Friday, August 10, 2018

About that new Oscar

By now you've probably heard the story about how the Academy Awards are planning to come up with an award that honors "achievement in popular film", whatever that exactly means. I've been thinking about it, not quite certain what to make of it.

The first thought is the the glib rejoinder that the current Best Picture award apparently honors achievement in unpopular film, although it is often the case that the sort of prestige movies that get the Oscar nominations are not the sort of movies that pull in the biggest box office. Although, to be fair, getting nominated, and even more so winning, is often a springboard to getting broader release.

The second thought was that having a "best popular picture" or somesuch isn't quite without precedent. At the very first Academy Awards presentation, there were two movies that could arguably have been called Best Picture. One was "Outstanding Picture", which was awarded to Wings, beating out the silent version of The Racket and Seventh Heaven. But there was a second category, "Unique and Artistic Picture", and (possibly deliberately) none of the nominees overlapped, with Sunrise beating out The Crowd and Chang. There were also two directing categories, one for comedy and one for drama, something that I think is still done at the Golden Globes.

I was also thinking about honorary awards being a reasonable way to honor "popular" pictures. For a quarter century, the Academy awarded an honorary Juvenile Award intermittently, something that I wonder if they ought to start doing again. Having an honorary "popular" Oscar is something that isn't terribly unreasonable.

Finally, and this isn't quite related, but there technically wouldn't even have to be official nominations for a special "popular" film award. The Academy for the second edition of the Academy Awards had a different nominating and awarding process, mentioned on their database if you look up nominees from that year:

[NOTE: THIS IS NOT AN OFFICIAL NOMINATION. There were no announcements of nominations, no certificates of nomination or honorable mention, and only the winners (*) were revealed during the awards banquet on April 3, 1930. Though not official nominations, the additional names in each category, according to in-house records, were under consideration by the various boards of judges.]

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