When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced plans for a new Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film category for their Oscars telecast, film fans cried foul. There were immediate, and mostly harsh, reactions that followed, dubbing the move as the dilution of the Academy Awards and saying the new category was a glorified popularity contest. Suffice to say, people weren’t pleased. Well, people other than Mark Wahlberg.
So, with the news yesterday that the Academy was backtracking on its new category to allow for further discussion, film fans saw it as a win. Some praised the decision because it meant that films like “Black Panther” would still be in the hunt for a Best Picture nom, while others were just happy to keep the show how it’s been.
For those celebrating the win, it appears we have Laura Dern and Steven Spielberg to thank.
READ MORE: Oscars Popular Film Category Smartly Put On Hold By Academy
According to a new NYTimes report, during the meeting to discuss these changes, members of the Academy debated the new category pretty vigorously. The report says, “Some board members, including John Bailey, the organization’s president, voiced support for the category at the meeting, while others, including the actress Laura Dern, were adamantly opposed, according to two board members, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.”
Steven Spielberg is also said to have been “uncomfortable” with the category’s inclusion in the upcoming awards telecast.
However, when you listen to the aforementioned John Bailey, Academy president, he thinks this is all a big misunderstanding. In an interview with THR, Bailey discussed the decision to shelve the new category, for now. And he says he was shocked by the reaction to the initial announcement.
“I wasn’t expecting that kind of knee-jerk reaction, largely from journalists,” says Bailey. “I don’t know why that happened because these are the same people who have also criticized the Academy for being quote-unquote irrelevant and not actually addressing the taste of people that go to the movies. The same people who have criticized us for irrelevance and elitism now suddenly were the guardians at the gate, talking about the bowdlerization of the Oscars.”
READ MORE: Disney Still Pushing For ‘Black Panther’ Best Picture Oscar Nom Despite New Popular Film Category
The Academy boss says that the organization needs to find a way to recognize those films “that are being seen by the public.”
However, to those that argue the Popular Film category was a veiled attempt to boost ratings for the show, which has been hemorrhaging viewership in recent years, he says “it wasn’t some knee-jerk reaction to falling ratings or to ABC or to anything like that. It was real clear on the part of the board and the Academy that we needed somehow to make certain kinds of films eligible for new awards.”
READ MORE: Analysis: ABC Pressures Oscars Into Popular Film Category Mistake
Bailey further denies that this new category was some sort of invitation for big franchise films, like “Black Panther” or “Star Wars” films, to get a place at the Oscar table. “Unfortunately, some people misinterpreted this as our laying down pipe for big mass-market franchise films,” he concluded.
So, it would appear this debate is far from over. At the moment, the Popular Film award is not on the table any longer, but it doesn’t sound like Baily, or the Academy, is going to relent easily.