Blog | And the Oscar for biggest blunder goes to...
After the Oscars announced their intention for a new category at the annual Academy awards to reward achievement in popular film, they were immediately torn apart by everyone who heard the news for such a short-sighted reaction to their problems.
Chief of which seems to be the falling TV ratings each year, assumed by some to be because of the disconnect between what movies general audiences want to see rewarded and the kind of film the Academy’s voters tend to go for – a gap that has widened considerably over the past decade.
There have always been smaller films in the race for Best Picture, but blockbusters used to be fairly commonplace and this simply isn’t the case anymore. It’s certainly noticeable that it's only really been since superhero movies have come to dominate the box office that this decline in big-budget best Picture representation has become apparent.
In fact, many believe that it's the undeniably super-popular comic-book goliaths that are the exact reason this extra category has been created out of nowhere – and in particular, Ryan Coogler’s excellent Black Panther. This opinion has only been strengthened due to the fact that the network who broadcast the Oscars, ABC, are owned by Disney, who also own Marvel Studios.
Another part of the reason this may have been done because of Black Panther is thanks to that film becoming something of a cultural juggernaut that was extremely well-received by critics and audiences alike, flying past a billion dollars worldwide and becoming only the third ever film (behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avatar) to cross the $700m barrier at the domestic box office in the States.
All of that would have made it a little awkward if there had been no recognition at the Oscars, but this new category allows the mainly old, white Academy voters to effectively give the movie a pity vote and say: “Look, we gave it an award! We’re not racist at all!”
But creating an award to boost ratings is the wrong way for the Academy to do this, regardless of other possible reasons for creating this award this year in particular. The fact is that the way people consume media has changed and the Oscars needs to change too.
Ratings have fallen because ratings for TV have fallen in general, with so many streaming options available. Why don’t the Academy instead stream the ceremony live on their site, allowing people to watch it on any device, rather than being forced to watch it on a specific channel?
Hell, you could even monitor how many people are watching certain sections and alter the structure of future events based entirely on how the audience want to watch the event. When more and more media is offering choice, the lack of any such options for the Oscars comes off as practically prehistoric.
All of this still doesn’t really deal with the central problem of the Best Picture category not truly appealing to viewers who can be bothered to tune in, and I think populism is part of it. I’m not saying that films should be nominated in the category simply because they made the most money, but surely having an impact on a larger audience has to at least be considered for nominations?
What I’m talking about here is recognising when movies surpass their own medium and have an impact on general audiences, not just film lovers. If the best film of the year is one that only those involved in the industry, or who have film as their central passion, really care about and went generally unnoticed by society at large, then what does that say about the film industry for that year?
‘Hooray, no-one outside film fans and those in the industry even noticed or will remember what we’re claiming was the best film of the last 12 months’? Hardly a ringing endorsement, is it? Why not recognise that there are some films that actually paint movies as the industry to pay attention to because of how many imaginations they enraptured in their time on the big screen?
Easy bet: more kids and other young people will have their interest in cinema and potential careers in the industry ignited thanks to the best blockbuster in any given year than the last decade of Best Picture winners combined.
Sure, they might grow to prefer more 'prestige' or 'artistic' film-making as they get older, but why can't the Oscars at least consider giving even just a Best Picture nomination to the motion pictures that best represent movies to the largest number of people in a given year, potentially sparking life-long interest? Isn't that something worth rewarding?