Another day in Hollywood heaven, and we check in on Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, as Carole peruses her laptop. There's a look of dismay on her face.
Carole: They must be joking!
Clark: Who is "they," and what's the joking?
Carole: The "they" is a little thing called the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where both of us would still be members if we weren't--
Clark:(jovially) And where I won an award, unlike you.
Carole: At least I was nominated, which is more than poor Myrna or Marilyn can say. It's what the Academy is doing that riles me.
Clark: Thought you liked that museum they're building at Wilshire and Fairfax.
Carole: I do -- it's gonna be great. But they're doing something with their awards ceremony, the Oscars, that well, kinda perturbs me.
Carole: They announced today they're doing some things to counter declining ratings for the Oscars telecast, which they want to limit to three hours. First, awards in some of the less-celebrated categories will be given during commercial breaks. I bet screenwriting will get short shrift, just like when the moguls ran the studios. I emailed Robert Riskin, whom you'll recall I used to date...
Clark: Yeah, I know.
Carole: By the way, he and Fay say hi.
Carole: Anyway, his response was one of those words you always reprimand me for.
Carole: Come 2020, the Oscars will be moved up two weeks -- that year, they'll take place on Feb. 9.
Clark: The year you were nominated, it was in early April.
Carole: Yep. Now here's the coup de grace: To spike up ratings, the Academy will institute a new category, something it's tentatively calling "outstanding achievement in popular film."
Clark: What? You mean to say my "It Happened One Night" or "Gone With The Wind" weren't popular?
Carole: Of course they were. But these days, the movie business is all about blockbusters, franchises, superhero movies, sequels. You thought Louis B. Mayer and Harry Cohn were bad? They're angels of a sort compared to these soulless Ivy League MBAs who run the studios today. And the biggest culprit? Disney.
Clark: (smiles) Remember when we went to the premiere of "Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs" at the Carthay Circle?
Carole: What an achievement that was! But while we were happy to see the Disney company survive in the '70s and '80s after Walt joined us here, it's since become the corporate antithesis of nearly everything he stood for. Remember that saying, "follow the money"? Well, Disney owns Marvel's film branch, and Pixar...and the ABC television network, which will carry the Oscars for the next decade.
Clark: A-ha! Go on.
Carole: Now, they haven't established the criteria yet for this new category, but since Disney makes more of these blockbusters than anybody -- Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, et cetera -- many believe ABC and Disney kinda, well, pressured the Academy to institute this. Take a look at this from Variety.
(She shows Gable the following article, https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/abc-oscar-changes-ratings-popular-film-1202899515/.)
Clark: I know how studio politics work. Hey, Metro eased me out in '54.
Carole: Little Mickey Mouse is now the 800-pound -- make that 800-ton -- gorilla. Ask the folks at Fox, whose film studio will soon effectively be in the past tense once Disney takes it over. (Sighs.) Oh, and there's another factor behind all this.
Clark: And that is...
Carole: A Marvel movie from February, "Black Panther" -- a huge hit, the first superhero film with a predominantly black cast, and that's great. Got fine reviews, too. But some wondered whether it could be nominated for Best Picture against all those little arthouse dramas the Academy loves. Putting it in this category could result in a backlash from some elements. (https://www.thewrap.com/academy-adds-popular-film-award-vows-shorten-oscars/)
Clark: Well, that's their problem.
Carole: Oh, and according to the Academy, the two categories will not be mutually exclusive, so "Black Panther" or another film could conceivably win both.
Clark: So I sense you're not all that enamored with the move.
Carole: I'd have done some other things. At the first Academy Awards back in 1929 -- and no, I wasn't there, although Anita Page was -- an award was given for Best Director, Comedy Picture. That soon ended, but I'd love to see an Oscar given to the best comedy feature. To borrow the catchphrase of Rodney Dangerfield, comedy gets no respect.
Clark: Enjoyed his stand-up act last week. And remember, we've got tickets for George Carlin tomorrow night, though those seven words of his will be bleeped.
Carole: You can't work blue up here.
More reaction from the film community can be found at https://variety.com/2018/film/news/twitter-reacts-new-oscars-popular-film-category-academy-1202899436/