Monday, January 11, 2010

The Oscars: Best Picture is Best Director

We are into Award Season for the various entertainment industries; Hollywood in particular. And, since I'm who I am, I figure I'd preempt the Academy Awards by, well, criticizing them a bit.

Don't get me wrong: I am a fan of the Academy Awards. And while the "casual fan" doesn't want to sit through more than three hours of award show, I'm totally fine with it. That stated...

It's long not made sense to me that "Best Picture" is awarded solely to producers. Yes, unlike most, I understand the role of the producer and why they are the ultimate "boss" for a given film production. But film is collaboration, is it not? And the entirety of a "picture" requires so much more than just the hands of its producers.

So I propose one of two solutions. The first solution, being the simplest, is to give producers some sort of "Best Producer/Producing/Production" award to recognize their value to the industry. And then award "Best Picture" to a conglomerate of sorts... the producers, the directors, etc. (maybe even the executive producers and/or the studio responsible for the film). Unfortunately, this would add an award and a few minutes to the telecast.

The second solution, somewhat related, is to get rid of the "Best Director" award and simply add a film's director as a recipient of the "Best Picture" award. I mean, why not? This would eliminate an award (which usually goes to the same film anyway) and shorten the telecast.

Some Background:

Since 1962, when the name of the award was changed from "Best Motion Picture" to "Best Picture," there have been only 8 instances (out of 47 award years) when the Best Picture and Best Director awards were given to separate movies:
  • 1967 - Best Picture: In the Heat of the Night; Best Director: Mike Nichols, The Graduate
  • 1972 - Best Picture: The Godfather; Best Director: Bob Fosse, Cabaret
  • 1981 - Best Picture: Chariots of Fire; Best Director: Warren Beatty, Reds
  • 1989 - Best Picture: Driving Miss Daisy; Best Director: Oliver Stone, Born on the Fourth of July
  • 1998 - Best Picture: Shakespeare in Love; Best Director: Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan
  • 2000 - Best Picture: Gladiator; Best Director: Steven Soderbergh, Traffic
  • 2002 - Best Picture: Chicago; Best Director: Roman Polanski, The Pianist
  • 2005 - Best Picture: Crash; Best Director: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Going back to 1944, when the award switched to "Best Motion Picture" from "Outstanding Motion Picture" and the number of nominees dropped from ten to five, there have only been a further 5 discrepancies (out of 18 award years):
  • 1948 - Best Motion Picture: Hamlet; Best Director: John Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • 1949 - Best Motion Picture: All the King's Men; Best Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, A Letter to Three Wives
  • 1951 - Best Motion Picture: An American in Paris; Best Director: George Stevens, A Place in the Sun
  • 1952 - Best Motion Picture: The Greatest Show on Earth; Best Director: John Ford, The Quiet Man
  • 1956 - Best Motion Picture: Around the World in 80 Days; Best Director: George Stevens, Giant
Including 1944 to 1961, the percentage of films winning both awards is 80%. If you start from 1962, the percentage is just under 83%. And until the aberrant run of four discrepancies in eight years (beginning with Shakespeare in Love), the percentage had increased to nearly 89% (or over 83% if including '44 to '61).

It's not a lock for a film to take home both awards, to be sure, but is an 11% to 20% occurrence rate enough to warrant separate awards?

More Oscar Musings

There should be an Academy Award for Best Stunts. Yes, there should be. Don't argue with me about this.

There should also be an Academy Award for Best Casting. Now, unlike in television, the directors of film like to take credit for most of a film's casting (and rightfully so), which is the primary argument as to why there is no award for Best Casting. However, I propose that (like the Best Picture idea above) both the film director and casting director receive this award. Why not? Oh, wait... telecast.

You wanna shorten the telecast? Get rid of the musical numbers. Keep the opening act, yes, but ditch the five songs throughout. Just play snippets of them when it's time for the category to be announced... you know, like all the other categories do it?

I'm willing to bet that increasing the Best Picture field back to 10 will have no positive effect on the ratings for the Oscars telecast. Whoever came up with that idea is, well... hmm... let's just say that it wasn't thought through.

I have a solution that might work, regarding award presentations and telecast length and ratings... but that can wait for another day.


  1. No argument here. I admit it had never crossed my mind, but as soon as you suggested there be an award for best stunt it seemed wrong that there wasn't one.

  2. I think all the songs should performed,but they should be good songs. One criterion that should be used is will people be singing and performing this song in years to come.

    Its not going to matter how many movies they have up for best picture if most people don't care about them.


  3. Jeff, no doubt of it, you are on to something! I agree with many of these suggestions. Also, I noted a few films it looks like I need to see Reds, Cabaret, and In the Heat of the Night. Thanks for the list.

  4. I suppose you could let film-makers make a film of the entire award show rather than put it out on TV and then give an award to whoever produces the best film.

  5. I've always thought the 'stunts' should be awarded, also...
    and casting has been a thing to me, too. When it's great, it flows and you don't think about it. But when it is not right-on, or just one actor is off, YEW! -J

  6. When you are the High-Muckety-Muck in Hollywood, you can enact all your dreams and schemes. I KNOW you have many, many more than this.

  7. i am totally with you on the best stunt...and best director. not big on award shows, i dunno.

  8. pretty good ideas, and i don't care about the length's an idea...air it on Sunday and why not just start it a little earlier--can't J-Lo get her ass out of bed maybe at 2pm instead of 4? it's not like she's gonna wear that magic green dress again!

    um...think i'm going to google that now...bye.

  9. Groan! I can't believe anyone watches those things! But then again, I have kindergartner's 5 minutes attention span!

  10. I like the Best Stunts category, I think that craft is overlooked.

    I also agree that there are ways to shorten it. I think the skits have taken on a life of their own, and should be pruned.