The Invisible Oscars – Awards We Need to Have
So it’s the Oscars, and the media will be agog with the big name actors, directors and movies. Will Leo finally win something? Will Best Picture be another bland look at history? Will, in good conscious, it be as tedious to sit through as last year?
And will they start recognising some of the artists and talents who dedicate their work to the silver screen without the glamour of a multi-billion dollar awards show and sweeping media coverage?
Here’s what we’re doing in the lead up to this years awards: we’re looking at some of the awards that we should be included along with the big name stars and with some of the potential winners from the past. Enjoy, and feel free to share your ideas about who should be considered for these categories in 2013!
Best Ensemble Performance
The current acting awards perpetrate the Hollywood tradition of creating stars. The very best people are singled out from their peers and the people they share the screen with to be told they and no-one else is their equal. Sure they may thank the director, their parents, their co-stars, the other nominees and God but in the end they’re alone in the spotlight.
Acting doesn’t quite work like that. Great performances have some give and take, the ability to work off someone and be part of a group is as important – if not more important – than grandstanding in the spotlight. Whenever a really great ensemble cast works together to make a film enjoyable they frequently get passed over by the awards shows. The Oscars celebrate standing out, not working together, so we suggest an award to give to a group of performers who have worked together to deliver great performances.
With every award we’re going to suggest a few people or films that should have received the recognition for their work – if only the award existed. For this one we went with those perfect casts who put in an amazing, dynamic performance, rather than casts with lost of big names (such as Mars Attacks!).
Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Tom Berenger, Mary Kay Place, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Meg Tilly and JoBeth Williams for The Big Chill (1983)
Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver (not pictured), Annie Potts (not pictured) and Rick Moranis (not pictured) for Ghostbusters (1984)
Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand (not pictured), Jason Lee, Noah Taylor, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, Liz Stauber, Zooey Deschanel (not pictured), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (not pictured) and John Fedevich for Almost Famous (2000)
Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samual L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg (not pictured), Stellan Skarsgård (not pictured), Paul Bettany (sort of pictured) and Tom Hiddleston (not pictured) for The Avengers (2012)
Kevin Spacey, Kevin Pollack, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio del Toro, Gabriel Byrne, Pete Postlewaite (not pictured), Chazz Palmenteri (not pictured) and Dan Hedeya (not pictured) for The Usual Suspects (1995)
Gene Hackman, Angelica Huston, Bill Murray, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson (not pictured), Ben Stiller, Danny Glover, Gwyneth Paltrow (unfortunately pictured) for The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Kristen Scott Thomas, Camilla Rutherford, Jeremy Northam, Bob Balaban, Ryan Phillippe, Stephen Fry, Kelly Macdonald, Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, Richard E. Grant, Emily Watson, Eileen Atkins and many more for Gosford Park (2001)
John Travolta, Samual L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames (not pictured), Amanda Plummer (not pictured), Tim Roth (not pictured), Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel (not pictured), Maria de Mederiros (not pictured), Rosanna Arquette (not pictured), Eric Stotlz (not pictured) for Pulp Fiction (1994)
Martin Balsam, John Fielder, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Edward Binns, Jack Warden, Henry Fonda, Joseph Sweeney, Ed Begley, George Voskovec and Robert Webber in 12 Angry Men (1957)
Best Title Sequence
When we get down to brass tacks the purpose of the title sequence is to give us the title and maybe the director and actors. What I love about the movie industry is that there are some creative souls who look at that job and turn it in to a small masterpiece. It’s reputed that the stunning opening credits form Se7en was a solo effort that took over a year to create. Take it away from the film and nothing changes. Somerset is still wise, Mills is still angry and Gwyneth Paltrow gets what’s coming to her. Yet all that time, imagination and effort was put in to those few minutes. Sometimes we just need to celebrate art for the sake of art.
Sometimes there is a tradition behind those short few minutes. The opening credits of James Bond films have become a Hollywood institution, mimicked and parodied all over the place. Some are used to create context in a fictional world by condensing decades into one smooth sequence. On occasion they can be the most memorable part of a movie. Need proof?
WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT
Kyle Cooper for Dawn of the Dead (2004)
This two and half minutes of apocalypse packs more punch that Dawn of the Dead, World War Z and The Walking Dead put together. Grainy footage of riots, media coverage, politicians losing control and death go hand in hand with Johnny Cash’s rapture themed ‘When the Man Comes Around’. And yes, that text is real blood.
Daniel Kleinman for Goldeneye (1995)
Kleinman took the reigns after the passing of the great Maurice Binder, switching out the old style for high quality computer imagery with a greater focus on thematic concepts. The hammer and sickle of old USSR is used to break up the old leaders of the regime amid the suits, guns and girls. This was a new era and Kleinman ushered it in.
Neil Huxley for Watchmen (2009)
The slow moving, flashbulbed images provide an elaborate back story to the alternative universe of the Watchmen beginning with the original superhero team, Minutemen. From there we go through global events such as the JFK assassination, the Cuba missile crises, the moon landing with the role of the heroes laid out for us. It even provides some poignant moments for characters who didn’t make the final film, such as Mothman and Dollar Bill.
Kyle Cooper for Se7en (1995)
Widely considered to be one of the best sequences in film history it’s a twisted and demented look in to the mind a serial killer. It’s filled with horrible clips of fingerprints being scrapped off, mutilated corpses and subliminal shapes…but you can’t look away.
Hawley Pratt, Corny Cole, et al, for The Pink Panther (1963)
In hindsight it’s odd that these guys weren’t credited with the sequence in the film. Perhaps at the time they didn’t consider that the animated feline – a literal take on the movie title – would go on to feature in his own animated series.
Tim Miller for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
If Satan decided to make a James Bond film this would be the intro – an impression heightened by the inclusion of Daniel Craig’s mug. The dark…almost too dark to see…sequences of oil soaked biomechanical and floral nightmares is the perfect opening to the story. Murder, insanity, erotica and intrigue all slammed together in a horrible mess.
Best MO-CAP/Voice Performance
Here’s a point of contention with every film fan in the past decade. Wearing thick layers of make-up and prosthetics is considered a valid addition to a performance, but taking the step into a digitally created avatar is not considered a ‘real’ performance by the Academy. All you have to do is compare the raw footage of Andy Serkis to the final product in Lord of the Rings to see how much of his performance transfers in to the character.
It’s a small category at present, but notable voice performances could also be considered. Rather than delve in to the long, rich and celebrated history of animated films we’ll limit ourselves to MO-CAP in feature film for today.
Andy Serkis as ‘Gollum’ in Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of the King and An Unexpected Journey
Because let’s face it – this could be the Andy Serkis Award.
Alan Tudyk as ‘Sonny’ in I, Robot (2004)
Zoe Saldaña as ‘Neytiri’ in Avatar (2009)
Bill Nighy as ‘Davey Jones’ in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Andy Serkis as ‘Ceaser’ in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Best Stunt Performance
Stunt performers get treated like Hollywood’s dirty little secret. We know as viewers that the highly paid and marketable stars aren’t really the ones swinging on chandeliers and getting punched in the face – the high risk stuff is down to the stunt performers. But producers want to maintain a level of make believe. As such the real performers are left on the sidelines where they hope no-one will notice them.
In a big action or adventure flick the stunt performers can spend almost as much time filling the shoes on the characters as the actor themselves. It’s even common practise for the stunt performers to direct the scenes themselves. Let’s look at some of the most impressive performers who need some recognition.
Zoë Bell for Death Proof, Kill Bill and Whip It
After starting her career filling in for Lucy Lawless in Xena: Warrior Princess, Bell’s profile was launched into stardom by Quentin Tarantino playing herself in the mind-blowing car chase from Death Proof.
Buster Keaton for Steamboat Bill Jr. and The General
Buster Keaton combined the physical comedy of Charlie Chaplin with some nerve-shattering stunts. In the above image he dropped a full size brick wall on himself, standing in the perfectly calculated spot to ensure he went through the window. Yikes.
Rick Sylvester for The Spy Who Loved Me
The Bond series is renown for their stunts with each film looking to step up the game. There’s plenty of worthy moments from the franchise including the corkscrew car jump in The Man with the Golden Gun and the record breaking bungy jump in Goldeneye. For this example we went with Sylvester (as Roger Moore’s Bond) skiing straight off a cliff (and almost losing his life in the process) to escape his foes. The Union Jack parachute is the perfect punchline to the daring leap.
Jackie Chan for…everything
If you haven’t seen some of the classic Chan adventures you can find of the more exciting clips on youtube. Start with the mall fight sequence from Police Story and just try convincing me that he doesn’t deserve an award.
Michelle Yeoh for Supercop
Most Western viewers will recognise Yeoh from Tomorrow Never Dies or as the wise older warrior from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. If that’s the case you may be surprised seeing her perform some amazing stunts – including jumping a motorbike on to a moving train!
Vic Armstrong for The Indiana Jones Trilogy, Flash Gordon, Superman III, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and others
Armstrong is best known for doubling Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, especially as the two shared a strong likeness. He’s participated in many Bond films and many of the most famous stunt sequences in history. He’s still working today – his crew being responsible for web-swinging in The Amazing Spider-Man.
Music does get plenty of notice and attention at the annual award ceremony. Best Score and Best Original Song should have the bases covered, touching on the perfect musical backing and the toe-tapping numbers. But there is one more thing to look at: complete soundtracks. A compilation of songs is just as relevant to a movie as a score even if it isn’t a musical. Often the songs are written for the movie and, like ensemble casts, the whole can be worth more than the sum of its parts.
William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Baz Luhrmann collected a number of original pop and alternative tracks from artists including Radiohead, Garbage, Everclear and The Cardigans. The perfect accompaniment to an unorthodox take on a classic tale.
The Commitments (1991)
A movie about a band better bring the noise, and few have done it as well as The Commitments. The blaring soul tracks have rarely sounded better, turning this album into a pub and party favourite for years to follow.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (200)
This collection of country, gospel, blues and bluegrass compiles original and modern recordings and encapsulates a time past. The movie is an oddity but the soundtrack is straight up cool.
Director Danny Boyle seems to have a natural talent for picking the best song for every scene, with Trainspotting possibly being the best example. The movie resonates with the energetic and hypnotic tracks that span Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ to Underworld thumping over the closing scenes.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
It has long been accepted that Quentin Tarantino has one of the best record collections in Hollywood. He draws from a wide selection of eras and genres, always picking the best material for the scene even if it’s something that no-one would dream of using.
Best Director Debut
There’s a public perception of the Academy being a group of old men patting themselves on the back, and it’s easy to see where this comes from. It’s very rare that young blood gets a run at the big prize, let alone win one. Often great film-makers will have their best work passed over until later in their career, such as Martin Scorsese.
Not that the kids can always keep up with the big kids. Years of experience and studio resources can make a big difference, so we suggest a category to draw attention to newcomers and recognise their innovation.
This could be a long list, so we’ll just grab a couple of examples.
Quentin Tarantino for Reservoir Dogs (1992)
All the trademarks of Tarantino’s madcap style are in their raw form here. Sharp dialogue, vulgar characters, pop culture banter, brutal violence and tributes to obscure cinema trends. This film shook up the business for the better.
Richard Kelly for Donnie Darko (2001)
Sadly this isn’t a career that built on the debut – but what a debut it is. Dark, confusing and full of mirth, it was a star making feature that became a prominent conversation piece for the years following its release.
Joel and Ethan Coen for Blood Simple (1984)
These days the Coens are known for their artistically violent crime films, quirky comedies and some movies that sit comfortably in the middle. Their opening feature saw them explore their favourite plot device…the snowball effect.