Five Takeaways: And the Oscar for Biggest Moneymaker goes to …

Rob Lowe and Oscars

As you’ve heard by now, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences wants to add an Oscar for outstanding achievement in “popular film” to the mix in 2019.

“The film business passed away today,” Rob Lowe (above left)  tweeted in response. “It had been in poor health for a number of years. It is survived by sequels, tent-poles, and vertical integration.”

On the surface, it seems like a cockamamie, ill-advised plan. A few quick thoughts:

  1. The Academy may be imperfect. The Oscars telecast may be kooky and overlong. But it has the highest profile of any organization/show designed to honor achievements in filmmaking — accomplishments related to the art of making movies. Box-office receipts aren’t the same thing. Does Oscar’s history count for nothing?
  2. Some films are simultaneously artistic standouts and commercial juggernauts. If the Best Popular Film award in 2019 goes to box-office hits “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” or “Mission Impossible: Fallout,” but those movies don’t get Best Picture nominations, isn’t that like saying, “Sure, your movie isn’t a stand-out artistically but it made a heckuva lot of money, so we’re giving you our Very Special Oscar?”
  3. Doesn’t introducing an Oscar for Best Popular Film dilute the impact of the Oscar for Best Picture? Which one is the “real” top winner?
  4.  If the idea is to pump up the TV ratings of the Oscars telecast, a last-minute CYA attempt to get more fans of, say, superhero movies to tune in seems misguided. There are other ways to restructure the thing to make it funnier and faster moving. And maybe, just maybe, the Academy’s members might consider cutting back on the political speechifying that’s alienated so many viewers, and potential viewers?
  5. Is the plan designed to keep the Academy from accusations of a) being “so white” if/when the enormously popular “Black Panther” doesn’t get nominated and/or win Best Picture or b) being unwilling to honor superhero movies if/when that film or “Avengers” don’t get nominated and/or win Best Picture? The Academy has notably made moves to diversify its membership via increases in minority, female, and younger members, along with other tweaks, including expanding the number of Best Picture nominees. Why not allow a bit of time for the nominations to reflect those changes? Is it really necessary to press the panic button right now? Patience, grasshopper.
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