Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman in 'Black Panther'

Academy Awards Introduces New Category Just So They Won’t Have to Nominate Superhero Films for Best Picture

We see exactly why you are doing this, Oscars.

 

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Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman in 'Black Panther'

In today’s “why is this something that needs to happen” entertainment news, The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that the Academy Awards are now adding in a category of “outstanding achievement in popular film,” because they really would rather increase an overly long telecast and risk frustrating viewers more rather than let Black Panther, or any Marvel or DC film for that matter, be nominated for Best Picture.

The Academy is notorious for not letting genre fare into the party, preferring to nominate the same five kinds of films over and over and hope for the best. There are exceptions to the rule — Get Out, The Shape of Water, Moonlight — but for the most part, Oscar bait films rule the night and we celebrate the same kinds of creatives getting awards over and over again. It all comes down to ridiculous decisions like, say, the forgettable The King’s Speech winning over The Social Network, despite the latter being a pop culture touchstone and something we still quote to this day.

Look, I get the reasoning behind the decision. People aren’t tuning into the Oscars, so they’re trying to add a category that will draw in more viewers because it’ll center on films a majority of folks will have seen. But we shouldn’t give what amounts to a participation trophy to films that actually impact the culture in some way; after all, isn’t this why we have ten Best Picture nominee slots available now?

This is a way to further sideline genres that aren’t traditionally Oscar bait. Horror, fantasy, sci-fi, comedy … they’ll be relegated to the popular category despite their mastery of the genre. Hereditary, for example, should be considered as a serious Oscar contender for not only being an excellently made film but for being part of the culture. It shouldn’t be relegated to a “people like this genre but film snobs don’t” category because they want to up their viewership by packing things into an overly long ceremony.

The same goes for Black Panther, which definitely needs a Best Picture nomination. It needs multiple nominations across the board, in fact. But now, with this category, it will probably be snubbed from the major lineup in favor of the popular film category, because the day a superhero film earns a nomination in a major category is the day that the apocalypse finally, blessedly comes.

The Academy needs a shakeup, this is true. Outside of recognizing more unique genres, they need to recognize stunt work, motion capture performances, and voiceover work. But while those three could each make up new and unique categories, the creation of a popular film category is just nonsensical. If a film is good enough to be nominated for a popular film Oscar, it’s probably good enough to enter the actual Oscar conversation.

And what defines a popular film? Will it be box office earnings, or just genres that the Academy doesn’t feel like belong in the main race? A film that enters the cultural consciousness should be considered for Best Picture because film is a medium that has a direct relationship with its audience. It’s like when Annie Hall beat the first Star Wars film; which film has actually impacted cinema more, and therefore deserved to win the top prize of the year? (Hint: it’s not Annie Hall.)

Look, this is basically a participation trophy for films that the Academy deems unworthy to be considered in the main line up. There’s a big discussion to be had here about the accessibility of Oscar films, the popularity of non-traditional genres, and why the Oscars need to recognize unique achievement among films that aren’t just straight dramas, but the moral of this story? This is nonsense. It’s an excuse to not nominate films that the culture adores because they are deemed unworthy of a Best Picture nomination.

It’s telling that, by modern Oscar standards, two of the only three films to ever win all five top prizes (It Happened One Night and The Silence of the Lambs) would be considered a silly rom-com that wouldn’t merit any Oscar attention. We need to change this conversation, because it’s boring to only nominate the same kinds of films every year. Let’s try to shake things up a different way, okay? [Edit: The original version of this post erroneously stated It Happened One Night was the only film to win all five top prizes, and it has been updated to correct that error.]

(via THR, image: Marvel Studios)

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Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.