The Oscars Blow it Again — Adding a New Category

I almost crashed my car today (wait, that intro sounds like a David Crosby song). On one of the talk shows I was listening to, they said that the Oscars were adding a few new categories. I couldn’t believe my ears. I had hoped it would be one for stuntmen (something they’ve been gunning for for years). I mean, we hear about stuntmen dying every few years. This year, we heard (and saw) Tom Cruise breaking his ankle while trying to jump onto the roof of a building in the latest Mission: Impossible.

First, the Film Academy announced they were going to shorten the telecast to a firm three hours. No problem with that, despite the fact that I’d love watching it even if it went six hours. We’ll just see more stars have the music come on when they start ranting about their political causes or how dumb they think Trump is. Part of making it shorter, means that the smaller categories won’t be shown. That’s a shame, because we movie lovers enjoy seeing some films win those awards, when they have no chance at winning the bigger categories. And we get some of the best speeches from a truly appreciative winner, that often have heartfelt things to say.

The second thing they announced was that the date of the awards would be earlier in February, when people aren’t burned out by all the awards shows. I can see their point there. The Critics’ Choice Awards (which I’m a member of), moved their date earlier for a similar reason.

The third change is what I have a problem with. They announced a new category, and it wasn’t for stunt work. It’s for “outstanding achievement in popular film.”

What does that mean, you ask. Who the hell knows! But it sounds like Black Panther pandering to me. The Academy is probably so afraid it won’t get nominated and they’ll have to deal with “Oscars so White” again, that they figure this will pacify everyone. Well, they sort of had a problem with superhero movies before. You see, when The Dark Knight (Heath Ledger, Christian Bale) didn’t get nominated for Best Picture, after critics and fans praised it, they realized they had a problem. That’s when they decided they’d go from five nominations, up to as many as 10, for the “best picture” category. Apparently, that wiggle room wasn’t good enough, so we have this new goofy category. That leads to this question — who determines what is “popular”? The easy answer would be to look at box office receipts. Although, the film The Greatest Showman (which had no business getting a nomination), took months and months at the box office, to make a lot of money (after Oscar voting would’ve been completed). It wasn’t an instant hit. Now, to illustrate just how ridiculous it would be to merely look at box office receipts, as of this writing, the nominations for this new category would be: Solo: A Star Wars Story, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Ocean’s 8, A Quiet Place, Incredibles 2, and Hotel Transylvania 3. And if it keeps climbing, one of the worst movies this year — Mama Mia! Here We Go Again — could make it. Those last two animated movies could instead be nominated in a category that was added in 2001 — best animated feature. That’s a category many complained about, but works well. Terrific animated pictures like Up, Inside Out, Coco, Finding Nemo, etc…would have no chance ever getting nominated for “best picture” (although, Up actually was, and Beauty and the Beast, as well as Toy Story 3, but my point is still valid).

All of this stems from the ratings for the Oscar telecast continuing to slip. They figure this move will bring in younger viewers and folks tired of seeing nominations for movies “I’ve never even heard of.”

When I was complaining about this category to my wife, she said “Isn’t awarding the popular movies, what the ‘People’s Choice Awards’ were all about?”

Yep. As well as the goofy MTV Movie Awards (which has fun categories like “best kiss” and “best couple”).

If the Academy is so worried about having fallen out of step with popular culture, they should just start being more rational with their picks. For example, last year, the following movies made the “best picture” list that I don’t think should have: Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Phantom Thread, and The Post. The year before, I’m not sure why Arrival, Lion, Fences, and the winner — Moonlight — got nominations. I’m not saying those were bad movies. They were all okay (well, Fences sucked); just not “best picture” worthy in my book.

There has been talk before about adding a “best comedy” category. That would’ve been a decent move. Sometimes there’s a great comedy that gets nominated for “best picture” — Lady Bird could be considered a comedy. It was my favorite movie of the year. Tootsie, Dr. Strangelove, Annie Hall, Fargo…all make my all-time favorite list, and all got nominations; but those are rare exceptions.

Look, popular movies have gotten nominations enough that this doesn’t seem like a problem. Lord of the Rings, Jaws, Pulp Fiction, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark,The Sixth Sense, Star Wars, and Avatar were all very popular, and secured the Oscar nod. Recently, Get Out surprised everyone and got a nomination. Chicago, a fun little musical, surprised people by getting a nomination. The most surprising to me was an average movie that, not only got the nomination, but won (and had the most nominations of any movie ever) — Titanic.

So adding this new category is the worst decision the Oscars has made since….letting James Franco host the show.