Oscar shelves newly announced 'Popular Film' category after the move was heavily criticized by all

The award would have meant that mass appeal could win over actual quality and this in itself threatens the serious platform that the Oscars is considered to be.


                            Oscar shelves newly announced 'Popular Film' category after the move was heavily criticized by all

In what was considered to be a bold move on the part of the Academy Awards to boost its flagging television ratings, the group’s president John Bailey and its CEO Dawn Hudson, in August, said the broadcast will now include a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. The announcement came shortly after it was reported that the 2018 awards show was the least-watched Oscars to date. Though it pulled in 26.5 million viewers, the ratings were down 19 percent compared to the previous year.

However, the move did not go down as well as Hudson had expected it to. On Friday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) revealed that the new award category it had announced last month will now go into cold storage because of the frosty reception it received. They tried to save face by saying that the move 'merits further study'.

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (L), winner of the Best Director and Best Picture awards for 'The Shape of Water,' and producer J. Miles Dale, winner of the Best Picture award for 'The Shape of Water,' pose in the press room during the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (L), winner of the Best Director and Best Picture awards for 'The Shape of Water,' and producer J. Miles Dale, winner of the Best Picture award for 'The Shape of Water,' pose in the press room during the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

In a statement, the Academy CEO said, “There has been a wide range of reactions to the introduction of a new award, and we recognize the need for further discussion with our members. We have made changes to the Oscars over the years — including this year — and we will continue to evolve while also respecting the incredible legacy of the last 90 years.”

Coming back to their decision to institute it in the first place, the criteria for the award category they announced was not revealed from the start and speculations arose that it would have to do something with the overall a film grossed or the length of the period it kept the theaters occupied. It led to confusion about how popularity and critical acclaim would be distinguished then.

It was also seen as a way they could address the dilemma they faced when they awarded Best Picture to a small indie film like 'The Shape of Water' instead of a huge commercial success like a Marvel movie. These speculated premises itself sounded scary enough for people and the industry to hate it as a whole. It would have meant that mass appeal could win over actual quality and this in itself threatens the serious forum that the Oscars is considered to be.

Preparations for 90th Oscars on February 28, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
Preparations for 90th Oscars on February 28, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

'Black Panther' star Chadwick Boseman had something to say of this accord when asked by The Hollywood Reporter on the new award category: “A good movie is a good movie,” said Boseman. “And clearly it doesn’t matter how much money a movie makes in order for it to be ‘a good movie’ [in the minds of Academy members] because if [it did], the movies that get nominated and win [which have tended in recent years to not be blockbusters] wouldn’t get nominated; and if it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter on both sides…. For my money, the only thing that matters is the level of difficulty.”

Thankfully AMPAS has seen the error of their ways and the Oscars is safe from being reduced to just pandering to TV ratings, for now, that is.