Yeah, we get that the Oscars are already way too long. And we have no problem tossing some recognition to the best "Documentary (Short Subject)" and the best live-action and animated short films. We just don't think they should be televised. Nobody's seen any of the movies. Meanwhile, some of the greatest moments ever captured on film haven't gotten so much as a validated parking ticket from the Academy.
Why? Because there's no award for...
Stuntmen have been lobbying for the past 20 years to be eligible for their own Oscars, which frankly is a small thing to ask for in exchange for what these guys regularly risk so we can enjoy action movies and sequels to raunchy comedies. Even in an age when CGI shenanigans are the standard, real life people risk their real lives for a great shot. Like in this scene from GoldenEye:
Stuntman Wayne Michaels made that 750 foot jump, and he broke a world record for highest bungee jump doing it. Another guy named Jophery Brown pulled off that insane bus leap in Speed:
And sometimes the actors themselves get in on the life-threatening action, like when Harrison Ford actually outran a giant boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark and when Keanu Reeves secretly trained to do the whole "jumping onto a bus from a Jaguar" sequence in Speed, which he did, without a hitch, thankfully.
As for some of the greatest stunts ever pulled off in cinematic history, few compare to the chariot race in Ben-Hur. While every second of this nine-minute clash of titanic balls is enough to suffice as the most badass anything ever filmed, the totally unscripted near-death of stuntman Joe Canutt was nothing short of a modern day dance with death worthy of Rome.
Fast-forward to 4:43. After that, you'll know when you see it.
However, there is one final stunt that deserves our attention if only because it might be the single stupidest thing anybody has ever done for a movie, and a really crappy movie at that. We are talking about the aerial transfer pulled off between two planes at 15,000 feet by stuntman Simon Crane for the 1993 film Cliffhanger.
No tricks. No foolin'. That scene really happened. A man hung on a wire between two moving planes in the air for a movie that ultimately went on to garner four Razzie nominations. And the best part? The audience is left to believe that the costliest stunt in cinematic history was pulled off by this man:
Apparently, air-to-air transfer is basic training at the Department of the Treasury.
We're going to guess that 99% of the people reading this only know Psycho for the shower scene, or Saving Private Ryan for the opening battle sequence at Omaha Beach. We think of them as great films, but they exist in the cultural memory as great scenes. And there should be a way to appreciate them even if it's decided the rest of the film isn't Best Picture material.
This movie ended after the drill Sargent, right?
Recognizing scenes apart from the movies isn't a new idea. Entire books have been written on that shower scene in Psycho, and the "Omaha Beach" bit from Saving Private Ryan was so influential that it ushered in more than a decade's worth of WWII shoot-em-ups. In India, Bollywood totally has their own special Oscar for best individual scene from a movie, and with good reason.
They also have an award for "Best Tonya Harding Look-Alike Who Should Probably Cover Up Her Midsection," We spot a winner!
But more importantly, some of those great scenes that we associate with our favorite movies weren't always written and directed by the guys who did the rest of the movie. Like the "do you think I'm funny?" scene from Goodfellas, which was actually written and directed by Joe Pesci:
And then there are those unscripted scenes, the ones where the actors themselves improvise iconic moments forever associated with the movie, like when Jack Nicholson ad-libbed his creeptastic "Heeeerre's Johnny!" line in The Shining or when Humphrey Bogart said, "Here's looking at you, kid," which was never written in any versions of the script before shooting day.
Or how about the "you talkin' to me?" scene from Taxi Driver:
Do you know what De Niro had to go on in his script? "Travis speaks to himself in a mirror." That's it. That's like giving the Founding Fathers the instructions "Do something with laws" and getting the Constitution of the United States in return.