It’s official, the most popular film award in the the world are taking a radical step. Just like India’s film awards have ‘critic’s choice’ and ‘popular-voted’ categories to accommodate either critically-acclaimed indie films or the (generally godawful) blockbuster – even the Oscars are proposing a new category for ‘Best Popular’ film.
There is a whole subculture of movies labelled Oscar-bait that have been narrowed down to a few types: costume dramas, World War II dramas, period dramas, and inspirational films. Every other genre has been overlooked whether it’s comedy, superhero films, horror films, sci-fi and even the absurdist.
Over the years, as the lines demarcating genres has become more and more tricky, giving rise to more and more controversial choices. The omission of The Dark Knight in 2008, forced the Academy to expand the Best Picture nominees from five to 10. But this ‘radical measure’ to invent a ‘popular choice’ to accommodate genres like a comedy or a superhero film… is bizarre.
There have been many ‘great films’ that have even been denied nominations, forget the actual trophy. And the problem with that is – the voting members are not as diversified. The Academy Of Motion Picture, Arts & Sciences (A.M.P.A.S) largely comprises white members (and insiders) – which often leads to a very homogeneous opinion on the kind of films that should win. The ones about showbiz (La La Land, Dreamgirls), those championing the American spirit (American Sniper, The Hurt Locker) and the pity movies focused around a protagonist with a physical disability or mental trauma (A Beautiful Mind, The Theory Of Everything) – are guaranteed a nomination if they’re good.
It’s only in the last two years that there has been somewhat of a shift – with Moonlight’s incredible win and Jordan Peele’s astounding win for Get Out. If the Academy actually goes through with this ‘Popular choice’ category – it wouldn’t take long to see Vin Diesel walk down the red carpet in a tight T-shirt, waving goodbye to the spirit of Paul Walker. It will only worsen the problem of undeserving films making it as a Best Picture nominee or worse end up as a winner. The intention might have been a noble one – but this measure is sentenced to fail.
The fix for this? The Academy needs a more heterogeneous mix of members, so that one particular mindset, values and tastes don’t lord over the choice of the best English film of the year. So that it finally moves out of the fixed genres and there’s no such thing as an ‘Oscar-bait’ movie. An R-rated comedy and a profound Sci-Fi (looking at you Judd Apatow & David Fincher) should stand on equal stead with say, a World War 2 epic.
THAT would be fair, not an additional category.