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.
Back when silent movies first began playing at nickelodeons, their opening title sequences were nothing more than some words slapped up on a poster board, which was presumably made of dried out buffalo hides and Indian tears, because it was the olden days.
It's like they're not even trying to hide the Indians.
Back then, the only point of the cards was to give credit to the movie makers and let the audience know when the show started and ended, since silent film audiences were apparently still getting the hang of film going, and would have thrown rotten vegetables and polio germs if they'd reached their seat and found a blank screen.
But it didn't take long for creative Hollywoody types to start arting up their credit sequences with fancy lettering and beautiful backgrounds. Alfred Hitchcock famously employed master title designers like Saul Bass to deliver his highly stylized odes to mid-century design.
The title sequence was soon firmly established as an art form unto itself - giving filmmakers a chance to express the tones and underlying themes with animated (The Pink Panther, Life of Brian and Catch Me If You Can) or live action (the documentary that preceded JFK, the opening fly-by in Beetlejuice) short films that were often just as artistically interesting as the film that followed. Hell sometimes they're the only thing that makes the movie worth seeing, as when Lost in Translation's title sequence introduced us to the glory that is Scarlett Johansson's ass.
You can win an Emmy for doing the same exact thing. The team who designed Mad Men's opening sequence featuring the the silhouette of a suited man falling out of a building was eligible for international acclaim and awards for their work, including the 2008 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Title Design...
... while Daniel Kleinman's 2006 opening to Casino Royale, which featured the silhouette of a suited man beating the crap out of some baddies, was eligible for a steaming plate of bupkis.
Casino Royale, recipient of a hug from the world's No. 1 Grandma.
Instead, we spend 15 minutes of the Oscars celebrating the Best Animated and Live Action short, but exclude pieces like the mind blowing "The Life Of A Bullet" because it was attached to the front of a $50 million film called Lord of War.
As awful as Mark Hamill's acting was before that wampa cold-cocked some talent into him, it's pretty hard to argue that he was anything but the best person on the planet to play Luke Skywalker. This is because casting is a delicate, Jenga-like art that could potentially make or break a movie. Consider who Harrison Ford was up against for Han Solo: Nick Nolte, Richard Dreyfuss, John Travolta, and Robert De Niro all had a shot at the part, as well as Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Christopher Walken and Al Pacino. Picture any one of these people in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon and you have one hell of a different movie your hands, never mind the Indiana Jones trilogy.
Plenty of other casting near-misses should put us all down on our knees thanking the actor-choosers of the world that they're usually pretty good at their jobs.
Because this guy could have played Oskar Schindler.
And this guy could have been made into an assembly line of Terminators
So there's a reason why the Screen Actors Guild, Broadcast Film Critics and the National Board of Review all give out awards for best cast performances, and why the Emmys actually honor the casting directors themselves by giving out separate awards for comedy, drama and miniseries casting.
While we're dreaming, instead of showing us the actual performances we already watched, they could show us the failed auditions of the people they almost cast. After all, there's no reason we should have to wait 25 years to see narrowly avoided disasters like Eric Stoltz in Back to the Future.
Trailers aren't quite short films, but they're not just simple commercials, either. But as far as the Oscars are concerned, trailers are exactly worth jack shit. That's a shame because there isn't a single one of you reading this who hasn't seen an amazing trailer, only to watch the actual movie a year later and say, "What the hell is this shit?"
It's an art form all its own. Even with good movies, there's the delicate process of knowing how much to show. Check out the original trailer for Alien, which contains not a word of dialogue but had to have been making audience members poop their pants:
And if you think such mini-gems are the work of the big names and directors attached to the film, think again. Most of the trailers you know and love are contracted to marketing wizards specifically in the business to make even the shittiest movie blow your mind.
That Inception trailer that probably gave you an acid flashback last year? We have the good people at BLT & Associates to thank for that, specifically Zack Hemsey and not Hans Zimmer for the song he composed for it: "Mind Heist."
That epic masterpiece better known as the 300 trailer? Forget about Zack Snyder. You have an entire team of editors, designers, and consultants over at Mojo, LLC to thank for that monster. As for that nerdgasm-inducing trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, a major advertising firm gave birth to that baby.
The best trailers are the ones that straight smoke the movie in greatness. Where the Wild Things Are pretty much sucked, but maaaan, look at that trailer:
Quick! What do Yoda, Belle, Gollum, the Avatar chick, and the entire cast of Looney Tunes all have in common? Besides their ginormous eyes, obviously?
Well, in addition to not being real humans, the voices who provided some of the most memorable characters in cinematic history--and Avatar--are all ineligible to win Academy Awards for their performances because, apparently, voice acting is not "acting."
Sometimes acting is not "acting"
The rationale behind this cop-out is that you have to appear on screen in order to be considered an "actor" actor. The only problem is some of these voice actors kinda did appear in their movies. Andy Serkis (Gollum) and Zoe Saldana (Blue Avatar Lady) both provided their own motion capture for their films, which Gollum himself described as "CG prosthetics" comparable to the heavy makeup and digital shrinkage John Rhys-Davies endured as Gimli.
But even if we kicked all digital actors out of the party, that's still Frank Oz's arm stuck up Yoda's ass that they're filming, isn't it? By these standards Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker's performances in Star Wars would not have been acting simply because their voices were added later and we do not see any skin... which is sort of in character when you consider they play freaking robots.
Not pictured: acting.
However, perhaps the biggest "screw you" in this debate came when George Lucas and Irvin Kershner personally petitioned that Frank Oz be nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. Not only did their request get rejected like the whole damn thing was a junior prom date, but they received the equally shitty news that "puppetry wasn't an art." Like, ever.
Try saying that to the Sesame Street gang. They're all packing knives.
Puppeteering isn't an art? Voice acting isn't acting? This is the type of bullshit some kid at Starbucks spouts just so he can feel worthy of his soul patch.
If you would like to learn more about what it's like to actually be nominated for an Academy Award, Jacopo asks that you check out SON OF THE CUCUMBER KING by Ray Errol Fox
And be sure to pick up our new book which is sure to be adapted into the most Oscar-winningest movie of all time.
For more on awards, check out The 7 Most Unforgivable Grammy Award Snubs of All Time and A Trailer for Every Academy Award Winning Movie Ever.