Comedies and comic performances don’t win Oscars. Contemporary costume and production design are overlooked. Animated features don’t get nominated for best picture. These are all truisms, but not always true.
After all, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences did give an Oscar to Diane Keaton for “Annie Hall,” which also won best pic. But then “Annie Hall” was a romantic comedy, which voters apparently deem more grown-up than most comedies.
Then there was Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” which vied for best pic, the only toon feature to earn such a distinction. Ani features tend to make a lot of money — look at “Finding Nemo.” Even the critics can get behind them — look at “Spirited Away.”
But let’s not split hairs here. We know the Acad’s prejudices, and we also know it takes a long time to get its board to introduce a new category. When ani features were added to the mix for the 74th Oscars in 2002, it was the first new category in 20 years.
One reason the Academy doesn’t expand more often is Grammy and Emmy syndrome: having too many categories dilutes the impact. “We could be giving out 60 awards if you adopted everyone’s suggestions,” said AMPAS exec administrator Ric Robertson at the time the toon feature kudo was added to the mix.
Okay, we’re not trying to stretch the show from three hours to five, but let’s consider some possibilities:
There was Keaton (Diane, not Buster), Judy Holliday (“Born Yesterday”) and Marisa Tomei (“My Cousin Vinny”), but that was supporting, where the Acad appears less stringent. The Golden Globes differentiate comedies and musicals, why can’t Oscar?
Oscar would finally recognize a form of acting often considered more difficult than serious drama.
Comic actors might feel ghettoized, and unworthy of competing with their more serious peers.
Practically all of Chaplin’s masterpieces, and Peter Sellers’ multiple characters in “Dr. Strangelove” and his slapstick turns in “The Party” and “What’s New Pussycat?” Then there were Reese Witherspoon in “Election” and Cameron Diaz in “Something About Mary.”
The Screen Actors Guild appreciates the value of a good ensemble, why not Oscar?
All those little gem-like performances that add up to a whole would be given a piece of the pie. Think Orson Welles in “The Third Man” or Alec Baldwin in “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
In terms of giving out statuettes, where do you cut it off? This also might create a double win for an individual whose performance stood out (OK, maybe this is a plus, not a minus).
The casts of Robert Altman’s “Nashville” and “Gosford Park”; Sidney Lumet’s “Network” and “The Godfather” movies, just to name a few.
We’ve been getting pumped up by opening credits for years. They often establish the tone of a movie, even if Woody Allen has been using the same font for 30 years.
This would give name identification to the talents most responsible for getting auds in the mood.
Detractors say fancy, entertaining titles often misrepresent what’s to come.
Maurice Binder, responsible for all those dazzling title sequences for the James Bond movies (not to mention his work on Stanley Donen’s “Charade,” and “Arabesque”); and Saul Bass, the master, who probably deserves an honorary Oscar for his work on such classics as “West Side Story,” “Spartacus,” “Anatomy of a Murder” and “North by Northwest.”
CONTEMPORARY COSTUME & PROD’N DESIGN
This might cause the biggest beef by those in the profession, who charge that the Acad leans toward period work as it’s more lavish and conspicuous.
The more subtle aspects of these crafts, which require a more character- and story-driven approach, would finally be acknowledged.
It would add 15 minutes to what’s perceived as an already bloated Oscarcast.
Naomi Shohan, whose production design work on “American Beauty” helped lend the film its aura of modern fable; Jeffrey Kurland, who has dressed Woody Allen’s films dating back to “Broadway Danny Rose” and made the hunky cast of “Ocean’s Eleven” look as spiffy as all get out.
What would “The Graduate” be without Simon & Garfunkel’s music? Or “Saturday Night Fever” without the Bee Gees? Soundtracks can often be better than the movie: Think “One From the Heart” or “Until the End of the World.” (OK, maybe that’s what the Academy is worried about.)
We’d get really great musical performers on the Oscarcast for a change.
The music is not always written specifically for the film. Besides, who would get the award? The director? The music supervisor? The artists? The myriad lawyers who secured the rights?
Sountracks ranging from “Easy Rider” to “Something’s Wild” to virtually any Cameron Crowe movie, notably “Singles” and “Almost Famous.”