Academy shelves its plans for ‘popular’ Oscar category

Just weeks after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a controversial new Oscar category that would recognise “achievement in popular film”, the organisation has shelved plans for that trophy.

“There has been a wide range of reactions to the introduction of a new award, and we recognise the need for further discussion with our members,” said Dawn Hudson, the Academy’s chief executive officer.

The August 8 announcement of the new category contained no rules for how contenders might be determined, and critics blanched at the notion that box-office results or blockbuster budgets might become criteria for a 90-year-old award ostensibly given on merit.

Tightrope of fairness

After the initial confusion, questions continued to arise that the Academy found hard to answer. Was it fair for ABC, the network that broadcasts the Oscars, to lobby hard for such an award when its parent company (Disney) makes the sort of blockbusters that would probably crowd the category: Marvel movies,
Star Wars
movies and Pixar films? Might a popularity prize backfire by ghettoising the big films that would otherwise contend for best picture?

The irony is that this year’s telecast may not have needed such a prize in the first place.
Black Panther
, the highest-grossing film so far, is almost certain to be nominated in several categories including best picture — and it may even win Marvel Studios its first Oscar in a category like best costume design, where Ruth E. Carter’s stunning outfits tower over the rest of the field.

If ABC executives had sought to find room in the telecast for superhero movies, they needn’t have worried, and the removal of a popularity prize will only strengthen the case for
Black Panther

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