Every week, Criticwire asks film critics a question and brings you their responses in The Criticwire Survey. We also ask each member of the poll to pick the best film currently playing in theaters. The most popular choices can be found at the bottom of this post. But first, this week's question:
Q: What new category should the Academy add to the Oscars?
The critics' answers:
"The Academy should split Best Cinematography into two: Best Digital Cinematography and Best Cinematography on Film. Like Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay, the two types of cinematography are different enough to warrant separate awards. More importantly, the split would boost attention toward traditional cinematography, which is increasingly becoming less popular."
"Without question, the Academy should add some sort of category honoring Best Stunt Performers. It's really sort of shameful that they haven't. Few people on a film set risk greater injury for the sake of movie magic."
"What I'd most like to see is not a new category, but what used to be a regular feature — the special, Lifetime Achievement Awards. These used to be part of the broadcast and in times past — I still remember seeing the Chaplin one — were both enormously moving, and a vital component of the Academy's mission to honor and celebrate achievement. Lately, perhaps in the broadcast's search for a younger demographic, they've been relegated to a separate, non-televised event. Bring them back. And if you have to cut out a production number, or some idiotic 'Salute to…' montage, so much the better."
"For my own selfish reasons, I would love to see a Best Title Design (similar to the SXSW Film Design Awards). I feel that is a cinematic art that often goes overlooked and considering the Oscar-worthy talent working in opening credit sequences, it would be a nice fit for the night. Unfortunately, they'd probably stick it with the rest of the nerd awards and it would get no love. A realistic choice would be the long-debated Best Comedy category. As we saw last year with the Oscar-nominated 'Bridesmaids' it was all on its own, up against films it didn't stand a chance with — questioning its very inclusion as a BP nominee. However, if it was amongst its peers, it would likely seem more fitting as a nominee. A year can be filled with great, award-worthy comedies and unfortunately they are often overlooked come awards season. Thus, a Best Comedy category gets my vote."
"Honoring Ensemble Casts and crediting Casting Directors in the same category, as movies rely on teamwork. If an actor is miscast, a film can be ruined. Interactions are more poignant or memorable than individual performances in the best films. Olivier Assayas' 'Something In The Air' is an example of inspired, surprising casting. Antoinette Boulat is the casting director. She also worked on 'Carlos' and 'Summer Hours' with Assayas. Her fantastic eye for chemistry shows in films by very different directors: Leos Carax's 'Pola X,' François Ozon's 'Swimming Pool,' Emmanuelle Bercot's 'Backstage,' Sofia Coppola's 'Marie Antoinette,' Jean-François Richet's two 'Mesrine' movies, Mia Hansen-Løve's 'Goodbye First Love,' Benoît Jacquot's 'Les adieux à la reine,' even He, She, and Nic in Lars von Trier's 'Antichrist.'"
"Add? Seriously? We need to subtract if anything. Get rid of the three awards for shorts, a vestigial holdover from the days when non-Pixar features actually had shorts play with them, rather than today where desperate filmmakers rent out one Laemmle screen at 9 a.m. to show a 20-minute thing that nobody attends. The most relevant shorts nowadays are watched on websites like YouTube and Vimeo, and ought to be honored at the Webbys or whatever other ceremony honors new media. That said, if I could subtract all those, I'd add one for Best Stunts. The men and women who actually risk life and limb so that action stars can collect millions of dollars deserve our thanks."
"My initial impulse here is to suggest something like Best Dance Scene or Best Animal Performance; anything, really, to shake up that most staid of institutions. But if I'm going to be totally honest, I wish they'd bring back an Oscar for Best Adapted Score. It's silly to keep disqualifying some of the best scores, year after year, on what amounts to a technicality. (My other wish is that the Oscars would somehow start recognizing voice actors. They give performances too!)"
"Best Stuntwork. So many films utilize stunt men and stunt women, and yet only the SAG Awards feel it appropriate to honor their work each year. From a ratings standpoint, teasing that big action films — which, if they don’t always have the best, have the most stunts — would be among high-profile Oscar nominees might get more people to watch. But more to the point, if the Academy is willing to acknowledge the many other facets that go into making a completed film, they should do the same for stunts. They’ve gone as far as dividing live-action from animation and English from foreign films; including a Best Stuntwork category would be a pittance compared to such divisions."
"Before adding any new categories to the Oscars, I really want the Academy to change the Best Foreign Language Film category to Best Foreign Film. After that, it's my personal pipe dream to see the Academy recognize independent films and new talent. In order of preference: Best Independent Film (good luck defining that category!), Best First Feature, and Best Breakout Performance. However, since those categories are very unlikely to ever be considered by the Academy, how about a Best Soundtrack category (specifically one that doesn't require all original content)? Then, can we please go back in time to the 80th Academy Awards ceremony and give that Oscar to Jonny Greenwood for "There Will Be Blood?'"
"While I can't fathom the idea of an Oscars telecast that's even one minute longer, the work of Casting Directors is massively important and overlooked. Adding a category for them would be righting a wrong. Also, I wouldn't mind seeing an award for Best Opening Credits. That might inspire creativity."
"They need a Best Film That Nobody Understands. It's a category I believe everyone should award every year."
"So, I'm not sure what category should be added, but can we please take away Best Foreign Film? Isn't the inclusion of that category kind of, well, nationalistic?"
"Even though I really don't understand how the job works that well, I've always liked the idea of a Best Casting award. It would effectively work as a Best Ensemble award, but focused on everyone but the stars — the people who help fill in the world where the movie is set. I want one of these prizes essentially every time a Coen Brothers movie comes out, since Ellen Chenoweth — who they've worked with since 'O Brother Where Art Thou?' — has an incredible knack for picking out the weirdest faces to fill the screen. This year the prize would have to go to Avy Kaufman for 'Lincoln,' which isn't just a collection of the greatest 'Hey it's that guy!' names of our generation, but a ton of other ruddy faces and mustaches to fill up the House floor. I will be banging my gavel in the back of the Oscars ceremony next Sunday demanding justice for the casting directors."
"Best Concession Stand Food that Appears Healthy, But is Actually Just Another Lump of Empty Fats and Calories. (More) Seriously: Best Performance by an Actor/Actress in a Motion Capture Role."
"Do you remember the song 'You'll Be In My Heart' by Phil Collins? It was from 'Tarzan' and it won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1999 (beating out Aimee Mann's 'Save Me' from 'Magnolia' for Christ's sake). Anyway, do you remember that 'Tarzan' song over, say, The Who's 'A Quick One While He's Away' from Wes Anderson's 'Rushmore' the year before? That Phil Collins song was a hit, I know, but I'm going to say at this point, you, cinema lover, might not remember that tune. Phil Collins probably doesn't even remember 'You'll Be In My Heart' over The Who. Or The Time. Or The Faces. Or Cat Stevens. Or The Rolling Stones. Or the entire 'Rushmore' soundtrack. My point? Why not an Oscar category for Best Soundtrack?
Though obviously Best Original Song should remain, and there's plenty of now iconic Best Originals, like 'The Way You Look Tonight' (from 'Swing Time,' 1936) or 'Over the Rainbow' (from 'The Wizard of Oz,' 1939), often the Best Original Song is NOT the song we remember. Why did Iggy Pop's 'Lust for Life' show up on an ad for a cruise line? (They better have good drugs on that cruise.) The ability to create a meaningful, powerfully edited soundtrack (and working with songs so damn perfectly and often songs not usually heard in movies, like the not one, but two songs by the band Love in 'Bottle Rocket') is a specific talent that has created moments in movies so iconic, that we often can't imagine the song without the scene. I can't even listen to 'Born to Be Wild' unless I'm watching 'Easy Rider' (as much as I love Steppenwolf). And then there's the opening credits of 'Mean Streets' scored to The Ronettes' 'Be My Baby,' the Stealers Wheel 'Stuck in the Middle With You' ear severing in 'Reservoir Dogs,' Margot Tennenbaum walking off the Green Line bus to Nico's 'These Days,' Billy Batts meeting his demise to Donovan's 'Atlantis,' and more and more and more. From 'American Graffiti' to 'Casino' to 'Dazed and Confused' to 'Boogie Nights' to '2001' to 'Pulp Fiction' to 'Velvet Goldmine' to 'Trainspotting' to Floyd Mutrux's 'Dusty and Sweets McGee' to every freaking Wes Anderson movie — I don't even know why I'm listing them. You know these movies. And their songs. There should be an award. Musical supervisors deserve some Oscars, Martin Scorsese deserves a lifetime achievement award for the 'Goodfellas' helicopter sequence alone and The Coen Brothers should win some kind of trophy for making us remember how cool Kenny Rogers used to be via Lebowski's dream scored to 'Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).'"
"I think the Academy should add a category for Best Title Sequence. 'Skyfall,' 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,' and 'Juno' are three recent movies that have featured stylish, memorable credit sequences. Other great examples include 'Psycho,' 'Fight Club,' 'Superbad,' 'Se7en,' and 'Do the Right Thing.' These sequences are the work of enormously creative visual artists who put extraordinary effort into creating something that will not only compliment the film, but also capture its very essence. They even serve as an 'opening act' to prepare the audience for the experience they are about to have. And really, isn't it more fun to see something artfully designed than it is to see boring white titles against a black background or superimposed over the opening shots of the movie? I always get a bit of a rush when I see one done well. By creating an Oscar to honor title sequences, it might even encourage more filmmakers to utilize them, and that would be fine by me."
"For a number of reasons, most people like myself who make their living covering the Oscar race tend to be against new categories. I certainly understand the sentiment, but I feel like the more the merrier, so I don't share their conviction. The one category I've always wanted to see is Best Cast Ensemble, since in an ideal world it would be a place to honor a film with a ton of good performances, as opposed to just giving it a few nominations and knowing it can never win in Best Actor, for example. Yes, it would likely just wind up being another award for the Best Picture winner to take, but I can dream, can't I?"
"I think they should add Best Oscar Campaign. It'd surely be the most meaningful and coveted prize of the evening. This year's prize would clearly have to go to Anne Hathaway, not just because she's mastered the art of taking campaigning seriously while appearing not to take it seriously at all, but because she had the genius to make her entire performance in 'Les Miserables' one long Oscar clip — all crying and keening and trembling. It'll be the new paradigm going forward, for sure."
"Best Jazz Freakout."
"I'd like to see the Academy add a category for Best Breakthrough, which could be awarded to actors, directors, writers, anyone across the board who is either a fresh face or a seasoned veteran, finally making his or her mark. This would serve as a show of support and broaden the reach of the potential nominees, making it possible, say, to recognize the achievement of Benh Zeitlin while keeping slots available for others whose pictures are deemed among the Academy's best."
"I know with 'The Artist' last year, folks wanted to give Uggie the Dog an award. So why not an Oscar for Best Performance by an Animal. Think of the possibilities — the Snakes in 'Snakes on a Plane,' the Horse(s) in 'Zoo.' I know there are awards recognizing animal talent, but I think if the Academy recognized them, it would show exactly how silly these honors can be."
"I really want the Oscars to institute an award recognizing Non-Original Music Selection. Call it whatever — Best Music Supervision? Best Unoriginal Score? Best Playlist? Best Use of 'Hallelujah?' — but these are major artistic decisions in lots of amazing movies. Arguably the songs in a fantasy lineup for 2012 would represent bigger, bolder movie moments than the nominees for Best Original Song. This year's nominees: 'Django Unchained,' 'Moonrise Kingdom,' 'Magic Mike,' 'Rust and Bone,' 'Holy Motors.'"
"Best Performance By a Movie Critic In a 2009 Steven Soderbergh Movie. It's not too late, Academy."
"The Academy should add a Best Motion Capture Performance category. If only to finally give Andy Serkis his due."
"Resisting snark with all my might, I think the Academy should add a category for Best Independent Film, or something along those qualifications. It would be interesting to see what the Best Picture category would look like minus studio support and the Hollywood political push that happens around this time of the year."
"The logical choice in my mind would be Best Use of Previously Existing Music, though there's likely a more refined turn of phrase to effectively label this category that presently escapes me. Every year there seems to be a film or two notable for their soundtrack, but as the Oscars only reward original scores and songs, the skillful selection and implementation of existing music goes unrewarded. The Wes Andersons and Quentin Tarantinos of the world would certainly be grateful for the opportunity for further accolades (like they need it). My personal, admittedly less logical choice for a new category would be Best Use of Zeljko Ivanek. A suggested annual category at both the Academy Awards and the Emmys. This year's winner would be 'Seven Psychopaths.'"
"The idea of elongating the Oscars is one that is likely to be met with dread by all. That said, if the Academy was to add a category I'd have them introduce the We Fucked Up award. This award would allow Oscar voters to go back in time and retroactively appreciate the Best Picture nominees that should've won, but didn't (i.e. 'Citizen Kane' instead of 'How Green Way My Valley,' 'Taxi Driver' or 'Network' or 'All The President's Men' instead of 'Rocky')."
"Without a doubt a Best Stunt category. It's crazy that this ancient art of movie production hasn't been recognized EVER. Stunt performers are one part actor, one part physicist and one part raving maniac — the ultimate combination of incredible qualities. We've seen how bad and unsatisfying digital stunt performers are, and as Hollywood grudgingly starts doing more practical stuntwork again the time is ripe for an award honoring the men and women whose faces we never see, whose names we never know, but who put their bodies on the line for our cinematic thrills."
"Inspired by the BAFTA awards, I'd like to see a bit of recognition for the next generation. I suggest Best Debut by a Writer, Director, or Producer."
"I'm glad you asked! I think the one part of Hollywood that has been sadly forsaken and ignored by the Academy for far too long is the hard-working Stunt men who constantly put their lives in danger to make exciting action movies and in the last few months especially, we've really been seeing some fantastic stunt work that deserves more acclaim. The Screen Actors Guild has finally broken down and acknowledged that the stunt man's work on a movie is sometimes of equal importance to the actors and director and it's time that they're not only allowed into the Academy as members but also given a category to honor their work. And maybe having a category that includes movies like 'The Dark Knight,' 'The Avengers,' 'Die Hard,' etc. will make it easier for the Academy to get more male viewers as well."
"I think the Oscars have long outlived their usefulness to facilitate and participate in true film criticism. The films they nominate for Best Picture rarely correspond to my own tastes, but beyond that, it seems systematical designed to award generally well-made studio films with a wide appeal. And that's fine. When a moviegoer wants to know which films satisfy that mold, he'll have options. Maybe the Oscars could keep Best Picture the way it is and go back to awarding something like Most Unique and Artistic Production, which they gave out only once, to 'Sunrise' at the 1st Oscars. That way solid, palatable films can still be feted while leaving room for the Academy to award films that truly push the art form as well. A win-win!"
"I'd say something that shines a greater spotlight on Comedy and Genre Filmmaking, neither of which seem to get a fair shake at the Oscars."
"Recognition for Best Stunt Men and Women seems like an obvious and appropriate addition to me. It is a life-endangering craft that is crucial to the success of many films. While normal Oscar bait films such as 'Lincoln' are unlikely to add to their nomination count in categories such as this, it increases the opportunities of more mainstream, blockbuster fare to get some recognition. If the crafts of sound editing and mixing are worthy of the Oscar telecast, I do not see why a stunt category should not be introduced as it is one that could increase the legitimacy of and interest in such a craft."
"Let's take a cue from the BAFTAs and highlight a singular breakout or up and coming star by adding either a Best Debut or Rising Star category. I kind of feel that would celebrate new or exceptional talent outside of standard best actor/supporting actor Oscars. More to that point, I've always felt that no matter how good the performance is in a newcomer's first role it's unfair for them to win an Oscar without a comparative body of work. Maybe it's just me, but if someone has a one good role right out of the gate and then have that actor/actress going up against an actor/actress who's given half a dozen iconic roles over a lifetime seems lopsided. Anyway, the Best Debut or Rising Star category is my answer."
"Replace all Oscar categories with ones from the AVN awards. Would have worked perfectly in 2012 with handjobs in every other movie. (Seriously, the Oscars are what they are, take or leave them.)"
"There are more than a few unsung heroes of production that remain pat-on-the-back-less during the Oscar ceremony, but my vote goes to an award for Best Stunt Work or Best Stunt Coordination. Highly inventive and professional, stunt men and women put their bodies on the line to thrill in the stories being told. It's high time they get broader recognition."
"The Oscars definitely needs to add a category for Best Use of Music. Every year there are films that offer stunning uses of music — often in unexpected ways that transform the song as much as the scene. Best Score and Song just don't cut it. Think Leonard Cohen's music in 'McCabe and Mrs. Miller,' Tarantino's many selections, or even something like 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' in 'Across the Universe.'"
"Best Digital Intermediate Colorist [2012: Tim Stipan for Moonrise Kingdom]."
"Favorite Film. Not 'most important,' 'most deserving,' 'most accomplished,' or whatever highfalutin criteria Academy voters let steer their Best Picture votes. Just choose the film you enjoyed more than any other and honor the best moviegoing experience of the year."
The Best Movie Currently In Theaters on February 18th, 2013:
The Most Popular Responses: "Django Unchained," "Side Effects," "Zero Dark Thirty." (tie)
Other Movies Receiving Multiple Votes: "Like Someone in Love."