Thursday, February 17, 2005

More Oscar controversy

...and this time it's 100% Michael Medved and Mel Gibson free! I promise!

So there's two simmering Oscar issues right now, which are sure to come to a head in the coming years but we're getting early previews of around this year's show.

The first issue is one of a rejiggering in the way the statues are handed out this year. The reliable reports:

The meat of it goes something like this: Some of the "less major" awards this year will be given to the winners in their seats or via beauty-pagent style "every nominee lines up" on the stage. Presumably this is producer Gil Cates making good on his yearly promise to make the show go quicker and shake things up a bit... but c'mon, you don't have to be any kind of insider to figure out what's going on here: This is the Academy caving in to the sad reality that a majority of people watching the show are just doing so to oggle their favored celebs and see what they wore, and this new system was likely designed to get the awards that "nobody" (read: film buffs and the people nominated for the awards) cares about done quicker so that the attendees with the better PMI (People Magazine Index) can get even more attention.

Editor Walter Murch said it nicely in an angry email to Gil Cates:
"I would like to protest in the strongest possible terms your decision to not allow 'technical' crafts on stage to receive their Oscars." He added, "To apply some kind of PMI (People magazine index) to the nominees and make this the criterion for whether they get to go onstage or not and speak to the Academy is disgraceful to the Academy and to all of the people who work in film, whether they are members of the Academy or not."

To be fair, it hasn't been confirmed which categories will be done this way and the producers are promising this WON'T be just about shorting the craft-nominees, but right now I'm with Murch: It just sounds fishy. The hard working people on the technical side of filmmaking spend their entire year with their work being overlooked in favor of celebrities who act in the films, and the Oscars is the one night the field gets suitably equalized: The winner of Best Actor takes the same stage, gets the same-shaped trophy and the same speaking time as the winner of Best Makeup or Best Editing. To take that away is cruel.

And speaking of hardworking people getting shortchanged, it's ridiculous that there's no Oscar for Best Stunt Coordinator. This is a vital part of making a huge number of films, and it deserves a category. The Stuntmen apparently agree with me. For seperate stunt organizations have joined to petition the Academy to recognize them. I say don't hold your breath, look how long in between "Snow White" and "Shrek" for us to get a Best Animated Feature prize.

The only film pundit I can find talking about this is Jeffery Wells over at "Hollywood Elsewhere"...
...predictably, he's against it. His rationale is, I gather, the same as most of the Academy ruling class: he views stunt work as the stuff of artless blockbusters, action films, and other stuff thats not worth recognizing. Or as he puts it:

"Safe, maybe, but forget creative. To me, movie stunts are the antithesis of that. Hollywood's stunt professionals are good people, but they're upper-level proles who are just a step or two removed from carpenters and electricians, and including them with the rest of the Oscar contenders would devalue things a bit."

Look, I like Wells' site, he's a good film writer, but on this like most other things he's just the definition of an old-school Film Snob (the boomer-aged dying-breed forerunner to the NEW power-class of film pundits, the Movie Geeks) and to put it bluntly: He just doesn't get it. "Stunt Coordinators" don't just stage crashes and falls, they also handle the complex human-mechanics like the elaborate fight sequences that've become so prevalent lately. It's an art, it's essential to filmmaking right now, and it deserves a spot.

In fact, I'll do the stunt guys one better. They don't need one award, they need THREE:

How about: "Best Stunt Coordinator," "Best Choreography (Dance)" and "Best Choreography (Combat)"? That'd be something...