Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hey, Oscar: Give The Stuntpeople Some Love

A tip on Twitter from Dr. Action and the Kickass Kid sent me to an intriguing Vanity Fair article in which Jason Statham stridently but smartly argues that stunt performers and coordinators deserve an Oscar category. The argument makes perfect sense: these men and women work as hard as anyone in the industry (even harder, considering the physical risks they take), and certainly deserve a mention when the time comes for Hollywood to honor its best and brightest.

And yet the movies for which these professionals would be recognized are usually shunted to the side come Oscar night. Never mind that action movies (and other spectacles) are Hollywood's chief export, movies that are indeed jammed shock-and-awe style into the global marketplace. More and more Hollywood anchors its fate to the tentpole franchise, and yet continues to shower awards mainly on movies shown during its "prestige" winter season, leaving its explosive summer fare (and the people who make it) out in the cold.

Of the categories that do recognize that these movies exist, the special effects category tends to get the most attention.  Even there the work of these designers and technicians is lampooned during the award presentation. And God help those who try to advocate for their industry. The effects house Rhythm & Hues were facing bankruptcy around the time of their Oscar nomination for Life of Pi. Upon winning the award, they were rudely, crassly played off while advocating for their financially-strapped industry.

Though I'm at odds with Statham's assessment of what the movies are ultimately for (entertainment, yes, but there's a hell of a lot more to even the LCDest Hollywood fare), I certainly agree that not honoring stuntpeople for their work come Oscar-time is an oversight. But it's just one facet of the larger problem posed by the Oscars: the fact that Hollywood's brightest night has long been little more than a wholly predictable marketing exercise. In a less bought-and-paid-for ceremony, one that focused on and truly honored those who were expanding cinema, the people who literally put their lives on the line to deliver the thrills seen 'round the world would warrant their own award. Yes, Solomon's unbroken gaze right at us in 12 Years A Slave is what movies are for. But so is the mid-air embrace in Fast & Furious 6. In my mind and heart I honor them both, even if Oscar won't.

More on the Oscars, and how to fix them, in the coming weeks.

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