Every year, millions of people tune in to watch the Academy Awards ceremony on television. Ironically, many of the films that most appeal to the mainstream audiences who watch the Oscars are the very films that don't seem to garner the attention of the Academy. While a couple of fringe genre films have been recognized (Silence of the Lambs, Pulp Fiction, The Return of the King), it seems the Oscars have an aversion to crowd-pleasing titles.
Let us focus for a moment on action films. It's not as if The Academy has entirely snubbed all action movies, but there appears to be very specific criteria for the few entries that earn such distinction. For example, Pulp Fiction and The French Connection, which were respectively nominated for and awarded Best Picture honors, could be argued to be crime dramas peppered with action elements rather than full-on action films. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Best Picture nominee) and The Departed (Best Picture winner) were both directed by then already well-established filmmakers who had earned at least nominations in years past.
But what about Die Hard? Seems like a suitable example in the wake of the release of A Good Day to Die Hard. Sure it was nominated for editing, sound editing, and visual effects (none of which it won), but as seminal and important a film as Die Hard is, did it not deserve more acclaim than that? If so many herald it as one of the greatest movies of all time, should it not have been given a shot at the title of best movies of that year?
The problem here is the system.
The Golden Globes actually divides best picture honors into two subsets: Best Motion Picture-Drama & Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy. Recently the Academy has opted for a range of 5-10 Best Picture nominees over their previous five. There are those who argue that they would be further behooved to add specialized genre categories like the Globes. Had the Oscars featured a Best Action Film category, Die Hard would have won it in a walk. For that matter, ' The Raid would currently have its own gold statue. So maybe the addition of an action category at the Oscars is called for, right?
Maybe not. There is an argument to be made that overspecializing the Best Picture category takes away the prestige of winning the award. After all, does anyone really want to see the Academy Awards devolve into the MTV Movie Awards, with completely meaningless honors like Best Kiss and Best Gut-Wrenching Performance? Instead, I would propose honoring action films at the Oscars by paying tribute to heretofore unheralded masterminds behind them.
What the Academy Awards really needs is a Best Stuntwork category. Stunt performers, stunt drivers, and stunt coordinators don't just put their egos on the line when they put forth their craft for judgment, they risk their very lives. Currently there is no Oscar for stuntmen/stuntwomen, not even among the technical categories that aren't featured during the broadcast. These people are practical artisans who often achieve the impossible and are key to our enjoyment of films of this genre.
As stunt performers are used in a a wide array of genres, a stuntwork award would go a long way to bridging the gap between the prestige films typically featured at the Oscars, and those that appeal to mainstream audiences. In the end, there is artistry behind any work of cinema no matter the genre. And, all artistry should be given the opportunity to be duly recognized.