Does the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences realize what happened last night? Millions upon millions who’d been at least mildly or half-heartedly interested in the Oscar tradition decided “naah, to hell with it.” They became in effect Bob Strauss, and from the AMPAS perspective that’s a knife in the ribs. Culturally the Oscars used to be in the same realm as the World Series or the Super Bowl. Once again we’ve been reminded that the candle is flickering, and that all it will take to finish them off…I don’t want to think about it.
There’s really no choice any more. The Best Achievement in Popular Film Oscar idea, killed in its infancy by the snooties, doesn’t need to be revived — it needs to be implemented. Really. Another Steven Soderbergh-styled Oscar telecast in ’22 and it’s over. Hell, the brand is on life-support now.
Once again: On 9.10.18 Bloomberg’s Virginia Postrel posted a solution to the Best Picture Oscar problem. Her idea was simply that there are two film industries — one for ticket buyers who tend to prefer mass appeal or FX-driven popcorn flicks, and another for Academy members who prefer to honor movies that are actually good in some kind of profound, refined or zeitgeist-reflecting way.
It’s been understood for years that the vast majority of moviegoers are agnostic regarding the faith of cinema. What faith, you ask? Good point. Postrel’s article isn’t even three years old, and the pandemic has made it seem like an idea from another era. But embracing the Popcorn Oscars (maybe even encompassing the top five categories) would at least represent an attempt to face reality.
The short-lived Best Achievement in Popular Film Oscar idea died three years ago 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 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 are favored by the wokesters, and (2) a mainstream Best Picture Oscar for films that have sold more than 10 million tickets.
Simple, no shade, and obviously reflective of how the the movie-watching world (or what’s left of it in theatrical terms) is defined these days.
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.
There’s really no choice any more. It’s the admissions, stupid. (Remember admissions?)