All About Oscar: Categorically Speaking

Will The Academy Ever Recognize These New Categories?

By Tom Houseman

April 11, 2012

I'm the unknown stuntman that makes Eastwood look so fine.

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Best Ensemble Cast

The Argument For It: Some movies are defined by one or two characters and one or two great performances. Everybody else sort of fades into the background and Daniel Day Lewis (because this is true of every movie he has been in) is the only one worth paying attention to. But some movies create rich worlds in which there are a dozen or more interesting characters played by actors who give memorable performances. Some of these characters are only in a scene or two, and thus their parts aren't juicy enough or feature enough crying to merit Oscar consideration.

But if there a way to reward the entire cast of a film, or at least the six to twelve most notable actors, it would solve this problem. The Screen Actor's Guild already does this, handing out a Best Performance By a Cast award as their version of Best Picture. There have even been three years where the winning cast had no individual nominees in the other categories (Slumdog Millionaire, Return of the King, The Full Monty).


Last Year's Likely Nominees: It is is safe to say that, like with the other acting categories, Oscar and SAG would match three or four out of five nominees. It is virtually certain that The Help, The Artist, The Descendants, and Midnight in Paris would all have been nominated. The only question mark is Bridesmaids. It would have faced tough competition from films that the Academy clearly liked more than the SAG did, including War Horse, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Hugo, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Margin Call would have also been in play as spoilers. I am sure that the winner would have either been The Help or The Artist, with the latter probably edging out the former for the win, giving it one more Oscar to hang on its mantle.

Why It Will Probably Never Happen: The term “Oscar winner” carries an incredible amount of weight, especially for actors, where the award is often considered the crowning achievement of a career. Part of the reason the title is taken so seriously is because only four people win an acting Oscar every year, which keeps the list of previous Oscar winners very small. What would happen if that number were tripled or quadrupled? We would be living in a world in which, sure, Meryl Streep has an Oscar, but so do Mena Suvari, Topher Grace, Ryan Phillippe, Lucy Liu, Orlando Bloom, and Brendan Fraser. You would have to always refer to him as “Oscar winner” Brendan Fraser!

Other than Freida Pinto and Dev Patel, you would be hard pressed to recognize or even pronounce the names of the 11 actors who won SAG awards for being part of the cast of Slumdog Millionaire. But if there was an Oscar category for ensembles then all of them would be Oscar winners. It would severely dilute the prestige of having won an Oscar, which is why the award is never going to be added.

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