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Sorry ‘Black Panther,’ But the Oscars is Dumping its Planned ‘Best Popular Film’ Category

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Superhero film giant Marvel was working to get its African American epic film Black Panther recognized under the Oscars’ new “Best Popular Film” award category, but now the Oscars is dumping the category. So, it looks like Black Panther is out of luck for an Oscar.

The story started back in August when the Academy Awards decided to float the new category. As soon as the announcement was made, Marvel decided to get its hit popular film recognized as the industry’s first “Best Popular Film” winner.

But now, according to Daily Wire, those dreams of a Bestie have been dashed:

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According to ABC News, the “Best Popular Film” that AMPAS proposed last month in an attempt to pull in more viewers has been shelved. The announcement comes after decision prompted a significant amount of backlash from industry insiders and outsiders alike, all of whom saw the category as a white flag of surrender to the nadir in quality that the movies have reached in recent years.

“There has been a wide range of reactions to the introduction of a new award, and we recognize the need for further discussion with our members,” said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson in an announcement. “We have made changes to the Oscars over the years-including this year-and we will continue to evolve while also respecting the incredible legacy of the last 90 years.”

One of the reasons for the pause stems from the Academy’s inability to properly create a metric to determine what exactly would include a “Best Popular Film” as well as a way to include films released earlier this year.

“We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world. The Board of Governors took this charge seriously,” John Bailey and Dawn Hudson said in a letter sent to Academy members when the award was initially announced.

The idea did have a lot of detractors. Rolling Stone, for instance, slammed the award.

But the idea of creating a Best Popular Film category smacks of desperation — not to mention suggests that the people running the show have no conception of what the value of the Oscars even is.

Every art form faces a tension between the popular and the good. Occasionally, you get lucky and the two merge (all hail Kendrick Lamar!) but part of the exquisite agony of caring about popular culture is realizing that, more often than not, there’s very little intersection between the two. People love Michael Bay movies, superhero flicks, reboots and sequels ; critics and Academy voters (two groups with plenty of gaps in their Venn diagram, too) tend toward smaller, more personal and thoughtful fare. You can argue which group is “right” in that debate, but the beauty of awards shows is that, in theory, they try to set aside simple popularity when picking their winners. Popular movies already win untold riches, fame for their makers, instant immortality. The Oscars don’t ignore commercially successful films — Pixar is a frequent winner — but they inherently acknowledge that, often, movies made from a precise artistic sensibility won’t electrify the masses, which doesn’t mean they’re any less worthy of celebrating.

In addition, this new category misunderstands precisely how the Academy Awards operate. For better or worse, members alone vote for the Oscars: They are the ones telling us what the “best” movies and performances are. We can complain about that all we want, but at least there’s a purity to the system in that it’s a completely insular, self-contained process. This introduces a dynamic that would be new to the proceedings — which is that, in some small way, we the audience would have an influence on the show. By voting with our dollars, we’re essentially dictating to the Academy what films should comprise one category. But how would that work? Just the top-five grossing movies make the cut? And if it’s not that, then wouldn’t the Academy be ignoring the very idea of what’s “popular”?

So, just what makes an oscar-worthy movie? Well, it won’t be just “popularity,” at least not this year.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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