Those mob fools want you gone so they can get back to the way things were, but I know the truth; there’s no goin’ back. You’ve changed things… forever!
That quote was spoken 10 years ago by a man who was acutely aware of the direction his world was taking after the introduction of a major player in the game: Batman. Of course, it was the Caped Crusader’s greatest adversary, the Joker who said that to him in the 2008 film The Dark Knight, an instant classic movie that changed the course of cinema. Unfortunately, it was not all for the better, and the main culprit at play in wrecking the quality of top tier movies is at play again. Call them the “mob fools” of this example, who know that things have changed, but who fail to grasp that the movie industry is forever shifted from how it was. I am speaking of course of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. You know, the Oscar people.
It may seem odd to call out the institution that annually awards the top awards to the top films as being the driving force of ruining such movies, but consider what is considered a “top film”. Furthermore, think back upon who and what has won in the past. The criteria for what gets recognized as Oscar-worthy is not an exact science, other than the fact that it tends to be what is lobbied for by large studios.
That campaigning is always underway, even with quality films produced by big studios, and this year such lobbying from a massive studio has ushered in the creation of a new Academy Award.
Disney has been pushing bigtime to get recognition for what I must admit is a worthy film. It has been my favorite of the year so far, thanks quite a lot to its rich characters and settings; its fantastic story that showcases a man struggling with the sins of his father and other predecessors; and its antagonist, whose motivations are rooted in real-world problems dealing with race, and who actually challenges and changes the hero’s preconceived notions and philosophy. With magnificent directing acting, set and clothing design, technical and sound effects, and score, this movie has all the makings of being a Best Picture nominee. But it won’t be because it’s protagonist originated in a comic book.
For as much well-deserved hype Avengers: Infinity War has earned, it remains Marvel’s second best effort of the year behind Black Panther. As a more cohesive story (thanks in part to only having to really cover the trials and tribulations of one superhero), Black Panther explores much more than even some of the better comic book based movies do, with themes of racism, nationalism, technology sharing, and challenging tradition at the core of its story. It is not a perfect film and has some issues with some of the climactic battle effects looking a little too CGIed, but Black Panther scores pretty damn highly. It is almost a sure lock for the new “Oustanding Achievement in Popular Film” award, so why is that a problem?
In short, the Academy’s new most popular award is not a good idea and will hurt “fringe” movies. By this I mean, the movies that typically do not get recognized at the Golden Naked Dude Statue Award Show, like comic book-based movies, science fiction and space fantasy, and anything that is able to make oodles of money on its own without an award nomination to boost its ticket sales. In specific regards to comic book stories put on the screen, for many years such movies rarely made a splash in the realm of challenging the status quo outside of the theater, but that has definitely changed. Superhero movies are more than simple popcorn fare now, and a major reason why is The Dark Knight. Chritsopher Nolan’s grounded-in-reality Gotham City saga helped establish a believable Batman, but it was the social moral quandaries posed by the series’ second installment that really elevated the film, and by virtue the comic book genre with it, to a whole new level. The Dark Knight is one of the best films made in the 21st century, and for me it is one of the best of all time, and certainly the best of 2008. Off the top of your head, can you name the five films that were actually nominated for Best Picture that year? I’ve seen four of them, and the other is in my Netflix queue, and each of them I have only seen once, and because of their nomination. Each has its merits, and I enjoyed at least pieces of all, but I have since returned to repeated viewings of The Dark Knight multiple times; I have seen it probably 4-6 times more than all of the combined viewings of the other five nominees from that year. (It was Slumdog Millionaire that won that year, btw. I know, it was just on the tip of your tongue too. Tally ho.)
The Dark Knight is the classic example of the big comic book movie that both critics and audiences alike liked, but that has been the case for many a movie audience since. While Nolan’s Batman sequel still remains the best of the bunch, other films like Black Panther have added to the list of films that feature a guy in a costume punching baddies that also has something to say. These films should be recognized among the best of the year if they truly are. The Dark Knight encouraged the re-expansion of the Best Picture nominations to up to 10 films, but no year since has had more than nine nominees, and none of those have been based on comic books. Before this announcement, I thought that may change, but now I fear that the “Most Popular Film” “award” will simply be the Academy’s way to blow off Black Panther and any other future blockbuster that contains more nuance than explosions.
Beyond the new movie award, the Oscars promised the shave off some runtime on their big TV show. Shortening the ceremony to three hours means cutting out many technical and design awards that usually fill the middle of the broadcast. Granted, this is rarely what people tune in for, but eschewing it from the main show belittles the achievements of these people and teams who work just as hard in their fields as Leonardo Dicaprio does when he crawls to a sportscar pretending to be wrecked on quaaludes.
The official letter that the Academy sent out reads:
Last night, the Board of Governors met to elect new board officers, and discuss and approve significant changes to the Oscars telecast.
The Board of Governors, staff, Academy members, and various working groups spent the last several months discussing improvements to the show.
Tonight, the Board approved three key changes:
- A three-hour Oscars telecast
We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.
To honor all 24 award categories, we will present select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined). The winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.
- New award category
We will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.
- Earlier airdate for 92nd Oscars
The date of the 92nd Oscars telecast will move to Sunday, February 9, 2020, from the previously announced February 23. The date change will not affect awards eligibility dates or the voting process.
The 91st Oscars telecast remains as announced on Sunday, February 24, 2019.
We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world. The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.
We are excited about these steps, and look forward to sharing more details with you.
John Bailey and Dawn Hudson
Hopefully my cynicism is unfounded and my suspicions will all be proven to be silly! hahaha – but I doubt it. In an ideal world, films will be awarded for their boldness, ingenuity, beauty, and meaningfulness. It will always be difficult to understand any art’s ability to capture these essences, not to mention that it will be equally tough to agree on what constitutes as having captured such. However, admiring art does not need to be a subjective process only, as there are tangible qualities in story structure, character development, and visual and sound effects that can be measured to determine which film was most excellent. We will need them all, and should appreciate them all, not merely the actor portrayals, and the directorial touches – these are important, yet they are not the complete presentation of the film itself. It will be most difficult of all to offer everyone who deserves acclaim on a film their dues, and I for one don’t mind watching a longer show if you’re going to do it. Just make sure it’s entertaining enough for me to watch to make it worth my while. Regardless of how this new award and shortened show go, the Academy can certainly take a page out of Marvel’s book as to how to keep people watching to the end.
Thanks for reading! I hope you will come back next week for more fun! In the meantime, send any comments, questions, or suggestions to email@example.com.
Alex will return in Next Monday’s Post