For 90 years, Hollywood has fascinated moviegoers with its glitz and glamour. The Oscars have always been a part of Hollywood’s celebration of some of the world’s best motion pictures. This year, to spruce things up, the Oscars proposed the idea of a new category – “popular films” category in next year’s awards. However this idea was widely seen as a gimmick to increase television viewers.
Last year’s ceremony only had 26.5 million viewers, the smallest in the awards' 90-year history, falling about 20 percent from the previous year. But the truth is live-TV events are becoming increasingly unpopular across the board. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Oscars, the Grammys or the Super Bowl, audiences are less inclined to tune in.
However well-intentioned, this new category is a flawed idea. The most Popular film category almost guarantees that “popular” films wind up in that category and would get ignored for Best Picture contention and thereby devaluing both awards. Does this new award mean that popular films aren’t the best films or that the best films aren’t the most popular? It certainly confuses both categories and leaves people scratching their heads.
Luckily, It took just one month for the Academy to reverse itself and cancel the Most Popular Oscar, at least for next year.
The Motion Picture Academy has some other ideas to bring viewers back by shortening the Oscars to three hours. For example, some of the awards will be presented during commercial breaks and then edited and aired later in the broadcast. Oscar organizers did not specify say which awards would be presented during commercials, but it is expected some minor awards such as editing, costumes, and sound are to be most affected by the change.
If the Oscars are really set on creating a new category and honoring more movies, they should do the exact opposite of their initial plan: They should create an award that honors smaller art house movies that haven’t been seen by a wide audience but should be viewed globally. The criteria for this kind of award would be much simpler to create too. The Academy would just have to set a limit to the budget of the film to be nominated or, alternatively the Box Office gross receipts. This award would truly celebrate film as the Academy intended as it would boost all of the nominees’ visibility and hopefully ticket sales.
This type of category would put the Oscars’ spotlight and box-office generating power where it can do the most good. It avoids the controversy that would result from a movie like Star Wars or Titanic winning Most Popular and then getting left out of Best Picture and turning the whole thing into a consolation prize. And rather than agreeing with the consensus that has already formed around a popular movie that doesn’t really need more attention.
Granted, this wouldn’t solve the problem of getting more eyeballs to watch the Oscars but it is a beautiful, ultraistic thought, isn’t it?
Hollywood is the land of entertainment. They know how to put on a show. It shouldn’t need to offer gimmicky awards to woo back viewers. The brains behind the Oscars should come up with better ideas of how to attract viewers.
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