New Oscar category nixed

LOS ANGELES • There is a plot twist. Just weeks after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a controversial new Oscar category that would recognise "achievement in popular film", it has nixed that trophy, at least for now.

"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 Ms Dawn Hudson, the academy's chief executive officer.

Rumours had flown that the academy might rethink the new category, but had it been thought through?

The Aug 8 announcement of the new prize contained no rules for how contenders might be determined. Critics blanched at the notion that box-office results or blockbuster budgets might become criteria for an award ostensibly given on merit.

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 releases and Pixar films?

And what of Netflix, the streaming service that has a heap of Oscar contenders this year, but refuses to release any figures that would reveal how popular they are?

The irony is that the ceremony may not have needed such an accolade in the first place.

Black Panther, the highest-grossing film this year so far, is almost certain to be nominated in several categories, including Best Picture.

If ABC executives had sought to find room in the telecast for superhero movies, they need not have worried and the removal of a popularity prize will only strengthen the case for Black Panther to be judged not just as a blockbuster, but also as a pivotal work of art.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2018, with the headline 'New Oscar category nixed'. Print Edition | Subscribe