The Oscars are Under Construction
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced three major changes for this year’s Oscars, including a brand-new category for “Outstanding Popular Film.” The Academy Awards is coming up on its 91st anniversary, and President John Bailey's announcement has definitely shifted the second most watched television event.
First, Bailey stated that the Oscars will now be fit into a shorter 3-hour ceremony to appease worldwide viewers. While this limit seems unattainable due to the unpredicted length of acceptance speeches, The Academy has announced that certain awards and speeches will not be aired live, but instead will be shown in a montage-like format towards the end of the ceremony.
Along with the shortened air time, Bailey has planned to move the actual air date for the Oscars forward. Normally, the Oscars feels like a delayed finale in award season, so this earlier air date could be beneficial to the relevance of the actual show. While this move up seems beneficial, the air date could be in competition with the Super Bowl, which airs in early February as well. The change has many filmmakers and actors worried, but Bailey has stated that the date will not affect eligibility for the award ceremony or the process for voting.
Finally, the Academy announced a brand-new category for Outstanding Popular Film, the first addition since 2001 when the category for Best Animated Feature was added to the award roster. The Popular Film category will feature five nominees, the standard for all Oscars excluding Best Picture. This new category has been long wanted by critics and moviegoers alike since the box office blowouts tend to be ignored by the Academy. At the 2009 Academy Awards, Christopher Nolan’s critically-acclaimed blockbuster film The Dark Knight was snubbed a best picture or directorial nomination despite the film’s eight nominations and Heath Ledger’s posthumous win for Best Supporting Actor. This major spurn seemed to spark the conversation around films adored in pop culture being ignored by the Academy, leading many to believe that the Oscars are another prestigious award show centered on arthouse films and high culture-inclined entertainment.
However, it has become general knowledge that the film-going public is more interested in the big budget films. To say that these types of films lack the same amount of gravitas and groundbreaking plot is naïve, when films like Black Panther and Ocean’s 8 are shattering glass ceilings in front of a worldwide audience. Viewers are now seeing characters that have been underrepresented and nonexistent in these massive films that premiere on a global scale. Emmy winner and social activist Lena Waithe praised the Academy on Twitter saying, “I think the Oscars have to change. I think they need to change because the world is changing, audiences are changing, people are changing.” It only seems fitting that the Oscars finally create a category that aligns with the public’s interest versus a council of elitist film critics. This new category is a long-awaited change in the award sector that widens the spectrum of what is considered “award-worthy entertainment.”
Following the attention of this announcement, the Academy released an addendum to their original letter stating the following: "While the details for a popular film category are still being finalized, a single film is eligible for an Oscar in both categories—Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film and the Academy Award for Best Picture. The new category will be introduced this coming year, at the 91st Oscars. In creating this award, the Board of Governors supports broad-based consideration of excellence in all films." The Academy is changing for the better, and hopefully it doesn't take 17 years for the next, much needed, shift.