FEATURE: Do The Oscars Need A New Category?

January 24, 2018

Right now we're in the middle of awards season, and as such the entire hullabaloo will all eventually blow itself out with the 90th Academy Awards ceremony this March. As with every year comes its own controversy as a constantly evolving element of both the industry of Hollywood as a business practice and the ongoing zeitgeist of social shifts in the landscape of American culture.

From #OscarsSoWhite to the continued disappointment of a lack of attention being paid to the women in the industry who help make everything possible. You'd think that many of these issues might be helped by at least making the scope of the awards and the categories themselves more diverse and wide-ranging in their self-congratulatory ways - never mind the old guard producers and chairman stubbornly stuck in their ways and refusing to budge an inch in any direction that makes them feel uncomfortable or aware of their own growing obsolescence in the 21st century.

With all that being said, today feels like as good a time as any to explore the possibilities and avenues that the Academy could take in order to bring something new to their stagnating and problematic categories. Both by addressing some overdue concerns with additions that could alleviate such strain, paying closer attention to overlooked aspects of modern filmmaking or opening up entirely new options altogether.

Best Stunt(s)

Although the Academy, for the most part, don't really favour or care for action pictures much, there should still be a space for such an award amongst the technical categories alongside production design and visual effects work. If Mad Mad: Fury Road can walk away with so many accolades for its accomplishments in the field, then why not one of the most difficult to pull of elements of any large-scale blockbuster picture?

Never mind the specifics of being able to technically pull off such robust and impressive visual spectacles, in many cases, these are the works of stuntmen and women clearly putting their work ahead of their own wellbeing for the sake of art. It's about time they were recognised for such phenomenal and impressive feats of practice.

Colour Grading

This might fall under fields of cinematography or even editing, but the details and attention to be paid to colour grading in the industry for genre and period films, in particular, are an immensely difficult practice that should be acknowledged in a greater respect. Sometimes the greatest illusion - as with any piece of visual effects work - is created and sustained when the audience is unaware that what they are seeing is not an altered or enhanced image, but a piece of the film as a whole and its aesthetic construction. It's a subtle and occasionally arduous effort to get right and should bring more deserved names in the industry into the light.

Audience Choice

This might sound like an act of heresy, especially given the whims and memory spans of many Academy members, but as tacky as the prospect may sound for letting general cinema-goers have some sort of say and sway in the ceremony and outcome, it would bring some newfound interest and engagement to one of the largest annual televised events in the history of the medium.

It would work as both a means of placating the criticism that the Academy is simply out of touch with the general public as their focus on specific genres away from the more popular staples of mass consumable entertainment could shake things up a bit in a positive way. On the other hand, it could open up the possibility of one of the Fast & Furious movies actually standing a chance at holding a golden statue to its name... Although, maybe that's not such a bad thing given its highly diverse cast and global popularity is something the Academy doesn't usually go for.

Best Collaborative Performance/ Motion Capture Performance

This might be one of the trickier ones to put into practice for a couple of reasons. Obviously one of the main reasons behind such a decision to award what is essentially a digital performance would be to finally give the hardworking and immensely talented Andy Serkis his long overdue acclaim on an official level of recognition for his work in advancing the visual effects of motion pictures over the past two decades. Serkis is a legitimately talented actor regardless of his standing as a pioneer of the format, but if this gets him an Oscar outside of some eventual honorary presentation then this would be the way to go.

However, since the effort and vast amount of time required to bring a creation such as Caesar or Gollum to life requires the attention of hundreds of visual effects artists building a performance in a computer over thousands of hours, painstakingly recreating a single performance as a collective accomplishment, maybe this should be awarded to a head team as much as the single individual giving the performance for them to work from.

In 2010, the Academy enacted a new rule regarding the performance capture technique employed in films such as Disney's A Christmas Carol and The Adventures of Tintin, and how they might not be eligible in this category in the future. This rule was possibly made to prevent nominations of live-action films that rely heavily on motion capture, such as James Cameron's Avatar. So maybe a change could be on the cards eventually.

Best Male AND Female Director

This is the big one. In an age where the equalisation of the sexes is growing even more fevered and recent goings on relating to the abuse of women in the industry by wealthy and powerful men, it's strange that this has never come up as a more serious option. Especially given that there are separate categories for Actor and Supporting Actor categories.

Not only would it vary up the options and grant some much deserved praise and light on the hardworking female filmmakers of the world, but also open up entirely new avenues of cinema to other prestigious categories that they might not have originally stood a chance in. It's amazing that as of this year there have only ever been 5 female nominees in this category over the 90 annual ceremonies and hundreds of nominees for this significant award. It doesn't just feel fair, it feels long overdue and a continuing embarrassment that women are still not being as recognised for pulling off such Herculean efforts in an industry that is still proving itself to not yet be rid of the old ways of practice and thinking when it comes to the work and representation the opposite sex. 

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