digits that I deem good enough for that honor is A Quiet Place, but the year's not over yet!
Yet also know that at the end of the day, it's just a ceremony. Once the statuettes are handed out, all that matters if that the recognition is made, and you go on with your lives. Nothing about the AMPAS affects your life personally (unless you let it), and it's not nearly as important as issues in your own life that actually are important to take care of. All these movies can do is give you some extra guidance outside of your own conscience.
Click here to see my constantly updated Oscars predictions for the 2019 ceremony.