I've already expressed my opinions on particular 2016 Oscars snubs and whether or not I believe this was just a coincidence or it was a conscious decision, so I won't be debating that here. Instead, it's the idea of adding more categories that's caught my attention. While I don't think a Best Black Actress award would be a good idea (simply put, I think that would widen the divide and promote less inclusion in the primary categories), I do have some ideas of what the Academy should possibly consider adding in the future.
Without further ado, here's a list of five categories I'd suggest be added to the Academy Awards.
1. Best Stuntwork
It's amazing to think that we have technical awards for Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design and Costume Design, but nothing for stunts. There's some overlap when it comes to Best Visual Effects and even Best Actor/Actress, but not much that actually gives credit to the people responsible for setting things up properly to be filmed in the first place.
This isn't just "coolest stunt" by any means, either. A lot of hard work has to go into the creation of an action sequence. For instance, how are you going to set up the shot? Is it going to be shaky-cam or is it going to be more traditional? What choreography will actors have to learn? How can you properly design a series of timed explosions and falling scenery in a way where safety is a precaution, but innovativeness is a priority?
In 2015, an example comes to mind of a team that should be rewarded for their efforts. In Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Tom Cruise himself performed a stunt where he held onto the side of an airplane as it took off. He did this—not a stuntman—which means even more than normal, everything needed to be orchestrated with fine precision. Even if it were a stuntman, why should they be ignored when it comes to their contributions to film? They'll never get nominated for Best Actor because their goal is to blend seamlessly with the real actor they're doubling. That doesn't mean they had nothing to do with the success of the overall product, though.
It just seems odd that in an era where practical effects are praised over CGI and action movies dominate the marketplace, there isn't an award to give credit to the people who "wow" us.
2. Best Motion Capture Performance
Andy Serkis is all I should need to say to convince you that this is an award that needs to be added. For years, this man has been putting out amazing content that just stuns audiences. Whether it's his performance as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings series, his version of King Kong in the 2005 adaptation, the role of Caesar in the Planet of the Apes franchise or more, Serkis has proven that there's more to these roles than just slapping on a suit with a bunch of dots and dancing around in front of the camera.
Other people have done it and not done it anywhere near as well, and there should be a distinction for just who is able to put on the best performances with this type of acting and who isn't. Many people are quick to write off synthetic characters as not "true acting" because you don't see the face of the actor himself. In many ways, though, you do. Mark Ruffalo's face was incorporated into the CGI character build for The Hulk, and that technique has been used many other times in other films since then and beforehand. Would it not be acting if Ruffalo had put on heavy makeup and prosthetics as opposed to those elements being CGI?
3. Best Voiceover Performance
Here's where things get a bit messy. This is a category I could see not being necessary, as it could be incorporated somewhat into the Best Motion Capture Performance award, which would then have to be changed to something of a wider scope like Best Synthetic Performance.
However, there's also room for a distinction to be made. Motion capture is an entirely different animal from just voicing a character. In fact, there are times where the actor in the suit doesn't also provide the voice for the character. With Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, the Silver Surfer character was a composite of Doug Jones for the physical reference points, a CGI appearance from the people over at WETA and the voice of Laurence Fishburne. If that were to be Oscar-worthy (side note: it wasn't) then all three sides of the performance would need to be given the award. What if the first two were amazing but Fishburne's dialogue was atrocious? Why make the other two suffer? Conversely, what if Fishburne delivered an amazing performance but the CGI was terrible?
A mixture of the two makes sense, but a separation makes even more sense. Animated films are nothing new to the scene and every character in those movies that makes a sound needs someone to bring that performance to life. Critics were very receptive to Richard Kind's character Bing Bong in Pixar's Inside Out, which is a safe bet to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar in a few weeks. It takes a ton of talent to be able to have an inflection in your voice that will translate properly to the screen to show whatever emotion your character is feeling, particularly when you might not even have a clue what your character looks like yet! There's no frame of reference, no reliability on your eyes to tell the story, and possibly not even any other actors to perform your scenes with. You could be entrusted to carry the weight of the movie on the shoulders of your voice while you record your dialogue in a studio all by yourself—just you, the script, the microphone, a stool to sit on and a bottle of water.
4. Best Ensemble Cast
One actor's performance can really kill a scene if it's bad, but no actor—no matter how good they are—can save a movie if they're the only talent in the bunch. If an actor doesn't have the right people to play off, that hurts their chances of being viewed in a positive light. Even great actors can have poor chemistry with their counterparts, which takes away from their own performance. It's a symbiotic relationship that requires both ends of the spectrum pulling their weight.
Sometimes, no one actor stands out above the rest in a movie that is jam-packed with great performers in great roles. It's rare nowadays to see support for more than one actor in the same movie to get nominated for Best Actor/Actress or Best Supporting Actor/Actress because the production companies would rather hedge their bets. If two people are great, they'll try to separate them into the lead and supporting categories to win two Oscars instead of competing against each other and possibly canceling their votes out.
That's why there should be an award that gives credit to the overall ensemble cast, which should be accepted by the casting director of the film responsible for bringing them all together. Spotlight recently won the Critics' Choice Award for Best Ensemble Cast and there are others like The Hateful Eight and The Big Short that could give it a run for its money. It's a homogeneous production, and this would be a good means to pat all of the actors on their backs who don't get to take home one of the four individual prizes.
5. Best Studio
This one is a bit hard to nail down as far as what the specifics would be, but I think there's an argument to be made that studios need to be held accountable for their overall body of work. Of course, nothing negative comes out of producing bad films (outside of losing money if they don't perform well and hurting your credibility in the business) and there shouldn't be a public whipping for making horrible movies, but this would be an incentive to take things to a new level.
20th Century Fox, for example, had a few hits and a few misses in 2015. They've received accolades for The Martian and Bridge of Spies as well as The Revenant and more, but they've also churned out some real garbage like Fantastic Four and Hitman: Agent 47 and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. How does that stack up against something like Disney or Paramount? Where's the acknowledgement of Marvel for successfully revolutionizing the film industry with the "cinematic universe" approach to movie making and franchising?
Based on a criteria of things like the weight of the good films against the bad, the financial success they achieved, their functionality in the business and their advancements to the field, it would be nice to see the studios fight it out with each other to try to assert their dominance. Winning this sort of award would help their brand and make them seem like they're the go-to studio to get your film made, allowing them to broker better deals in the future. Since every company would want to win this, they would do their best to put out the highest quality work possible, and moviegoers would win out in the long run.
Those are just five of my suggestions of what awards I'd like to see added in the future, but what do you have in mind? Do you agree with the list above, or do you have reasons why you think this wouldn't work? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!