The recently announced changes to the Oscars have many of our forum posters up in arms, but they also raise a number of questions. Below, we count down the top 10 mysteries we’re wondering about in the wake of Wednesday’s news.
1. Will these changes be implemented this year? The 2019 Oscars telecast will be held on February 24 as originally planned, so the show itself won’t move to early February until 2020, but what about the award for Best Popular Film and the shortening of the telecast? Will those changes be made effective immediately, or will it take the academy another year or so to work out the details? For instance …
2. What are the criteria for Best Popular Film? Will the academy judge popularity strictly by box office gross, and if so, what’s the limit? $100 million? $200 million? The academy membership is getting more diverse, both ethnically and internationally, so will popularity be determined by worldwide gross or just domestic gross? And what about smaller-budget art-house movies that become surprise blockbusters like “Black Swan” (2010)? Would that suddenly find itself in a category with a slew of Marvel movies?
3. Will Best Popular Film nominees still be eligible for Best Picture? Blockbusters like “Avatar” (2009), “Inception” (2010), “American Sniper” (2014) and “The Revenant” (2015) often do quite well in the Oscar nominations even without a separate category. So if they’re classified as “popular” films, will they also be eligible for Best Picture?
4. Will this help or hurt popular films that would have gotten into Best Picture anyway? This could be a double-edged sword for some popular movies, serving to ghettoize high-grossing films that might have gotten into Best Picture anyway. It’s easy to imagine that if academy members think a film will be taken care of in the Best Popular Film category, they won’t need to vote for its writing, directing or acting, or consider it for Best Picture. For instance, this might have done more to hurt “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) and “Get Out” (2017) than help them.
5. Will producers of Best Popular Film get a plaque or Oscars? Will this be a full-fledged Oscar, or will it be a lesser award signified by a plaque, certificate or some other marker of achievement?
6. Will the Best Picture category remain with a sliding scale of 5-10 nominees? The academy tried to address the problem of popular movies like “The Dark Knight” and “WALL-E” (both 2008) being snubbed when they extended Best Picture from 5 to 10 nominees. When they institute the Popular Film category, will they bring Best Picture back down to 5 nominees? Or might both categories have a sliding scale between 5 and 10 nominees?
7. Which Oscars will be given out in commercials, and will that rotate? Some branches of the academy might not be too happy with having their categories shifted off the live telecast, so who decides which categories get moved aside, and will it be the same categories every year?
8. Why no updates to other categories where there have been calls for change? For some reason, Best Makeup and Hairstyling still has only three nominees instead of five like almost all other categories. And some Oscar-watchers wonder why there are no categories for stunt coordination or casting. But as far as we know there are no other changes or additions in the offing.
9. Will the earlier air date in 2020 force the precursor awards to move too? There’s already a time crunch for the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards and SAG Awards to present their prizes before Oscars are handed out. With the Oscars moving to February 9 in 2020, will that force other awards to change their calendars accordingly? And if so …
10. Will the date change disadvantage movies released at the end of the year? The precursors have been getting earlier and earlier, causing some notable problems. In recent years SAG voters didn’t have time to see “Django Unchained” (2012), “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013) or “Phantom Thread” (2017), so they got no recognition there. A similarly late release date derailed the Oscar chances for Martin Scorsese‘s acclaimed passion project “Silence” (2016). And hardly anyone got to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015) before voting, prompting the Critics’ Choice Awards to shoe-horn it into Best Picture after their nominations were announced. Are we in for much more of the same? For all intents and purposes, the eligibility year might end in November from now on.