The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wednesday announced its decision to drastically alter the future of the Oscars. Starting with the coming 91st Academy Awards, the ceremony will introduce a new category, Best Achievement in Popular Film.
The move is seen by many as a ploy to attract a younger audience – the most recent Oscars, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, were the least watched in the history of the awards. And after all, the Academy is known to make sudden rule changes to keep up with the times – they introduced a Best Dance Direction category for four years from 1935 to 1938 awards, the heyday of Hollywood musicals.
For years, there has been a debate as to what constitutes an Oscar movie, with genres such as horror, science-fiction and fantasy being largely relegated to technical categories. This trend appeared to be changing at the 90th Oscars, when fantasy film The Shape of Water won Best Picture and the horror movie Get Out won Best Original Screenplay.
After what was widely acknowledged to be a snub for the Dark Knight at the 2009 awards, the Academy expanded the Best Picture category to first 10 nominees and then up to 10 nominees. The move resulted in films such as District 9, Inception and Mad Max: Fury Road scoring nominations. It was a glorious era in the history of the Oscars.
While the Academy hasn’t yet provided details as to what sort of films will be eligible for the Popular Film Oscar – box office earnings and a wide theatrical release could possibly play an important role – we can make certain presumptions.
Here are five films that could be among the first batch of Best Popular Film nominees. Keep in mind, the second half of the year includes films such as Creed II, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Mary Poppins Returns.
This image released by Disney shows Lupita Nyong’o, from left, and Chadwick Boseman and Danai Gurira in a scene from Marvel Studios’ Black Panther. (AP)
Here’s the key to making these predictions: We have to assume that the films listed here could also have realistically scored a Best Picture nomination had the new category not been introduced. Ever since its release, there has been near-constant Oscars buzz swirling around Marvel’s Black Panther.
Christopher Nolan, who knows a thing or two about popular films’ history at the Academy Awards – it was the snub for his The Dark Knight that brought sweeping change to the industry – had even predicted that Black Panther would become the first Marvel movie to receive a Best Picture nod. The film was just the sort of cultural phenomenon that the Academy seeks, and has earned over $1.3 billion worldwide and the best reviews of any film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And while Avengers: Infinity War made more money worldwide, but Black Panther was a thematically heftier film.
This image released by Disney Pixar shows the character Helen/Elastigirl, voiced by Holly Hunter in Incredibles 2. (AP)
After Beauty and the Beast became the first animated movie to receive a Best Picture nomination at the 1991 Oscars, animated films saw an almost two-decade lean period, until 2009, when Pixar’s Up was nominated. Two years later, another Pixar film, Toy Story 3, became the third animated film in history to be up for the big award. Besides this, animated movies have received dozens of nominations in screenplay, song, score, editing and other categories. Long story short, it wouldn’t be extraordinary to expect Incredibles 2, a film that has a 94% Rotten Tomatoes score and more than a billion dollars in the bank to be nominated next year.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Tom Cruise in a scene from Mission: Impossible – Fallout. (AP)
When people start describing a film as one of the best… then voters immediately pay attention, as anyone would. Paramount displayed Marvel levels of confidence in the sixth Mission: Impossible movie, premiering it in Paris weeks before its release to build buzz, and having star Tom Cruise talk to literally anyone with a microphone. And they had good reason to: Fallout is a solid Hollywood movie, perhaps exactly the sort of movie that the Academy had in mind when they came up with this new category. And Tom Cruise winning an Oscar would make for a classic Hollywood narrative.
A Quiet Place
Emily Blunt in a still from A Quiet Place.
More than any other film on this list, perhaps even Black Panther, John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place seemed like a lock for a Best Picture nod. Call it cruel or whatever, but a Best Popular Film nomination will forever be considered inferior to the real deal. It will be seen as a consolation prize, while the same old costume dramas walk away with the biggest honours. By segregating popular films into a separate category, the Academy has snatched away any shot of recognition that would truly have been path-breaking.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
This image released by Universal Pictures shows Amanda Seyfried, left, and Meryl Streep in a scene from Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. (AP)
The first Mamma Mia film was the sleeper hit of summer 2008. It made over $600 million worldwide and remains one of the highest-grossing live action musicals of all time. The sequel has received similarly enthusiastic reviews, and is strutting along just fine as far as the box office is concerned. Here We Go Again is the dark horse of the list, but the current wave of – *sigh* – popularity that musicals are witnessing is enough to give it an edge over films such as Deadpool 2, Ready Player One or Paddington 2 (which is where the lines become slightly blurry).
First Published: Aug 09, 2018 15:28 IST