What Would a Popular Movie Oscar Even Mean?

During a recent interview, Samuel L. Jackson suggested the Academy should hand out a special award to the year's most popular film

Samuel L. Jackson attends the LA premiere of Netflix's "Dolemite Is My Name" at Regency Village Theatre on September 28, 2019 in Westwood, California.
Samuel L. Jackson at the LA premiere of Netflix's "Dolemite Is My Name" in 2019
Rachel Luna/FilmMagic

Samuel L. Jackson is no stranger to blockbusters. Over the years, he’s appeared in some of the most beloved movies and highest-grossing franchises of all time. It makes sense, then, to a certain extent that he’d advocate for popular movies to be recognized by the Academy at the Oscars the same way more obscure indie films have historically been.

“All movies are valid,” Jackson said during a recent interview. “Some go to the cinema to be moved dearly. Some like superheroes. If somebody has more butts on seats it just means your audience is not as broad. There are people who have had successful careers but nobody can recite one line of their parts. I’m the guy who says shit that’s on a T-shirt.”

He’s not wrong there, of course. But his proposed solution is where he starts to lose us; Jackson suggests that the year’s most popular movie should receive a special award at Hollywood’s biggest night.

“They should have an Oscar for the most popular movie,” he said, noting that drawing audiences into theaters is “what the business is about.” He added that Spider-Man: No Way Home, which has grossed $1.8 billion and counting, should receive an Oscar this year to acknowledge its success.

“They should!” he added. “It did what movies did forever — it got people to a big dark room.”

But relegating big blockbusters to their own category and simply handing out a prize to whichever movie managed to rake in the most money that year won’t do anything to encourage Academy voters to treat them with respect and honor them with any actual awards. Do big-budget movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home deserve to be recognized for their achievements? Sure. But keeping them segregated from the more arty “serious” films in the major categories won’t accomplish that.

And furthermore, do we really need to hand out a trophy to the most popular movie to confirm that it’s the most popular? Isn’t that already a prize in itself? To quote Don Draper, “That’s what the money is for.”

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