popular film oscar

When the Academy made a misguided attempt to appeal to the masses with a “Best Achievement in Popular Film” category, it sent film fans into an uproar. In the face of the controversy, the Academy quickly did away with the plans and hopefully will never speak of it again.

But that doesn’t mean Mission: Impossible – Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie isn’t furious that they considered it in the first place. The filmmaker behind the hugely successful franchise that sends Tom Cruise hurtling off dangerous heights laid into the Academy for proposing the very idea of a Most Popular Film Oscar category, arguing that it represented the backwards way of thinking that the Oscars have become known for.

It’s been three months since the Academy first proposed then put to bed the idea of the Most Popular Film Oscar category (though only a few weeks since they threatened to resurrect it), but McQuarrie is still riled up about it. In an interview with Collider, he argued that the Academy is falling victim to the backwards thinking that films that make money can’t be Best Picture-worthy:

“I can be diplomatic, but fuck it. There was talk of a popular film category. I’m really glad they’re not doing that, because I think the notion of that is to shy away from the fact that a — I don’t care, revoke my academy membership…I think that there’s a point at which we’ve lost sight of the fact that what we’re here to do first and foremost — sorry if this sounds offensive to anybody — is to entertain people and to move people. A part of me looks at that and says, ‘Well, there are big movies that do that too.’”

“It wasn’t that long ago that a film like that was both commercially successful and won all of those Academy Awards,” the director continued. “I think some of what we see now is a little bit of a backlash from that. There’s a morning after and people say, ‘We did what? We gave the two billion dollar earning movie an Academy Award and not these other movies?’”

Instead, McQuarrie proposes that the Academy introduces a new Oscars category that finally recognizes stunt work. Stunt teams and performers have been a staple of the movie industry since its birth, and have gone relatively uncelebrated, despite risking life and limb on sets every day. And yes, McQuarrie’s own Mission: Impossibe entries would definitely qualify for those categories:

“I can’t think of a film recently that might qualify, but, that’s an art, that’s a skill, that’s a craft. Those are people risking their lives and doing things that are absolutely and utterly truly amazing and are so much a part of an experience like that. Not just in films like this. You go look at ‘Hell or High Water.’ ‘Lone Survivor.’ The stunts in that movie were absolutely incredible. In terms of a new category, I think you need to do that.”

McQuarrie isn’t the only big name to advocate for stunt recognition lately. Fellow directors like Edgar Wright and actors such as Helen Mirren have suggested the same on social media. However, some stunt coordinators are concerned that if Oscars were handed out for stunts, it would encourage performers to risk more dangerous stunts for the prospect of an award. And that’s something the industry can’t afford, with more stunt casualties and even deaths occurring recently in the face of poor regulation. But I agree with McQuarrie that stunts are a craft that deserve an Oscars category all to their own, and have gone unrecognized long enough.

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