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Are There Too Many Oscars Categories?

Monday, February 21, 2011 - 01:28 PM

Stuntmen train on the set prior to the shooting of a scene of the 'Sherlock Holmes 2' movie, in front of the cathedral of the French eastern city of Strabourg, on February 3, 2011 Stuntmen train on the set prior to the shooting of a scene of the 'Sherlock Holmes 2' movie, in front of the cathedral of the French eastern city of Strabourg, on February 3, 2011 (AFP/Getty Images)

Today’s Los Angeles Times features an article about the lack of recognition that casting directors get at the Oscars. Today’s New York Times features a brief piece on the lack of recognition that opening and closing credit sequences get at the awards. For years, there have been campaigns to remedy the lack of recognition that stuntmen get at the Academies. And no doubt, for as long as the Oscars continue to exist, there will be even more categories (many that we’ve never heard of) that some people think ought to be added to the awards show.

But while I believe that casting directors are important to a film (imagine how different “The King’s Speech” would have been had Lionel Logue been played by Russell Crowe instead of Geoffrey Rush); and that opening and closing credits can be spectacular (I’ll never forget those for “Catch Me if You Can”); and that stuntmen allow films to push their limits in a way that would be impossible without them (consider not just action movies, but films like “The Fighter”), I’m not sure I’m in favor of adding more categories at this point.

I have three reasons why:

One: Lest we forget, there used to be a lot more Oscar categories (best assistant director, best original story, best dance direction, the Academy juvenile award — and nearly a dozen others that we’ve since happily forgotten about). The Academy worked for years to whittle down the categories to where they are today, and the Oscars are better for that whittling.

Two: That being said, there are still too many categories for my taste. Like a lot of viewers, I don’t really understand the difference between sound mixing and sound editing, and I couldn’t care less about the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

And three (the saddest reason of all): At some point, I think we have to make peace with the fact that not everyone can be recognized individually for their contributions to a film. There are hundreds of carpenters and best boys and drivers and heavy lifters who do a great deal (and get paid very little) to make the films we love. There are acting coaches and voice coaches and script doctors and medical doctors. There are people who choreograph fights sequences and people who choreograph lovemaking sequences. There all the people who make comedies.

I don’t mean to be a naysayer. I really don’t. I love movies and I appreciate the people who make them. And should any new categories eventually be added (there’s always a chance ... it wasn’t until 2001 that best animated feature was a category), I will be the first to stand up and cheer when the winning choreographer or stuntman or gaffer is announced.

But until then, I’m fine cheering for actors and costumes and getting up to go to the bathroom when the Humanitarian Award is announced.

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