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The Alternate Oscars Categories

Imagining awards that would be more interesting than the newly announced award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film

Warner Bros./Lionsgate/Ringer illustration

On Wednesday morning, the Academy announced that it would be making a number of changes to this year’s Oscars, including adding a new award category for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film. Picking up where the Academy stopped, Ringer staffers suggested their own new award categories that would provoke more engaging debate and more entertaining results.


The Most Acting

Kate Knibbs: The acting awards are the most exciting part of the Oscars, so why not give an award for the most exciting acting? I’m not talking about the most emotionally honest or the most technically skilled, or a performance that haunts both dreams and nightmares. The Best Actor awards have that covered. I’m talking about the MOST acting. The performances where the actors really go for it, and where what they go for is incredibly weird, surprising, and original. This kind of hammy, scene-chewing acting is sometimes considered bad (Nicolas Cage in Peggy Sue Got Married), sometimes considered good (Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona), and sometimes considered awesome (Nicolas Cage in Face/Off). But they are always so, so much and should be honored. Movies can be boring, but this type of performance never is.

If the Most Acting award had already existed, past non–Nicolas Cage winners would have included Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy (2012) and Jake Gyllenhaal in Okja (2017).

Best Kiss

Andrew Gruttadaro: Look, the Academy wants more eyeballs on its ceremony. That’s why it made these changes—in order to obtain, as Kendall Roy would say, “an armada of eyeballs.” And if that’s all it wants, nominating “popular films” isn’t going far enough. A lot of popular films already get nominated for Oscars, and I’m altogether skeptical that “Oh, Deadpool 2 might win!” is going to be enough to make a teenager watch a three-hour telecast of which the main highlight is Ansel Elgort launching a hot dog into someone’s face with a cannon. So let’s go further; let’s not delay the Oscars’ devolution into the MTV Movie Awards; let’s introduce a Most Outstanding Kiss category.

You remember the good old days, right? When two people would win Best Kiss at the MTV Movie Awards and the moment would be dripping in tension because oh-my-god-what-if-they-kiss-right-now? Let’s bring that energy to Hollywood’s biggest night! It’ll be like Adrien Brody kissing Halle Berry at the 2003 Oscars, only every year. Sex sells. And so do celebrities being awkward and embarrassing themselves. I understand that this is an extremely cynical path to go down, but I’m not the one trying to pretend the Oscars were ever something more than an inconsequential ceremony that only film fanatics care about.

Best IP

Alison Herman: Let’s be real: Judging by the current, sequelized state of the American box office’s upper echelon, Best Popular Film is already going to be a festival of video game concepts and sixth installments. Best IP, however, is not an award for the best film that happens to be based on a preexisting franchise. Rather, it’s for the most inventive or outlandish use of said property. Did you turn a classic playground game into an R-rated comedy requiring the use of CGI arms? Best IP! Did you turn some branded emoticons into a feature film that transforms an acclaimed British knight into a literal piece of shit? Best IP! As we scrape further and further toward the bottom of the barrel, it’s high time Hollywood carved out some space for its most visible and most embarrassing trend. Nothing says “hip with kids” like some gentle self-mockery, or an Oscar for a 100-minute Pepsi commercial.

Best Stunt

Miles Surrey: There should be a little bit of overlap between the Academy hoping to spotlight “popular” films and those that have an abundance of dank action sequences. This would be the Oscar that has evaded stunt choreographers—and while we’re at it, let’s hand them out for the stunt people as well—for decades, despite their doing so much to elevate material from the script. The work of stunt producers is how “War Boy jumps onto moving car and blows up” in Mad Max: Fury Road or “John Wick goes clubbing” gave you an adrenaline rush.

There’s no better time for the Academy to right this wrong. I can’t think of a more deserving inaugural winner for this award than the Mission: Impossible—Fallout team and Tom Cruise for executing a HALO jump, which is perhaps the wildest thing a capital-M Movie Star has been permitted to do on-screen.

This should be fun and give the Academy the little rating boost it clearly covets. Place your early bets on John Wick 3 for 2019.

Outstanding Achievement in Character Acting

Alyssa Bereznak: Lately, the meme-driven nature of online conversation has encouraged viewers to fixate on enjoyable but negligible roles in entertainment. These enthusiasms can sometimes become so outsize that an actor who pulls off a teeny bit part can, quite ridiculously, earn an Emmy nomination for simply being loved on the internet. (Yes, I speak of Barb from Stranger Things, a very enjoyable character who did not at all deserve official recognition for her seven appearances on the show.) There’s nothing wrong with stanning for these scene-stealers, but it’s unfair to nominate them alongside actors who were required to memorize more than a page’s worth of lines. So, if the Academy wants to placate the youth, it should give them something weird enough to tweet about: a whole new category dedicated to the hardworking folks who act the hell out of their roles as Sassy Doctor’s Office Secretary or Drunken Partygoer No. 2. Not only will it make for some confused acceptance speeches, but it will also elicit excellent “Who?” faces from the event’s more famous audience members.

Goodest Dog

Lindsay Zoladz: For far too long, the achievements of actors as groundbreaking as Uggie from The Artist, Otis from The Adventures of Milo and Otis, and Marmaduke from Marmaduke have gone unsung (unhowled?). It’s high time that the Academy introduce a category for Outstanding Canine Achievement, the Oscar for Goodest Dog (not to be confused with best boy, which is a film-crew job for humans only). 2018 is a controversial year to introduce this category, for sure: Arguably the most acclaimed movie about pooches, Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, is ineligible because it does not employ any live-action dogs (much to the criticism of the DGA, or Doggos Guild of America). Another assumed Goodest Dog front-runner, Show Dogs, saw its chances slashed when it was pulled from theaters because of a scene that depicted a dog being groped (if you don’t already know, don’t ask). The good news is that all of this upheaval means Goodest Dog 2018 is a wide-open playing field (assuming all of the stars of Dog Days cancel each other out), and it’s probably not too late to film another Air Bud movie in time for eligibility. Go fetch that Oscar, boys!

Best Scene

Sean Fennessey: The greatest threat to the Academy Awards is not small films blocking blockbusters, and it’s not the show’s four-hour-plus runtime, and it’s not awarding short films and technical categories during the telecast: It’s our attention spans. We are moving at an extraordinary rate in our daily lives, consuming at a higher volume, with more tenacity, and less patience than ever. We want an Instagram Story, a podcast running at 2x speed, a tweet with a GIF and a poll we can vote on. If we want to chop up whatever dignity remains of the Academy Awards, let’s at least focus on the imagined criteria of celebration without barriers designed around nebulous crockery like “popular.” So here’s a thought: Let’s award the participants of individual scenes.

In 1977, the Oscars awarded Beatrice Straight the Best Supporting Actress prize for what amounts to five minutes of screen time in the movie Network.

Straight is a house on fire, articulate and furious in the face of her philandering husband, played by William Holden. “I hurt badly!” It’s a helluva moment in a movie full of them. It would have won this fake award, maybe even over “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” from the same film.

Last year, rather than list my favorites movies, I picked out the 50 greatest moments. The Baby Driver chase scene, the throne room showdown in The Last Jedi, and the Ape Man scene in The Square all could have been contenders. But the Sunken Place in Get Out was the clear movie moment of 2017, the embodiment of a feeling that disenfranchised people are trying to communicate all the time. At the risk of being glib, that’s real movie magic. This category is perfect for television because you can show audiences the entire representation of it. Good TV, inclusive awards-giving, and fun. Who says no?

Best Big Thing in a Movie

Shea Serrano: A perfect category that the Oscars should weave into its already existing categories is: Best Big Thing in a Movie. Potential nominees can be any big thing at all, be it something that’s literally big (like the building in Skyscraper, the gorilla in Rampage, the Rock in either of those movies, the shark from The Meg), figuratively big (Rihanna’s sauce in Ocean’s 8, Michael B. Jordan’s sex appeal in Black Panther, the level of creepiness in Hereditary), or something that’s just slightly bigger than expected (the guy’s mouth in Upgrade after it gets ripped open, Henry Cavill’s scowl in Mission: Impossible—Fallout, the letdown everyone felt walking out of the theater after watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom). It would instantly be the most interesting, most controversial, most debated award category. And just to stay all the way ridiculous, the Academy could make the trophy bigger than all the other Oscar trophies. I need that. We need that. Everyone needs that. Everyone needs to see Daniel Day-Lewis lose an Oscar to a giant crocodile or whatever. And this is the only way that’s going to happen.