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And the award goes to...! Why the new Oscars popular films category is a really bad idea

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Now I love Mamma Mia as much as the next person. Let me just clear that up. Meryl Streep singing ABBA on a Greek island in her iconic dungarees is a truly magnificent image and one that I hold close to my heart. But do I consider Mamma Mia to be an Academy Award winning film? The answer is sadly no, not really. 

The Oscars have recently announced plans to introduce a new category to their ceremony honouring achievements in popular films, in an attempt to make the show more accessible to audiences. This decision comes in a drastic attempt by the Academy to raise viewership for the ceremony, which has been garnering lower ratings in recent years.

The addition of this category would give blockbusters i.e. your Black Panther's, Mamma Mia’s and Mission Impossible's a chance at winning what is undoubtedly the most prestigious award in the film industry. 

On one hand it would bring a refreshing dose of diversity to see films that people actually love being honoured by the Academy. Others however feel it is wholly unnecessary and lowers the prestige of the ceremony itself. The decision has polarized critics and actors alike with Rob Lowe going so far as to tweet that the ‘film business passed away today’. Although I think this a tad extreme I have to agree with Lowe’s sentiment. 

 

 

The Oscars are a ceremony supposedly honouring outstanding achievement in film. Pictures that are traditionally recognised are original, outstanding works of cinematic craftsmanship. It seems incongruous therefore that films like Mission Impossible could even be considered in the same league as say, Moonlight.

One is a rehashing of a winning formula that is being repeated for the sixth time this year and the other is a groundbreaking work of cinema that stunned and amazed audiences worldwide. Seeing Tom Cruise jump out of a building is no doubt enjoyable, but an outstanding work of cinematic craftsmanship? I think not. 

It seems that if a film is deserving of an Oscar then its popularity should be irrelevant. Black Panther for instance is an immensely impressive work of film that is wholly deserving of the nominations it is sure to receive at this year’s ceremony, and its tremendous box office revenue and enormous popularity play no part in that. If it wins, it will win by its own merit, not because of ticket sales. 

Since when did box office revenue and audience popularity warrant an Oscar? The Fifty Shades of Grey films made a collective $1.325 billion at the box office but if they won an Oscar it would be the first sign of the apocalypse, don’t fight me on this.

Moreover, the Oscars recently announced it was shortening its ceremony to make the show more enjoyable for audiences. As a result, technical categories deemed less interesting i.e. sound editing and mixing etc. are being relegated to advert slots and as a result will not be televised. The addition of this new category means even more ‘less important’ awards will be shifted to the advert slot in favour of seeing what will inevitably be a Marvel movie win a gold statuette. 

This seems wholly unfair. Technical artists have the lowest profile of any other job in the film industry and rely on the Oscars as potentially the only opportunity to increase awareness about their work and progress in their career, and instead they are being passed over to give Marvel or Disney or DC yet even more publicity. Are the mountains of box office revenue not enough for these juggernauts any more? Must they have the Oscar spotlight as well?

Some say that this new category will finally give blockbusters a fair chance at winning an Oscar. But it is not as if the Oscars are closed off to popular films. Many blockbusters have been honoured by the ceremony throughout the years. Just look at Avatar or Lord of the Rings. If a film needs its own category to be created in order to have a chance at winning an award is it really that deserving of it in the first place?

It seems like the Academy have created a secondary category for films that aren’t quite good enough to be nominated for Best Picture, but are still pretty good. But the Oscars aren’t about honouring films that are ‘pretty good’. They are about honouring films that are outstanding and if a film can’t secure a nomination for Best Picture, how outstanding can it really be?

An Oscar is the highest award that can be bestowed upon a film; to give these awards to films that simply aren’t deserving of them undermines the credibility of the entire ceremony itself. Not to mention, it is immensely disenfranchising for filmmakers who put their heart and soul into their work to produce original cinematic masterpieces only to be told by the Academy that their work is in the same league as Jurassic World, an enjoyable but let’s face it unoriginal and easily forgettable picture.

Ultimately it what it is, is a outward ploy simply to garner ratings for the show, but it seems a shame that in trying to create more buzz about the ceremony they are jeopardizing the point of it to begin with.

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