Welcome BACK to Breaking Geek, a column where uber-geek Nick Doll offers commentary and reactions to the most interesting news of the week, using his expansive knowledge of all things geek! This issue is the first “Breaking Geek Discussion” with input from LRM’s Editor-in-Chief, and my friend, Joseph Jammer Medina!
I know you’ve missed me. Guess what? I missed you all… more than you could ever know…
Today, we heard of the latest changes to the Academy Awards, meant to help the yearly decline in viewership, a plan that includes adding “a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film.” Is this a good idea that will help honor otherwise overlooked blockbuster films like Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, and Game Night? Or is it an insult to these “popular” movies, giving them their own category rather than actually contending for Best Picture? Could it cost movies like Black Panther a “real” Oscar nomination? Jammer and I explore both sides of the equation.
Please do chime in afterwards, in the comment section below!
Joseph Jammer Medina (Editor-in-Chief): Not to be Captain Contrary, but I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this idea. Of course, as a writer of this site, I tend to click more with big blockbusters than I do Oscar movies (and I went to film school, dammit!), but it’s hard for me to overlook the unintended consequences. I can’t but help to point to animation — another passion of mine.
I personally think there are usually one or two animated films a year (many from abroad) that are deserving of the a Best Picture nod, Best Actor nod, or anything in between. But because it’s animated, all of a sudden, it’s excluded by default. In doing this with blockbuster films, I worry it will have the effect of further separating these big budget movies from “Oscar” movies. The films are made up of the same components as these Oscar movies, so why should they be pushed into their own category? Why can’t the Academy get its head out of its ass and start changing how they think of an “Oscar-worthy” film?
Nick Doll (M:I – Fallout’s Biggest Fan): I agree that the new category will have the same impact as the Best Animated Film. But, unfortunately, such a category recognizing popular movies does seem needed, as the Academy is full of a bunch of snooty actors, producers, and directors that simply refuse to recognize entire genres, from actual comedies to superhero films. And I never see this changing. Even films that gross a certain amount and seem Oscar worthy seem to be ignored because they are too popular and the Academy wants everyone to watch the films I too, once liked in film school. I feel the awards need to be about more than low budget love stories, family dramas, and period pieces.
Even films that have been nominated for Best Picture including Mad Max: Fury Road, always feel like consolation prizes. Fury Road never had a chance at actually winning the Oscar, it was included, under the new rule that expanded the number of nominees in a response to The Dark Knight, just to show the Academy wasn’t too stuck-up. No one thought it would actually win. I think this category could look like the Golden Globes’ Musical/Comedy category, allowing films that are overlooked or hard to compare to “classic” awards fare to get attention. In fact, for me, this category means a lot more than Best Picture, because these are the movies I like. I want to cheer for films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Logan, Black Panther, and Mission: Impossible – Fallout at the Oscars, not another movie about a messed up family with a disgruntled child coming of age.
Jammer: It’s interesting that you point to the nomination of Mad Max as a “consolation prize.” I think this whole category would be nothing more than a consolation prize of a category, which is frankly insulting. In my opinion, the Academy needs to make more than just superficial changes to make their award more relevant. To me, they shouldn’t just be adding categories to hit some ratings quota. Something needs to change within the snooty culture they have going on there to actually legitimately recognize these movies for what they are.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think there is a place for a celebration of smaller films, and I’m not saying they need to focus solely on blockbusters, but at least some semblance of objectivity on the matter would be nice. If they’re not willing to take these movies seriously, I think they really should just deal with the fact that their ratings will be lower. As far as this “consolation prize,” I’d much rather have one that isn’t such a blatant cash grab.
Doll: The Academy Awards have such a long tradition of nominating what I call “boring, safe films” since the beginning. Even as the Academy slowly becomes younger and more diverse, that’s one Hollywood tradition I doubt will ever change.
Now, with this new system, maybe WE have the power to change it. First off, let me say all Best Picture contenders, including Animated and “Popular,” should all be at the end of the show. It is an insult to choose a Best Oscar quality animated film and then show that towards the beginning of the show. I assume this new category will slip between the other two “Best Picture” categories, but before director, actor, and actress. But, think of it this way. If most people are tuning in to see a movie they actually watched, would there not be enough pressure to say, in five to ten years, make this category the final award? If that’s what people are really tuning into?
Joseph, Would it help if they called Best Picture, “Best Indie Picture” or “Best Picture No One Saw?” For me, this new category sounds like all that matters, being a Blockbuster man who actually avoids movies after they are nominated, as I realized if a movie is good enough for an Oscar, it’s too boring for me.
Jammer: You make a valid point. I suppose in my mind I see this as nothing but duct tape help solve a much bigger problem. This feels like a disingenuous move on their part, and it’s so blatantly transparent, it’s hard not to be a little bit insulted by it, on some level. From my perspective, if they really want to solve their ratings problem, they need to consider a complete overhaul of their culture, and if they choose not to, they’ll have to accept that they’ll risk being obsolete — At least that’s what I think.
But to basically force change here in hopes that it eventually sways the Academy in its direction once they see ratings…while cool, I think it still does a disservice. Because all of a sudden it becomes less about recognizing the actual skill and talent going into the film, and more about getting the ratings. After talking this all through, that’s my biggest gripe. This seems to just reveal that they genuinely don’t think these movies take as much skill and care as those safe movies you mentioned, and this new award will further perpetuate that, making it impossible for them to be taken seriously.
Doll: It is an insult, I agree. But I just can’t realistically see it changing any other way, which is where we disagree. And if in the meantime I have the chance to root for films like Mission: Impossible – Fallout or Game Night, then I may actually watch those snooty awards, with a hope for change. Even if Black Panther, the most deserving Blockbuster of the year gets a Best Picture nomination under the old rules, I’d still bet it would never win. It’s all an act that they care about these deserving movies at all.
What are your thoughts on this new Oscar category? What films would you like to see included this year? Do you enjoy Breaking Geek Discussions? Let us know in the comments below, friendo.