A few days ago First Reformed star Ethan Hawke explained his opposition to the Academy’s four-months-defunct idea for a Best Achievement in Popular Film Oscar.
To hear it from Little Gold Men‘s Mike Hogan, Hawke believes that the popular-film Oscar would have detracted from awards season’s true goal: to boost the signal on under-seen, artistically challenging films.
“There already is a popular Oscar,” Hawke said. “It’s such a dumb thing to say. The popular Oscar is called the box office. They’re mad they don’t get prizes. You know, well…guess what, dude? Your car is your prize. Those of us who don’t have a car need a prize.”
Hawke misses the point from the Academy’s POV. Viewership of the Oscar telecast is dropping and will continue to drop because the vast majority of the moviegoing public doesn’t care about the smallish, Spirit Award-level films that have tended to win Best Picture Oscars over the last dozen or so years. Eventually the Oscar telecast will die if it doesn’t adapt to the times.
The fact is that the vast majority of moviegoers are agnostic regarding the faith of cinema — they don’t regard theatres at churches but as sports arenas, amusement parks, funhouses. Concurrently there is such a thing as applications of high craft in the making of popular films, and it wouldn’t devalue the smaller good films if the Academy were to acknowledge and celebrate this.
Once again into the breach: On 9.10.18 Bloomberg’s Virginia Postrel posted a solution to the Best Picture Oscar problem (tickets buyers preferring mass appeal or FX-driven popcorn flicks, Academy members preferring to honor movies that are actually good in some kind of profound, refined or zeitgeist-reflecting way) that I think makes a lot of sense.
The short-lived Best Achievement in Popular Film Oscar idea died because (a) it was too vaguely defined and (b) it would have essentially denigrated the potential contenders in this category by categorizing them as popular but a bit slovenly — i.e., lower on the cultural totem pole than bona fide Best Picture nominees.
Postrel’s idea was to not cast indirect shade upon mass-appeal films but simply create two Best Picture categories based on admissions — (1) a Spirit Awards-type Best Picture Oscar for films that have sold less than 10 million tickets and (2) a mainstream Best Picture Oscar for films that have sold more than 10 million tickets. Simple, no shade, and fully reflective of how the the movie-watching world is defined these days.
From “Brilliant Popcorn Oscar Solution“, posted on 9.14.18: “This is it! This really and truly solves the problem, and nobody (not even Kris Tapley, Mark Harris or Jeff Sneider) could possibly argue against it. Attention John Bailey, Dawn Hudson and all the ships at sea — this admissions-based, double-Oscar solution will boost Oscar telecast ratings, save the Oscar brand and make everyone completely happy in a fair, even-steven way.
“Now watch the Academy dither and delay and probably never act upon it. But I’m telling you straight and true that this is the answer on a silver effing platter.
“It’s the admissions, stupid!”