Yesterday came word that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had put its recently announced ‘Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film’ category on hold for next year following a strong backlash that took place.
When the award was first announced, one of several major changes, the reaction online was swift and harsh (except for Mark Wahlberg) to an award which was essentially a glorified popularity contest – not one of excellence which is what the Academy champions.
The Academy backtracked on it yesterday but is otherwise implementing its other changes for next year’s broadcast. Academy president John Bailey spoke with THR to explain their change of mind and try to justify the new award’s place – saying it’s not about falling ratings for the telecast but rather to get more mainstream movies back in the race:
“I wasn’t expecting that kind of knee-jerk reaction, largely from journalists. I don’t know why that happened because these are the same people who have also criticized the Academy for being quote-unquote irrelevant and not actually addressing the taste of people that go to the movies. The same people who have criticized us for irrelevance and elitism now suddenly were the guardians at the gate, talking about the bowdlerization of the Oscars.
[The new award] wasn’t some knee-jerk reaction to falling ratings or to ABC or to anything like that. It was real clear on the part of the board and the Academy that we needed somehow to make certain kinds of films eligible for new awards… Unfortunately, some people misinterpreted this as our laying down pipe for big mass-market franchise films.”
Despite his PR spin, it wasn’t just the media and social media backlash that made the Academy press the pause button but also pushback from within. The New York Times reports that on Tuesday night a closed meeting was held with 54 members in attendance to vote on rethinking the creation of the category. While Bailey was supportive of the new category, others were adamantly opposed to its inclusion including actress Laura Dern. Additionally, director Steven Spielberg was said to be “uncomfortable” with category’s inclusion this year.
While the award is out, at least for now, the show will push ahead with its ‘restructuring and shortening” plan to get the broadcast in under three hours. As a result, six to eight categories are to be moved to the commercial breaks with the three categories for short films the most likely to be pushed.