Best Picture may be the top honor at the Academy Awards, but is it the best category? From the nominees excluding popular titles to the winner often being criticized as the safe choice, it’s undoubtedly the most contentious part of the Oscars. In spite of being voted on democratically by more than 6,000 people, there is always some sort of backlash from those movie fans outside of the Academy, especially now that the category includes more nominated titles.
To make up for our usual frustration with Best Picture, many of us have another favorite award category. Maybe we’re nonfiction lovers and recognize and appreciate that the Best Documentary Feature category keeps getting stronger every year. Or perhaps we take particular interest in a specific artistic craft, such as Best Production Design or Best Costume Design, which allows for visually iconoclastic works. At the website In Contention, for instance, Oscar pundit Guy Lodge is really into the costume design category because of the imaginative fashions by the late Eiko Ishioka nominated for Mirror Mirror, and not just because she passed away a year ago this week.
Lodge also admits appreciating when a film gets a single nomination, which can happen in any category but is more likely for mainstream fare in craft competitions like Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects and the two sound awards. However, it often happens that the winners of these below-the-line categories are critically disliked movies such as Alice in Wonderland and Death Becomes Her, yet much-loved films like Shawshank Redemption and Psycho (both of which received a lot of nominations) are not.
One category that has always been a good spot for really creative films is Best Original Screenplay. This is where we regularly see such clever, unsafe efforts as Memento, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie as well as such inventive blockbusters as Back to the Future, Inception and Big. Meanwhile, a category that many see as too separated from the celebration of film craft is Best Original Song, especially in years where it goes to a track not from a musical or which isn’t at least a theme song, such as this year’s “Skyfall.”
Of course, a lot of you might simply favor the acting categories for their recognizable faces and disfavor the shorts categories for how obscure their nominations are for the majority of those who tune in to the Academy Awards. The most divisive might be Best Foreign Language Film, which always features lesser known titles but which tends to also feature the truly best pictures of the year and yet which is constantly criticized for its qualification and submission limitations.
My current favorite category is Best Documentary Feature, and my current least favorite is Best Original Song. What are yours?
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