Crazy Rich Asians is a film that, if I put on the contender tracker in previous years, most would never consider for an Oscar. Romantic comedies aren’t generally considered awards-worthy as such, without some other component to them. The discussion on Twitter about this was around My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which earned a screenplay nom in 2003. Could it, Tomris Laffly asked, have gotten in with an even ten nominees? And the answer to that is no. It could not have. In addition to the preferential ballot requiring roughly 200 to put it as their number one film of the year, there were other films pushing for placement, including Adaptation, Road to Perdition, Catch Me if You Can, Talk to Her, and even Far From Heaven and Unfaithful. Actors rule the Academy and even if Greek Wedding got a SAG ensemble nod, there wasn’t any performance driving it in the acting categories, as most Best Picture contenders need. The Blind Side has Sandra Bullock, for instance. Adaptation has Meryl Streep.
But My Big Fat Greek Wedding would have absolutely been a major contender for the Best Popular Film Award, or whatever they decide they will call it. It captured a kind of zeitgeist, and brought out audiences no one could have predicted. That didn’t make it a film that would have gotten a Best Picture nomination; even back then there had to be gravitas along with popularity. But it was worthy of some kind of attention and a category to honor films like that is not entirely a bad idea. But thinking it through a little further, the film I think that would have won the Popular Film category that year might have been The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and in fact, Fellowship the year before.
The Lord of the Rings movies were very popular back then — you might have had to actually live through some of these Oscar years and reported on them as intensely as I did to remember just how popular they were. I remember going to a meeting back during Fellowship and everyone at the table said “Oh, that’s going to win Best Picture, right?” And I had to answer to them that, no, it wasn’t going to win because A Beautiful Mind was going to win. It was going to win because Apollo 13 lost, and because Ron Howard was a guy Hollywood wanted to at last reward. You would know that if you had your face buried in the Oscar race. But if you existed outside that bubble you would not have necessarily known. The same thing happened during Avatar and The Hurt Locker… though predicting Best Picture under the preferential ballot is a little bit different than it was before that.
So that brings us back to Crazy Rich Asians which took the top spot at the box office this weekend, exceeding expectations by bringing in $34 million, and is clearly beloved across the board. It’s an “important” movie because it proves that representation and inclusion can also also be profitable. It could become a situation where you have Crazy Rich Asians vs. Black Panther vs. Mission Impossible vs. Infinity War. And you know where I stand on this. I do not think it’s a bad thing to honor films that the public pays to see.
And in case people on Twitter want to make a fuss about it potentially being just Crazy Rich Asians vs. Black Panther, it’s not like the actual Best Picture race won’t also be inclusive, with Black Panther potentially crossing over, and BlacKkKlansman, Widows, Beale Street, etc. But we do have to be on Shitstorm Alert all the same.
Either way, onto the Contender Tracker Crazy Rich Asians goes. And because it’s there, that might open it up to other categories, like writing, or production design.