New Oscar categories are sorely needed. Even the Academy admits radical change is needed. And new awards are an obvious huge solution.
Every year, the Oscars have worse and worse ratings on TV and streaming, and even big scandals like in 2017 or 2022 don’t seem to have an impact. Awards shows in general have felt this burn for a while, but the Oscars have it real bad, seeming out of touch with popular audiences more and more with each year.
I could argue the Oscars have always been pretty far from the popular wavelength for movies—after all, E.T. and WALL-E sure didn’t win Best Picture—but people still watched the Oscars anyway. Now, they don’t watch, and the negative perception is there.
I wrote about this in 2019. But nothing’s changed even with 3 more awards ceremonies since then.
Clearly, they need new Oscar categories. And not like that horrendous Popular Film Award they proposed in 2018. The Fan Favorite and Cheer Moment awards voted on Twitter was a decent IDEA, but was immediately and predictably campaign bombed by Snyder heads (of which I am somewhat one, in all fairness). So unless they can come up with a better way to get results there, that’s not a good idea either.
Cynical attempts to create a “popular film” slum won’t work. Widening the categories to naturally allow these movies is a much better option.
New award categories can include more popular movies, can show off parts of the craft that casual moviegoers are more interested in. Yeah, Sound editing and editing are cool, but what kinds of parts of movie craft get people really going? Visual effects, animation, production design, stuntwork… Yeah, this is all Corridor Crew, but look at how popular these videos are! Millions of views just to showcase the craft.
Ironically, the way to save the Oscars is to add MORE technical categories.
And some other ones too, of course.
New Oscar Categories We Deserve
So, here’s my listicle about 8 new Oscar categories the Academy really, really, really needs to add to help improve its ratings… And, more importantly, to recognize the extremely hard work that filmmakers put into the craft of movies in every genre and medium.
If this article ends up getting a bunch of clicks, I’ll make full articles for every single one of these proposed new Oscar categories, but for now I’ll just make a small overview of my ideas for each one. Okay, looking back after I wrote this all, “small” is a bit of an understatement. But still, please consider these award categories:
Best Stuntwork and Choreography
It’s the most obvious, stunningly clear category in the entire film industry, and I am beyond baffled that it still hasn’t been added.
Stunts are such a major part of film, especially popular movies. Take a look at the top movies of 2022 as of this writing: Top Gun 2, Dr. Strange 2, Jurassic World 3, Uncharted, The Lost City, Bullet Train, and so many others… They’re all heavily coordinated around action sequences involving lots and lots of stunts.
I think back to 2015, when stuntwork was a major factor in some really big-ass films. Mad Max Fury Road, Mission: Impossible 5, Furious 7, Creed, Spectre… I probably named all five nominees from the alternate universe where the Academy was cool. Maybe the Point Break remake if it got lucky. But really, it’s a huge bummer that these films can’t get the recognition they deserve for a crucial part of their creation.
A stuntwork and choreography Oscar would instantly become one of the most-hyped awards for casual viewers. In an era with 87North Productions tearing it up over and over, competition is really fierce, and it would only get fiercer with an Oscar at the end for the best of the best.
The award is a wider net than you think. It captures not only big epic action movies, but musicals and dance films and anything where choreographed movement is a huge part of the film experience—and of course, that’ll play into my next award pick below. Heck, I bet 1917 could have been a big contender here even without the stuntwork.
You could argue stuntwork and choreography are so wide that they could be split into two, but that could create a lot of ambiguity, so I’d say it should be combined… At least at first. Who’s to say what it could become ten years down the line?
Movies That Could Have Dominated:
West Side Story in 2021;
John Wick 2 in 2017;
Step Up in 2006;
Every single Mission: Impossible movie.
Best Musical Feature
The Academy actually has this award already; Best Original Musical. It’s been around since 2000, but not a single year since has actually had enough musicals to justify the award being given. Crazy!
That’s because, of course, the rules are insanely strict. They have to be original, not adaptations, and they have to be the classic kind of musical where characters sing out their thoughts and advance the plot through numbers. Musicals have never been an incredibly big genre, but it gets even smaller when you put that many restrictions on there! I’m not sure there’s even ten a year by that point, and that’s even counting animation and super indie stuff.
But musicals are a very unique medium of film, and one deserving of more recognition just like animation. It doesn’t hurt that they’re often some of the most popular films of the year, too; just think of how many more people’d been hooked by the Oscars for the 2017 year when Greatest Showman was a mini-phenomenon ready for coronation? Or in 2016 when Moana and La La Land would have dueled to the death for victory?
So my proposal here is, scrap Best Original Musical and widen it bigtime into Best Musical Feature. Let in adaptations, let in music-heavy movies that aren’t explicitly musicals in the Broadway sense. Back in 2018, A Star is Born had a conundrum about this very thing with the Golden Globes, and it likely didn’t qualify for the nonexistent Oscar that year, either. And yet it was a lovely movie that deserved more recognition than it actually got. It could have competed against Bohemian Rhapsody (another edge case normally), Mamma-Mia 2, Hearts Beat Loud (fantastic film), and Anna and the Apocalypse, and it’d have actually been a pretty competitive time.
Most years, yeah, there’s precisely one movie that’s definitely going to win, and the other musicals are just nominated for respect points. But that’s the same thing with Best Animated Feature today, and often Best Visual Effects as well. Part of the importance for new Oscar categories is the whole crop of nominees, not just the eventual winner.
It also could be that the winner for Best Musical Feature also wins Best Stuntwork and Coreography. That’s OK, and I don’t think that would be bad. Sound Editing and Sound Mixing often have overlapping winners too, after all, and so do Makeup and Costume.
Movies That Could Have Dominated:
Yesterday in 2019;
Pitch Perfect 2 in 2015;
Les Misrables in 2012.
Best Ensemble Performance
I’m honestly stumped why this isn’t an Oscar already. Most of the other awards ceremonies have it, and it’s always an extremely competitive award. Just look at the SAG Awards’s version of it! Every year, there are plenty of really well-loved, very popular movies that have incredible performances by their large casts, but no one performance is quite spellbinding enough to make one of the 20 solo acting nominations. Some movies miss out on nominations altogether, when an ensemble award really would have been an excellent chance for them.
This award doesn’t necessarily do a ton to fix the Academy’s problem with nominating a bunch of arthouse stuff nobody has seen, but it would sure help. I can’t imagine a world where Star Wars: The Force Awakens wouldn’t have gotten an ensemble nomination in 2015, especially after close it apparently got to Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor nominations. And Black Panther honestly might have won.
Movies That Could Have Dominated:
Molly’s Game in 2017;
Hateful Eight in 2015;
This is Where I Leave You in 2014;
The Dark Knight in 2008
Best Visual Effect Performance
Now here is where we get into the categories I’ve barely even seen other listicles talk about. This one comes up occasionally, but I’d like to stress just how important it is. Actors who work with effects to create their performances are every bit as wonderful, every bit as important as the movie stars who get the main categories. Honestly, for some visual effects performances, I might even consider it more difficult to pull off, and that’s what makes the best performances so remarkable.
Motion capture, puppetry, and heavy makeup or costume work… No matter what the method, there are some amazing performances worth recognizing. And as a bonus, a lot of the movies with these are exactly the sorts of blockbusters that would attract more people to the awards show.
Yeah, Andy Serkis and Doug Jones would probably clean up big-time if we were to apply this award retroactively, but there’s so many other actors who have done great and often extremely overlooked work.
Plus, an award like this would inevitably lead to more A-list actors trying to do awards bait by dressing up in monster costumes or appearing as CGI robots in weird indie sci-fi movies, and that sounds like a better world all-around.
Actors Who Could Have Dominated:
Brian Herring, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, 2017
Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina, 2015
Toby Kebbell, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 2014
Peter Linz, The Muppets, 2011
Best Voice Actor
I’m controversially separating this from the Visual Effect Performance Oscar because these are just a little too far apart for me to feel comfortable combining them. It’s not just a pity prize, and in fact both fields are filled with great performances.
Voice actors exist primarily in animation, but of course are in all sorts of live-action films as well. They work just as hard as live-action actors, even if it’s a completely different medium. And once again, the movies that would be nominated are a lot more likely to be the bigger, more popular films that help attract viewers to the awards show.
There’s a little bit of grey area about motion capture and purely vocal performances. I’m not enough of an expert to make that dividing line, so I’ll let industry people decide there. But I do think it should be divided. Then, with these additions, the Oscars can now have 7 acting awards per year. For as obsessed with the acting awards as the Academy seems to be, they can go even harder with a couple more deserving awards.
Actors That Could Have Dominated:
Alan Tudyk, Most Disney Movies, 2012+
Tom Noonan, Anomalisa, 2015
Andy Samberg, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, 2022
Mori Nano, Weathering With You, 2019
Best Film Promotion
This is by far the least-likely proposal out of all these, but I’m still a fan of it: Let’s award not only the movies themselves, but the promotional material around them!
You know I love movie posters, so that’s my go-to here, but obviously I’d like it to be as broad as possible.
Movie posters, movie trailers, weird ARGs, art experiences like Alita Battle Angel did that one time… There’s lots of promotional stuff out there that itself qualifies as some really moving art. The Oscars could do well to celebrate that part of the craft, too, because it’s obviously important to getting people to watch movies in the first place. Five nominees each year to serve as individual artifacts of movie marketing art from that year… Sounds kind of awesome to me.
Would this award set off an arms race of studios trying to create the grandest posters, the most memorable trailers, the weirdest marketing experiments, all just for a shot at a nomination down the line? We can only hope so.
Also, yeah, this steps on the toes of the long-established Golden Trailer Awards and IMP Awards, but the awards there are much more in-depth than anything this one will get, so the more the merrier, I say.
Movies That Could Have Dominated:
The Walk, 2015
Best Longform Feature
Remember when O.J. Made in America won Best Documentary a few years back, despite being an 8-hour miniseries? Remember when almost immediately afterwards, the Academy changed its rules to ban limited series from getting nominated in Best Documentary? Rude, wasn’t it? But it made sense. It wasn’t a movie, at least not in the traditional sense.
Instead of banning limited series and leaving most of them to fail to be nominated by the Emmys due to intensely fierce competition, add a new category to honor the extremely long work that still plays in theaters.
At this point, the naysayers are going, “Well now, you’re just adding random new Oscar categories just to add them!” And I say, no, there’s always been a huge dearth of major awards for certain mediums within the film industry, and limited series are one that deserve more put into them. They can steal a little heat away from the Emmys, while also giving more space to the theatrical films so long they are destined to be skipped over in other categories.
I say, as long as a limited series or very long movie qualifies for an Oscar and runs in theaters, and as long as it’s over, I don’t know, 210 minutes long, it should be allowed to compete at least in this one award, if not the other awards.
Would this category have given Zack Snyder’s Justice League the Oscar its fans craved? Not likely, but it’d have probably been nominated, which is pretty neat.
Movies (?) That Could Have Dominated:
Beatles: Get Back, 2021
The Irishman, 2019
Primal, 2019 (gosh this year was stacked)
Hateful Eight (Extended), 2015 [If this award existed, you know Tarantino’d have released this cut first]
Best Production Design in Animation
Last, but certainly not least, for this listicle about new Oscar categories is Best Production Design in Animation.
We’ve come a long way since the Best Animated Feature Oscar was implemented. Twenty years ago, the Academy could only muster up three nominees a year, and Pixar utterly dominated. Today, Pixar and Disney Animation still mostly dominate together, but the nominations are so much more diverse, so much broader. And I think it’s finally time to honor animation with its second category.
As far as I know, no animated movie has ever been nominated for Production Design in the Oscars, and I think it’s purely a live-action category. But animated movies have wonderful design too, you know!
The best movie is still the best movie, but the production design, the art direction, is another matter that could let a whole new crop of films rise up. The same movie could and sometimes will win both times, but I find it highly likely that, say, in 2016 when Zootopia won for feature, Kubo and the Two Strings could have pulled off a win for production design. Many other years might have been the same.
It gives more opportunities for international movies, especially Japanese anime, to break out, as well, because so many of them have wonderful production design. Shinkai Makoto was snubbed in Best Animated Feature for both Your Name. and Weathering With You, but they’d have been complete locks with this second category available to them. There’s so many animation studios doing lovely work now, and because they’re basically only ever going to be allowed into the animation-centric awards, giving them as many chances as possible is a great thing—and will of course bring in more viewers, as well.
Movies That Could Have Dominated:
Night is Short, Walk On Girl, 2018
Loving Vincent, 2017
Lego Movie, 2014
Conclusion: New Oscar Categories We Deserve
Add new Oscar categories, Academy! You know you wanna do it.
What do you think about the 8 new Oscar categories we deserve that I’m proposing here? Do you have any ideas of your own? Let me know in the comments.