What gives a metal trophy meaning? Because anybody can go out and purchase one for themselves. What makes a four hour ceremony special? Because there’s one of those on every channel now it seems. What separates the Oscars from the rest has always been: history, tradition, exclusivity, and mystique. Yesterday, the Academy announced a number of changes that had the internet in an uproar, and rightfully so.

From here on out, there will be a new category for “Achievement in Popular Film.” It was clear to everybody who pays attention to these things, that the Academy is afraid not to give an Oscar to Black Panther. Achievement in Popular Film is the dumbest sounding award I have ever heard. What do they even mean by “Achievement in Popular Film?” Does it just go to the highest earning film? When people complain about not getting an award, it doesn’t mean they want you to make up a lame new category. I imagine the handing out of this award at next year’s show is going to be… awkward. I hope the people there give a standing ovation out of sarcasm, because it inches the Oscars closer to the “everybody gets an award” attitude in peewee sports.  I’ve also heard it compared to senior superlatives. The Academy is watering down their own trophy. By handing out more trophies, you take away from its mystique and exclusivity. The Academy says they want to be more “accessible.” Really? Accessible? Synonymous with obtainable, available, approachable. That’s what people want in their awards? The Oscar is meant to be hard to achieve. Al Pacino went two decades of being snubbed before getting one. Complaining about who or what got snubbed was part of the enjoyment.

Worse still, they are cutting the Oscar telecast by about an hour, which many believe means cutting a number of the awards for technical achievement from the show. That’s truly sad to me. What’s the difference between you and the Golden Globes now? It takes a lot of people with a variety of skill sets to make a movie. The Academy has always been about honoring that, not chasing ratings or popularity. Are actors and filmmakers going to sit by while their colleagues get shafted?

I can only hope at this point that enough vitriol from Twitter causes the Academy to turn back to the light. I doubt it happens immediately, but maybe if the show at the beginning of next year (they’re moving the show up, the only change I like) bombs, they’ll reconsider.

Awards lose credibility as soon as they allow themselves to be dictated to. At last year’s Grammys, there were complaints about the lack of female nominees, to which the head of the Grammys replied with something like, “female artists need to step up.” He was wrong of course, but I prefer the ones in charge of doling out awards to be stingy, pig-headed, and snobbish rather than accessible. Artists should wonder what they have to do to get an award. The award shouldn’t be wondering what needs to happen  for a particular artist to get one.

-Walter Howard-

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