With new category, Oscars are now a popularity contest

NEW YORK — Not since Faye Dunaway shouted “La La Land!” has an Oscar announcement caused quite as much chaos as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decision to create a new Academy Awards category for “outstanding achievement in popular film.”

The film academy’s surprise announcement Wednesday proved remarkably unpopular, at least among film critics and some academy members. Actor Rob Lowe, a longtime academy member, pronounced the Oscars dead, “survived by sequels, tent-poles and vertical integration.”

The other new changes were met with a mix of praise and grumbling. Many applauded the dramatic move up the calendar to February 9 in 2020. (Awards season has become a nearly four-month slog with many repeat winners.) Perhaps inevitable was the move to shrink the broadcast to three hours and remove some categories from the live telecast.

But the introduction of a “popular film” category, beginning with the upcoming Feb. 24 ceremony to be televised by ABC, raised a lot of questions. Here’s an attempt to answer a few of them.


Low ratings. This year’s nearly four-hour-long Oscars, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, was watched by 26.5 million people, an almost 20 percent drop from the year before and well below the days of 40 million-plus viewership. Some 43.7 million watched in 2014 when “12 Years a Slave” won best picture, but each year since has seen declines. That’s troubling news for the academy, which depends on broadcast revenue for most of its budget, and ABC, which owns broadcast rights for the Oscars through 2028. But whether that broadcast is cause for desperation is debatable. The Academy Awards still rank as easily the biggest non-football broadcast of the year, and ratings for everything, including the Super Bowl, is declining in the increasingly fractured media landscape. The Grammys, for comparison, dropped 24 percent, with 19.8 million.


The measures were approved by the academy’s 54-member board of governors. Its roughly 7,000 members were not consulted, and many of them said they considered a “popular film” category a pandering move for a 91-year-old institution. Adam McKay, who won best screenplay in 2016 for “The Big Short” and whose upcoming Dick Cheney film is expected to be in the mix this year, joked on Twitter that the Oscars will also have new categories for “best knife throw” and “hottest female alien.” But the academy’s decision was also influenced by the demands of its broadcasting partner, ABC, which has pressured Oscar producers to make the telecast more broadly appealing. (Kimmel’s show deliberately steered clear of politics, largely.) Representatives for the network and for the academy declined to comment for this article.


This year’s Oscars actually included a number of major box-office success including best-picture nominees “Get Out” and “Dunkirk,” animated feature winner “Coco,” cinematography winner “Blade Runner 2049,” and other nominees like “Beauty and the Beast,” ”Baby Driver” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” If anything, the academy has shown increasing willingness to nominate genre movies, from horror (“Get …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News


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