Anyone who keeps up with my nonsensical ramblings on this site will know I have a morbid fascination with the Academy Awards. Despite viewing them as an irrelevant, indulgent festival of snobbery, I can’t deny I’m always interested to see what the whitest, most octogenarian film of the year was.

I think it’s this perception that’s led them to the changes they announced yesterday. From 2020, the Oscars telecast will only be three hours long, instead of the usual 40. More eyebrow-raising though is the announcement of a new category called ‘outstanding achievement in popular film’.

Shifting attention

Leaving aside what the hell that means, for now, it’s easy enough to see why they’ve done this. Essentially the academy is sick of being called irrelevant and wants a way to get the hip young kids (that’s you and me) watching. Also, they’re sick of people shouting at them to give superhero movies Oscars. What a ‘popular’ film category does is give them a way to ignore mainstream films for more prestigious categories.

Why give Mad Max or Get Out the Best Picture nomination when you can chalk it up to ‘achievement in popular film’? Despite these being the best films on show at their respective awards, they want to make room for more of their pretentious drama snoozefests. It’s what they did with Pixar films when they stuffed them into the ‘Animated feature’ category. They’re basically guaranteed a win when they’re against The Boss Baby and some foreign stuff no one saw.

But it’s not quite Best Picture is it.

Shaky definition

Going back to ‘popular’, though. What does that even mean? Popular with the box office? Popular with critics? Would Blade Runner 2049, a film that all 20 people who saw it loved, qualify? Are Transformers movies potential award hopefuls now? In a similar vein, what does ‘achievement’ mean? Black Panther was an achievement in casting and representation but a bit of a dud in structure and effects. And let’s be honest, Black Panther and its vocal fanbase is almost entirely the reason this category was made.

In conclusion, I’m unsure to sceptical about how I feel about this. To be honest, a severely cut-down telecast sounds fantastic to a man who was up till 5 am last time. But this ‘popular film’ thing has my head turned and my eyes narrowed.