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The Oscars are designed to recognize the best in the various aspects of filmmaking. One movie is deemed to have the best costume design while another wins an award for sound. Each different aspect of production is carved up into its own segment until we get to the end of the show, and one movie wins the award for Best Picture. Somehow we’re supposed to add up all the individual parts and then look at the sum total and decide which movie was the best one of the year.
While awards like this will always be somewhat subjective, there is one thing that can be done that would help to recognize a film’s collective accomplishment. An award for Best Ensemble Cast; the acting awards now only go to individuals. While certainly specific actors can put forward great performances, there are many times when what makes a movie great is not the work done by one, but the work done by many. There are several reasons why this award would make sense, and would benefit both the performers and the Academy. This is something other awards have, and the Oscars should adopt it soon.
Not Every Movie Has A Lead Actor/ActressOne of the many Oscar oversights this year was Michael Keaton’s performance in Spotlight. There were many who believed he would be nominated for Best Actor, but did he really have the leading role? His character was the lead reporter on the Spotlight team, but the movie isn’t about his character any more than it is the character played by Mark Ruffalo, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, or any of the other stellar performances that weren’t nominated.
How Do You Have A Best Picture Without Great Actors?While there are many things that make up great films, it’s the acting that either makes a film work, or prevents from succeeding. It’s the make or break category. So how can you have the Best Picture of the year when you don’t have the best acting? This happened last year, when Birdman won the top award while losing three acting nominations. A similar situation occured with both Argo and Slumdog Millionaire. It may very well happen again this year to a movie like Spotlight. This situation exists because movies are greater than the sum of their parts, because it’s the collective performance that makes some movies great.
It Can Lead To Better DiversityThe Oscars are currently dealing with their own crisis in regards to the way their nominations are handled. Diversity is important and the more films and performances that can be nominated, the better it is for everybody. If an ensemble award existed this year we could be pretty confident that Straight Outta Compton would have received a nomination. But this isn’t only a quick fix. The Color Purple has the Oscar record for the most nominations with zero wins, and that included three acting nominations. These were both movies about people, not a person, so no one role stands out, because it’s not supposed to.
It Can Recognize Roles Too Small For Current AwardsThe Big Short has a fantastic ensemble cast. For some reason, all the award nominations are going to Christian Bale without a single one going to Steve Carell. Brad Pitt is on the poster for the movie but that’s only because his name means something. His role is tiny. He’s an associate of a couple of the smaller players in the story. Having said that, he’s as much a reason why the movie works as anybody. But even if you thought he was the best actor in the film, you’d have a hard time arguing he deserved an Oscar nomination, based solely on how little screen time he has. You know you wanted to hand Alec Baldwin an Oscar after one scene in Glengarry Glen Ross. An ensemble award would recognize everybody who contributed, not just the major players.