Feeling the cold hand of irrelevance gripping the back of its neck despite its best, selfie-based efforts, today Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences introduced a new series of rules, from practical to extremely “what the fuck?,” in a message to its membership.
First, although next year’s Oscars telecast will remain unchanged, the following year’s will be moved up from February 23, 2020 to February 9, in a ceremony that will be limited to three hours by presenting “select categories”—presumably relatively niche ones like short films, sound, and so on—during commercial breaks. All reasonable, if unfortunate for those whose achievements will be effectively erased by being pre-empted by a Geico commercial.
Then there’s this:
We will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.
By “popular film,” the Academy is presumably referring to the blockbuster epics that have been dominating the American film industry as a whole for decades now, yet are rarely honored at the Oscars aside from in technical categories. Which is all well and good, except it further sets up a dichotomy between “popular entertainment” and “art” that does no favors to either category, both the skilled artists who pour their talents into films like Black Panther and Star Wars: Episode VIII—The Last Jedi and those whose work is sidelined because it can’t compete with the massive budgets of said blockbusters. In short, it’s a condescending award that assumes the majority of moviegoers are dumbasses, and that popularity and quality are mutually exclusive. And it’s not like the Oscars are out here giving awards to Claire Denis and Hirokazu Kore-Eda as it is.
Meanwhile, there are still no Oscars for stunts or casting, two of the more working-class and female-dominated below-the-line subsets of the industry, respectively.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that next year’s Oscars telecast would be moved up from February 23 to February 9. The Academy has since clarified that that change will take place in 2020, and our story has been updated accordingly. No date has been set for the implementation of the “Best Popular Film” award.