Naturally, many things were very different at the first-ever Academy Awards back in 1929. The ceremony was concluded in 15 minutes for starters. Some strange categories existed too, for instance, Sunrise was champion of the wildly antiquated sounding category ‘Best Unique and Artistic Picture’. Since then, it has necessarily been refined and finetuned. There is an argument, however, that it has been refined to the point of stagnation.
To reclaim some joie de vivre we’re looking at categories that should go unheralded no longer. Year in year out we are thrilled by cinematic feats in movie theatres the world over that can’t be recognised with an award simply because they don’t fit the current rigid criteria. From the philosophical debate as to whether it is time to remove gender categorisation, to the rather pithier question of whether ‘Best Stunts’ deserve a share of the spotlight for their death defiance, the end is listless.
Below, we’re putting forward a selected few that we think would both gee up the ceremony and shine a golden beacon on elements of cinema that have been neglected by the stubborn little statue for too long. And to help illuminate the way for the Oscars we’ve even picked out a worthy winner from years gone by to boot.
Without further ado, let’s dive into them.
The five categories that the Oscars need to introduce:
‘Best Performance in a Bit-Part Role’
‘Leading’ and ‘Supporting’, when it comes to the players on the pitch that is all that is currently on offer. Of the thousands of people that take up screen time each year, a measly four receive awards and they receive them on the condition that they sustained their brilliance for long enough that they could be classified as either ‘Supporting’ or ‘Leading’. Where do the substitutes that come on and change the game stand? Where do the unforgettable extras that unquestionably nailed it put their statues? How does someone continually condemned to the cutting room floor make a name for themselves when they finally rise from the ash heap of history and manage to finally impart of few minutes of movie magic?
Whilst steering a film through to its conclusion is one hell of skill and has to be admired, surely seizing your few minutes in the spotlight and bestowing something memorable is equally worth a look-in. The small-fish winners might not bring the celestial glam to the red carpet, but their artistry deserves a share of the spotlight because for every Anton Chigurh tossing up a coin, there is a nameless shopkeeper holding up the other end of the scene.
Our winner from the archives – Michael Jeter for his flamboyantly unforgettable and profoundly affecting performance as ‘Homeless Cabaret Singer’ in the life affirmingly wonderful The Fisher King.
‘Best Stunt Coordinator / Performer’
This category has been part of an ongoing battle for inclusion for years now, and understandably so. These folks drive flaming cars off bridges for our entertainment and you’ll be lucky to find someone, outside of the industry, who can name a single stunt performer other than Tom Cruise.
With sound editing and sound mixing bafflingly splitting the glory it seems incredulous that those who literally risk life and limb for our entertainment and transfigure this death defiance into something that can be considered cinematic artistry don’t even get a sniff.
Our winner from the archives – Jimmy Roberts for the exhilarating and visually artful police car chase scene in Nightcrawler.
‘Best Movie Soundtrack’
You can look at any given still image from Pulp Fiction and you might be able to remember what is playing at that particular moment. Sometimes the marriage of song and scene is so strong that the two can’t be separated and it is a marriage that has offered some of the greatest moments in cinema history.
As Tom Hanks said regarding the Earth rolling into view on 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the accompanying hair-raising adrenalised sonic maelstrom of ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’: “I realised that cinema was nothing more than a collection of colour and sound and the end result is an emotional wallop that you might not be able to understand.” Surely that emotional wallop deserves some recognition on top of best original song and score?
Our winner from the archives – Quentin Tarantino for the aforementioned curation of perfectly befitting belters on Pulp Fiction.
‘Best Performance by an Animal’
Why the devil not, ay? At the risk of sounding cynical, a group of very rich beautiful people congratulating themselves for how brilliant they are at make-believe while dressed immaculately could do with taking the pretentious edge off a little bit. Crediting the superb acting ability of something furry would be a sure-fire way to do just that.
Imagine, if you will, Angelina Jolie rising to her feet to allow a very proud horse to scoot along the aisle to collect a gong in recognition of its mane-billowing brilliance in the latest western. People want to see that, and they want to see it so much that I am willing to risk the credibility of this article to suggest it.
Our winner from the archives – Verdell for its performance as ‘Jill the Dog’ in As Good As It Gets and repopularising the Stan Laurel discerning look to camera long before The Office. All joking aside, the Oscar-winning film actually hinges on this lovable goon and if that’s not enough to grant the dog and its trainer a gong then I don’t know what is!
‘Best Casting Director’
Assembling the perfect ensemble is a difficult task and when it is done well it embalms the movie with the cinematic hue of its own insular universe where each character is perfectly realised. The gilding of these cinematic universes also allows for each of the characters to find some sort of chemistry with their counterparts and the result is an elevated performance from the entire ensemble.
Whilst obviously certain casting decisions are already in place before a project even gets off the ground, filling the rest of the roster with befitting quality is a visionary skill. The Coen Brothers are rightly lauded for their stellar extras and not only does that knack not only happen by accident, but it imbues the movie with a three-dimensional embellishment that is sorely missed when the casting is all wrong.
Our winner from the archives – Risa Bramon Garcia and Billy Hopkins for assembling one of the greatest ensembles in history for True Romance whereby at any given second the screen is graced by a scintillating performance in a superbly measured scene.