A Better Way for the Academy to Expand the Oscars

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the nominees for the prestigious Academy Awards, or Oscars.  I've already raised the question about whether or not expanding the number of nominations in the Best Picture category was a good idea.  The argument for the expansion, I believe, was to provide an opportunity for more competition, especially from movies of mass commercial appeal.  Yet, as always, whether it is five nominees or ten, there are those who will argue that some worthy film was robbed by not being on the list (Invictus, Star Trek, Where the Wild Things Are), and there are those who will cry foul over the nomination of some other films that some feel might not be worthy of the accolades.

Personally, the more I've thought about it, the more I think having ten movies competing for the honor of being named Best Picture of the year is a dilution of the process.  The ten nominated motion pictures will canibalize each other's votes, running the risk that the truly best movie might not win.  Of course, year after year, the Oscars have sometimes gone not to the worthiest recipient but to the best marketed choices, but there is still a level of pride and respect associated with the ceremony and those golden statues are probably the most cherished awards in a sea of honorific handouts in show business.  Many still feel it is noteworthy just to be nominated.

My solution to make the Academy Awards better and to spread the wealth to deserving recipients would be not to expand the number of nominees within existing categories but to add more categories to the mix.  Here are the ones I would like to see:

Best Casting -  The Oscar already goes to actors and actresses, directors, writers, set designers, composers, editors, costume designers, makeup artists, and so on.  How about showing some love to the casting directors, those unsung heroes who actually take the script and decide who will bring the characters to life?  Some casting is horrendously off the mark, but some casting is brilliant and should be honored.

Best Voice-Over Performance - We already award thespians for their work in front of the camera.  How about giving an award to those who are unseen and only heard, those who provide their voices to a production.  With all the animation taking place, I think voice-over talent also should have its moment to shine.

Best Title - This is long overdue.  Coming up with a great title is a delicate skill that should finally be appreciated as an artform.

Best Special Effect Sequence - There already is an overall Special Effects category, but if music and sound deserve multiple award breakdowns then so does visual effects.  I would love to see the best specific FX moment in a film honored for its groundbreaking contribution to storytelling -- not just how cool it looks, but also how well it serves the story.

Best Trailer - This might be cheating since a trailer can be great and the movie itself might stink, and trailers are not technically part of the finished motion picture, but there is no denying that making an effective coming attraction is an important and artful part of the movie industry.  I would love to see the trailer makers get their much deserved moment in the sun.

Best Stunt/Action Sequence - Spice up the Academy Awards with some fun categories.  This doesn't mean you have to rip-off the MTV Movie Awards with categories like Best Kiss or Best Villain, but rewarding stunts and action choreography is long overdue, especially in this day and age when most of that stuff is faked with computer generated effects.  Let's give proper credit, finally, to those stuntmen and women and those action sequence planners who risk life and limb to create some cinematic spectacles.

Best Scene - Sometimes, I watch the Academy Awards and I can't even tell that these movies are about entertaining stories.  Except for a few short clips (which seem to get shorter and shorter every year, and sometimes are not even shown), it seems like the Oscars are more about fashion and speeches than about the movies themselves that they are allegedly lauding.  A category to celebrate the best scenes will allow for some nominations of movies that as a whole might not merit a Best Picture nom, but nevertheless might have some moments or two that will live on forever in cinema history.

Best Credit Sequence - Here is another dying art -- the artistic opening title and end title sequence.  Make those credits worth watching by encouraging the filmmaking community to be creative.

Will the Academy ever adopt these ideas I'm suggesting?  I doubt it.  But as a life-long movie fan, I will still tune in on March 7 to see the show.

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