As movie fans, of course we love the Oscars….the best of the best competing for the ultimate prize in various categories. For film fans, it’s our Super Bowl, our World Series, our Daytona 500.
But at the same time, how often have we watched the ceremony, having only seen one or two of the films with the most nominations, simply because the average filmgoer doesn’t spend most of their spare time in an art-house? There are a lot of factors which make a great film, not just those related to the handful of awards given out on Oscar night. What about a movie with awesome stunt work, or an animated film featuring an actor whose voice performance rivals anything they’ve done onscreen?
Look, the annual Academy Awards ceremony is already long enough, but it still isn’t a comprehensive show giving accolades to everyone who deserves them. I, for one, would be willing to sit through an extra hour of the telecast if the following categories were added:
1. Best Un-billed Performance
An unexpected appearance by a big-name actor is usually a gimmick, but sometimes it's a vital part of the story, like Joe Pesci in JFK, or Gary Oldman in Hannibal. Actors appearing un-billed in movies is now commonplace, so why not reward such false humility with a trophy? Who wouldn’t have awarded this all-elusive award to Bill Murray for his appearance in Zombieland (especially since the Academy seems reluctant to give him one for anything else)?
2. Best Stunt Work
When you think about it, it’s amazing (and obscene) that this is already not already a legitimate category. Think of the all the classic films with iconic action sequences ...the car chase in The French Connection, the motorcycle jump in The Great Escape, the opening foot chase in Casino Royale, the fight choreography in Enter the Dragon. Do you know how many Oscars these stunt coordinators have received? None, which is a travesty because, in certain genres the ability to pull off such scenes is every bit as important as make-up or costume design.
3. Best Use of a Classic Song
Sure, lots of songs are written specifically for a film (usually Oscar bait), but just as often, filmmakers like to dip into the past for one which best fits the tone of a scene. Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese do this all the time, and sometimes an old classic tune does more to enhance a movie than anything a current songwriter can dish up. Think of “Layla” in Goodfellas or Dick Dale’s “Miserlou” in Pulp Fiction. Finding the perfect old song is just as vital for some films as hiring a currently popular poptart to croak yet another power ballad.
4. Best Sequel or Remake
There have been some truly great sequels and remakes, and they are a huge part of what drives Hollywood as a business, but the Academy seldom likes to even nominate them for Best Picture. So why not create a category just for those movies? God knows there would be enough of them eligible every year, and the average movie fan who never tunes into the Oscar broadcast every year might be more inclined to do so if their beloved Harry Potters or Twilights or Die Hards were up for at-least some kind of award.
5. Best Motion Capture Performance
A sign of the times. Gollum in Lord of the Rings, Kong in King Kong, the bear in Ted and Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes are main characters of the films in which they appear. Sure, they are special-effects, but they are also performances, a true collaboration between an actor and the technical wizards who bring the character to visual life. At this point in time, is their anyone who can seriously argue that Andy Serkis isn’t an amazing actor, even though we don’t see his true face on the screen? He's the De Niro of motion-capture.
6. Best Gore Make-Up
Traditionally, the Oscar category of Best Make-Up has been reserved for movies where a character has a physical deformity or is required to age. But whether the Academy likes it or not (and history has shown it doesn’t), some of the best make-up ever used in movies has been to depict graphic violence. If the effects are physically applied to an actor, it's make-up, and the genre should not matter. For Christ's sakes, Tom Savini has never been nominated for anything!
7. Best Trailer
Trailers are the main things which plant butts in theater seats in the first place. Coaxing moviegoers to part with their hard-earned cash is an art unto itself, so why not reward the folks who cut these two-minute epics together? In fact, this would be the one category in which totally terrible movies could have a legitimate shot at Oscar gold. It takes a real artist to convince people that a truly crappy film is going to be great.
8. Best Voice Actor
Is there anyone out there who can argue that Robin Williams' work as the genie in Aladdin wasn’t the primary reason that movie was so cool? With the increasing number of traditional actors lending their voices to animated characters in blockbuster films, it seems a shame the Academy still doesn’t acknowledge their work, simply because they don’t appear onscreen.