Best Popular Movie Oscar: Does anyone care?
Just go ahead and hand the Oscar to “Black Panther.”
There’s little doubt that it’s the movie that will win the first Best Popular Movie category in this year’s Oscar race. A week or so ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it would introduce the Best Popular Movie into the running, but it didn’t give any more details.
What criteria would go into the choosing of the movie? Amount of cash earned? Highest Rotten Tomatoes rating? Most social-media posts? The category is, after all, designed to get more people to care about the Oscars.
Some have heralded the new award, saying the Academy Awards have gotten too cerebral, too “high art,” too “important social commentary” in its Best Picture selection. Far and away, the majority of candidates in the category have leaned in the latter’s direction, although you certainly could argue that last year’s winner, “The Shape of Water,” was off the beaten path.
Since 2010, however, only a few films off that path have even been nominated, and usually only one a year — “Toy Story 3” in 2010, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Life of Pi” in 2012, “Mad Max: Fury Road” in 2015, “Get Out” in 2017.
Oscars are definitely snobby when it comes to Best Picture. Because they’re voted on by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the films that have gotten the highest praise from print, TV and internet critics tend to win. (When referring to the internet, Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t count.)
Many in the film industry who are members of the Academy — and they include public-relations managers, electricians, grips and the guy who hammers the lumber to build a set — don’t have time to see all the films nominated, so they rely on outside sources. The same is true for the Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards.
But on a related angle, do the Oscars even mean much these days? Certainly they do to the people who win them or work on the nominated films, but the general public seems to be giving something of a collective shrug when the films are nominated and when the statuettes are handed out.
Millennials and those younger (now called Gen Z or iGeneration) don’t really care about the Oscars. They get their information from the web or friends. Folks in their 40s and above may be more interested in the Oscars but, like those who work in the film industry, they generally don’t have time to go see every film.
These days, a large percentage of movie lovers simply wait for the film to show up on Netflix or HBO.
Perhaps the Best Popular Movie category will grab more attention from more people; that’s the point.
Don’t hold your breath.