By Todd VanDerWerff


An Oscar for Best Stunt Coordination? For Best Casting? For Best Voice Performance? For Best Trailer?! Let’s make it happen!

The 2019 Oscars will feature the first new category since the animated feature prize joined the ceremony in 2002: Next February, the award for Best Popular Film (which is still a nebulously defined, hard-to-understand title) will join the other 24 categories for the first time ever.

But if the Academy is going to start awarding prizes in new categories, there are so many other things it could be rewarding, things that actually have something to do with the craft of making films, not just an arbitrary distinction between “popular” films and everything else.

Some of those categories are ones that Hollywood folks have been requesting for ages. Others have only recently become trendy causes. But if the Oscars want to expand, here are six categories they should prioritize over “Best Popular Film.”

1) Best Stunt Coordination

Things blow up in Mission Impossible.Paramount
Finally, an Oscar for Mission: Impossible.

If the Academy’s (dubious) goal in creating a “Best Popular Film” category of some kind is to bring more recognition to films with broader audience appeal — and to get people interested in the Oscars who gravitate toward big-budget fare — stunt coordination would be a stellar addition to the roster of categories. As with some of the other technical races, like those for Costume Design, Makeup, and Special Effects, stunts are usually the purview of films with a big enough budget to pay for them.

And as with those other technical categories, if the stunts are great, you notice them. The people who coordinate the stunts are usually seasoned stunt performers themselves, and their job is multifaceted: Often they both cast the stunt performers (which requires finding both a specific skill set and, in some cases, physical resemblance to the actor they’re doubling) and figure out how to execute the stunt safely and with maximum impact. That deserves recognition — especially since great stunts can and often do elevate a movie with otherwise predictable plotting, dialogue, and even performances into something memorably mind-blowing.

Some recent possible winners of this category: Darrin Prescott (Baby Driver, Black Panther, the John Wick movies), Wade Eastwood (Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, Edge of Tomorrow), Sam Hargrave (Atomic Blonde, Captain America: Civil War), Glenn Suter (Mad Max: Fury Road)

2) Best Casting

Imagine Moonlight winning an Oscar for how effortlessly it found mostly unknown actors to play instantly iconic parts.

There’s long been a call for the Oscars to add a “Best Ensemble Cast” award, similar to the Screen Actors Guild’s ensemble prizes for the casts of films and TV shows. But ensemble awards often struggle to figure out which actors to include and which to leave behind when it’s time to hand out prizes. (The SAG Awards make incredibly arbitrary cutoffs — like if you share a billing card with another actor, you’re ineligible — because there’s basically no other way to adjudicate such a prize.)

And then there’s the problem of, if all of the actors in a cast win the ensemble prize, do they all automatically become Oscar winners? The Academy likes to make the idea of winning an acting prize somewhat selective, which would go out the window in this scenario.

But you know what a good way to reward an ensemble cast where each and every actor was perfectly chosen would be? Awarding the casting agents who selected those actors for their roles. This would help explain the process of how your favorite actors wind up in certain movies, and winners would probably alternate between movies where a bunch of famous actors were terrifically suited to their specific roles (like The Shape of Water) to movies where the casting directors had to find unknowns to perfectly inhabit the characters (like Moonlight).

There’s danger that this award would just become the “largest cast” award — something like The Post might be hard to avoid honoring — but hey, it’s not like other Oscar categories don’t occasionally award the most of something, rather than the best.

Some recent possible winners of this category: Robin D. Cook for The Shape of Water; Yesi Ramirez for Moonlight; Kerry Barden, John Buchan, Jason Knight, and Paul Schnee for Spotlight; Beth Sepko for Boyhood; Lindsay Graham and Mary Vernieu for American Hustle

3) Best Voice Performance

Christopher RobinLaurie Sparham/Disney
Oscar! Winner! Jim! Cummings! As! Winnie! The! Pooh!

Voice acting is most frequently associated with animated movies, so there’s an argument to be made that honoring voice acting separately from the “real” acting categories further ghettoizes a medium that already has a hard time breaking into the top-tier Oscar categories. But that argument overlooks the fact that, in addition to its rich history in animation, voice acting is an increasingly important part of modern live-action film.

This is especially true as movies continue to embrace the use of computer-generated characters within a live-action environment. This year alone, a Voice Performance category would hold the potential for an ursine showdown between Ben Whishaw (for Paddington 2) and journeyman Jim Cummings (for Christopher Robin), not to mention a handful of big names who provided CGI character voices for Avengers: Infinity War (Bradley Cooper, Carrie Coon, and, erm, Vin Diesel? Maybe not that last one.)

But more crucially, this category would also be a way to honor less recognizable faces who have nonetheless been integral in the characterization of many cultural icons, like the aforementioned Cummings (who’s been voicing Winnie the Pooh since 1988, in addition to several dozen other animated characters) and puppeteering legend Frank Oz, responsible not only for most of your favorite Muppets, but Yoda himself. Hell, the opportunity to give Frank Oz an Oscar should on its own be reason enough …read more

Read more here: Forget Best Popular Film. Here are 6 new categories the Oscars actually need.

About the author

Leave a comment