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The Oscars’ new ‘popular film’ award proves it’s out-of-touch and elitist

The Oscars are finally acknowledging that their Best Picture picks have been obtuse and lame. (“The Shape of Water,” “Birdman” . . . I mean, they’re not wrong.)
So to rectify their out-of-touch snobbishness, they’re shaking things up — by adding a prize for “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film.”
Apparently, the movies we the people like — such as “Black Panther,” “Wonder Woman,” “Girls Trip” and “Get Out” — are trash not worthy of the night’s top honor.
Thanks, but no thanks, Academy.
A popularity prize is idiotic. Film is inherently a popular medium, and many of the most enduring Best Picture winners have achieved both box office and artistic success (“Lawrence of Arabia,” “Casablanca,” “The Godfather”). The idea that a movie can’t achieve both is just misguided.
Just look at this year’s Best Picture nominee “Get Out,” a smart, audacious horror film that grappled with race relations in America, nabbed a Best Original Screenplay prize and made a killing at the box office. Ditto “Mad Max: Fury Road,” an exhilarating, sublime action flick that transcended the cliches of its genre and was nominated for Best Picture in 2016.
Both of these movies made more money and were more daring, artistic and of-the-moment than the films that beat them (“The Shape of Water” and “Spotlight,” respectively.)
Oh, and winners like the violent Western “No Country for Old Men” (2008), the mob movie “The Departed” (2007) and the fantasy epic “Lord of the Rings” (2004) weren’t exactly obscure either.
So, what’s the point of this new prize? Does Hollywood think that these popular movies are sullying the Best Picture category? Does this new category mean that worthy, smart crowdpleasers — like “Fury Road” or 2010’s nominated sci-fi film “District 9” — will have less of a chance to nab the night’s top honor? And what does an Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film mean anyway? Will the prize go to a great big-budget genre film such as “Black Panther,” which has flair and style and originality, or a cynical superhero movie such as “Avengers: Infinity War” just for making a ton of money? And will the vote be put to the public, VMAs style? Or will the same stuffy Academy members vote on this too?
And does anyone actually expect “The Avengers” to win Best Picture? Just because we filmgoers like to indulge in mindless entertainment doesn’t mean we can’t handle more nuanced, challenging fare — like 2017’s beautiful, intimate Best Picture-winning “Moonlight” — as well.
By creating some kind of popular consolation prize, the Academy is trying to seem more hip and with-it, and probably get more eyeballs for the telecast. Instead, it just reveals how elitist, condescending and out of touch they really are. Here’s an idea: If there’s a big movie that’s popular and also really good, just give it the damn award!

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