The Oscars are making changes, and some people aren’t happy about that.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has said it “will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film.”

"Black Panther" could easily win Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film.  Some fans think it deserves Best Picture.
Black Panther would be a shoo-in for the new Oscar category. {image via Disney}

We all know that science fiction/fantasy/horror (SFFH) movies rarely win major awards at the Oscars.  Makeup and costume awards, sound editing awards, yes, but rarely do the actors, directors, and writers of SFFH genre movies get the respect they deserve.  (The Shape of Water was an exception to the rule.)  The Verge reported “the initial announcement was predictably met with derision and backlash on social media, largely from film critics and pundits who suggested the purpose of the award was to acknowledge immediately popular films like Black Panther without diluting the Academy’s self-perceived gravitas.”

Would Patty Jenkins have won Best Director if superhero films were taken seriously by the Academy?
 Did Patty Jenkins deserve an Oscar for Best Director? {image via Warner Brothers}

The definition of the new category has not been announced yet. Some fans and critics are concerned that rather than acknowledging that SFFH films can be good movies, that this new category could do more harm than good.  ScreenCrush suggested  that this new category says a film like Black Panther or Wonder Woman is “more of a product than a piece of art; that it’s the most-watched and tweeted-about and liked, but not necessarily of the highest quality.”  Vox predicted the new category would make “make the awards less meaningful.” IGN made their opinion crystal clear: this is a bad idea.

Mark Hamill has a larger role in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" than he did in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
Does the Star Wars franchise deserve Academy recognition as well as profit and popularity?{image via Lucasfilm}

Author/scriptwriter Kate Rorick tweeted a question many movie fans had been asking.

Kate Rorick is the author of The Baby Plan and fourteen other books. 

Yes, AMPAS has confirmed that a movie can be nominated for both Best Picture and Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film.  The actual definition and requirements of the new category have not yet been released.

Many fans and critics have suggested that there are other new categories AMPAS should consider before creating an Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film:  Best Voice Actor, Stunt Coordinator, Best First Time Director, Best Motion Capture Performance, Best Casting Director, even re-examining movies a decade later to see which have stayed popular or relevant, etc.

Did Gael García Bernal deserve a Best Voice Actor award for his role as Hector in “Coco”? {image via Pixar}

Mark Harris (the writer, not the Man from Atlantis) tweeted “An Academy that wants to stay alive to excellence might add prizes for the otherwise unrewarded: Stunt work. Best first feature or debut. Those might get voters–and viewers–to expand their notions of excellence. This does the opposite. It rewards money spent. And nothing else.”

The Mary Sue complained, “this is a way to further sideline genres that aren’t traditionally Oscar bait. Horror, fantasy, sci-fi, comedy … they’ll be relegated to the popular category despite their mastery of the genre.” The Mary Sue also pointed out that the rationale behind this new category is to make make the Oscars more relevant to movie goers and to improve the declining ratings of the televised awards show.

Blade Runner 2049 won a Saturn Award for Best SF Film.  {image via Columbia Pictures}

Some fans find the Oscar presentations exciting and glamorous.  Others find the awards show long and boring.  The ratings have been dropping year by year.  In an attempt to gain more viewers, AMPAS is going to shorten the length of the presentation to three hours, add a category for popular films, and present some of the awards off-camera.

What do you think?  Is the new Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film category an opportunity for SFFH films, or is it an insulting attempt to sweep genre films into the corner?

The 91st Academy Awards will be broadcast on February 24, 2019.

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