The nominations for the 2017 Oscars were unveiled today. While the 24 categories cover most creative and technical aspects of film-making, there's a conspicuous lack of recognition for stunt co-ordination, choreography, and performance.
Of course, like the domination of La La Land in this year's list, this is no surprise. The Academy's resistance to recognising the men and women who bring action to the screen is stubborn and longstanding. Stunts and action sequences have thrilled audiences almost since the dawn of cinema, but the Academy has never seen fit to reward those who make this possible, even at the risk of life and limb.
In 2016, stunt professionals rallied outside the Academy's headquarters and a petition started by Amber Gallaway had reached 50,000 signatures by the end of February. As Alisha Grauso pointed out in Forbes, the lack of a stunt category seemed particularly shameful in 2016 because while Mad Max: Fury Road won six Oscars, the stunt professionals who achieved its incredible action sequences went unrewarded.
A 2013 BBC article discussed numerous possible reasons for the Academy repeatedly voting against an Oscar for stunts. These include the misconception, held by a segment of the public, that there is an untelevised category for stunt work. David Leitch, co-director of John Wick, has relayed an urban legend about "a cowboy stuntman who had an altercation with a member of the Academy" decades ago.
The reasons for it may be complex and unclear, but the Academy's stubborn attitude definitely ought to change. Stunt professionals are as critical to many of today's successful productions as anyone currently eligible for Oscar nomination. Moreover, only they face the dangers of bringing action and stunts to the screen. Hopefully this year's awards ceremony will produce a new clamour for a change to the rules.
In the meantime, the Hollywood stunt community has its own means of recognising excellence. The Taurus World Stunt Awards have been running since 2001, and will present its 2017 awards in May. It's a fascinating institution, but one which lacks the prestige of the Oscar that stunt professionals so clearly deserve.
Sometime film reviewer, Letterboxd user, novice Blu-Ray collector. Top 3 directors: Woo, Hill, Leone.
Henry V (UK, 1989) ★★★★½
The Fast and the Furious (USA, 2001) ★★★★
Goodfellas (USA, 1990) ★★★★★
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