Oscar for Stunt Coordinators Rejected

The Academy of Motion Pictures has rejected awarding an annual award for stunt coordinators. I think this is reidiculous, and their ratiomnale is really poor. They give awards for costume, lighting, music, set design, make-up and they can’t asknowledge that stunt coordinators and stuntwork are a vital component of the movie-going experince? I don’t thik the idea of keeping th number of awards down for the sake of keping them down has any merit. The issue should be: Do you want to honor a field for their contributions to filmmaking?

Columnist Jeff Wells had the following to say:

I wouldn’t go quite as far as he does, but I do think it’s the right move. Though stunt coordinators play important functions in some filmmaking (and regularly risk their lives for our entertainment), I would not characterize most stuntwork as “artistic”. Skilled? Yes. Logistically challenging? Unquestionably. But the same thing goes for animal wrangling. Most of the time, a stunt, at best, comes across as cool, but it very rarely adds to the overall artistic quality of a film.

There might be an argument that at one time it did (the 60s and 70s), but that era is gone. Stuntwork is also now so seriously compromised by CGI that I also don’t trust the Academy voters in deciding a worthy winner from a showboating nominee who’s being assisted inordinately by computers. Plus, stuntwork only looks as good as it does with the assistance of editors and sound effects technicians, so stunt-heavy films aren’t going to go wanting. So I’d say that if there was a time when this type of award was appropriate, it’s now passed. I would say there are other professions (casting directors for starters) who are more deserving of Oscar consideration (though I doubt I’d give them one, either).

Also, for the record, the Oscars did give the legendary Yakima Canutt an Oscar, so it’s not resistant to honoring the profession–just on special occasions, not on an annual basis.

I think your definition of what constitutes a stunt needs work - it’s not all car crashes and leaping from buildings, and stunts absolutely influence the artistic timbre of a film.

Stunts don’t have to be spectacles that are slapped into action movies, for one thing.
In Chinatown, when Jack Nicolson slaps Faye Dunaway during the “Sister/Daughter” scene? That’s a stunt.

Think about all the violence in The Shawshank Redemption. Would that movie have been as good as it was without the scene when Bogs gets out of solitary and Hadley is waiting for him? Stunt.

And they don’t have to be small time - what about 2000’s Best Picture winner, Gladiator. The stunt coordinators had nothing to do with the impact of the film? Bull.

And last year’s winner, Million Dollar Baby - now I haven’t seen this film, but I understand it’s about boxing. Which presumes there is quite a bit of fighting. Which is all choreographed by a stunt coordinator.

In fact, looking at Best Picture winners over the past fifteen years, I’m counting ELEVEN that required stunts - not to look cool, but as integral parts of the story being told. 11/15. And there is no way to recognize the people who made that possible.

Basically, I think the Academy is saying, “We don’t think anyone will want to watch us present this award on TV, and the ceremony is already too long.” Which has nothing to do with artistry. They suck.

But do you think any of them would have won best stunt? It would have probably gone to the big action movie.

Let’s be honest–when it comes to the Academy selecting a nomination slate, that’s exactly what it is. The final 3 or 5 won’t involve someone running a red light or slipping on a banana peel.

:rolleyes: No, it’s not. If someone fakes a punch, that’s a stunt. There ain’t no faking in that scene (and anyway, that scene certainly didn’t require a stunt coordinator).

I’m not questioning the necessity of some scenes for dramatic purposes–I’m just questioning how much the quality of stuntmanship actually contributes artistically. Either a stunt works (is convincing) or it doesn’t (looks fake). In this scene you’re talking about, it’s as simple as that. And this kind of “stuntwork” is not the kind the Academy’s going to be recognizing.

Of the 11 you cite, the biggest of those films had significant help from CGI–Titanic, Braveheart, Gladiator, LOTR all relied on fake people, fake animals, fake crowds to get some of their biggest effects. There were, no doubt, stunt people involved, but technology has, quite frankly, diminshed their importance. I’d argue animal wranglers were as important as stuntmen in Dances with Wolves, casting directors more important in Silence of the Lambs and American Beauty, and location scouts more important in The English Patient and Schindler’s List. I’d also argue that the latter two professions are much more important to most films’ artistic success than stuntmen.

Mind you, stunt work is hard and dangerous. But I’d also argue that there are few stunt coordinators who are true artists (as opposed to costume designers, film composers, or DPs). They aren’t hacks (you won’t last long in that job being one)–most are talented, safety-oriented, and professional, but devising a stunt that’s safe and convincing isn’t enough. The way the stunt looks on-screen as the final product has as much, if not more, to do with sound designers, editors, FX artists, the cinematographer, and the director.

FTR, I think the last category the Academy created–Best Animated Feature–is also a bogus one, even though some highly talented people (Pixar, Miyazaki) have been on the receiving end. The last thing the Oscars needs is another unnecessary award.

Every movie has make-up, costumes, lighting, etc. but not evey movie has stunts. Stunts are required by films.

Not surprising, considering that the Academy won’t even revive existing categories even when there are enough qualifying films (e.g. Best Musical).