Trivia question: What was the most recent category added to the Academy Awards lineup?
a) Visual Effects
b) Animated Feature
c) Sound Mixing
d) Music (Original Song)
e) Hairstyling and Makeup Design
f) Documentary Short
g) None of the above
If you guessed “a” — or anything else — I’ll tell you at the end of the post whether you’re right.
Meanwhile, having seen 41 Oscar contenders across 23 categories in just the past month, I bet you’re probably thinking that I’m thinking: SO relieved there are not more categories!
Au contraire. How fun it would be to add one more. Call it the Best Bookends award.
Bookends?! Fool, we’re talking movies, not books. With “bookends,” I’m referring to the titles, the credits and those rewarding parting shots after credits roll. Signature signoffs, which most moviegoers miss, are like bows in live theater. Characters often break character or rub some joke into the ground or, in the case of Hitchcock, which I just saw, satiate a viewer’s expectations with a shot of a corpulent Anthony Hopkins doing a classic Hitchcock silhouette against stage footlights.
Movie-editing programs are so widespread that anyone can now create “professional-looking” titles at home, so the pressure is on for studios to go further in defining “professional.” Titling companies — and not the kind you use to buy property — stand on their own these days, so why not reward their creativity with a tiny Oscar? OK, a mini-Oscar, like mini-Reese’s Cups.
Among the more interesting titling I’ve seen this
Skyfall — This movie’s opening sequence should win, hands down. It’s groovy, psychedelic and feels like an animated short. When it was over, I already felt I had my money’s worth. But of course this was my first Bond movie. Friends tell me they ALL begin like this, that it wasn’t truly over-the-top. So, hmmm.
Amour — Hard to ignore the titles and credits for this intense Austrian film: stark white lettering on black background and completely silent. My fellow patrons dared not crunch their popcorn, let alone breathe. The titles proved engaging from the start, telling the audience: You are participating in this experience, supply your own soundtrack.
Life of Pi — During extended titles, we tour the zoo of Pi’s childhood — gorgeous, exotic creatures overlaid with graceful letter strokes until the last name gets chased away in a puff by a group of animals. Wish I could remember now which animals … some kind of fowl, I think, though not water fowl.
Django Unchained — I burst out laughing when the Quentin Tarantino movie changed locale and rather than fade in-out with a standard “Mississippi, 1858,” along came a slow, side-scrolling, screen-high, bright-yellow MISSISSIPPI in a goofy, frontiersy font.
Moonrise Kingdom — Credits were done in swirly, utterly unreadable fonts, tacky colors of pink and yellow, which moved too fast to decipher. I thought, “These poor folks aren’t getting their due!” then realized how well the titles fit the spirit of the film: When a 12-year-old girl runs away with her khaki scout, her suitcase is crammed with YA chick lit that she reads aloud to him at bedtime. It seems she designed these titles in her diary using gel pens.
Zero Dark Thirty — I can’t remember what it said, but there was a comma missing and this copy editor SAW RED. They call this a journalism drama?! Get a better editor! I was in a foul mood and could hardly enjoy the first torture scene.
Among memorable parting shots:
Argo. Jimmy Carter’s comments about the declassified Argo operation are heard while a side-by-side, then-and-now, fact-vs.-fiction slide show plays. IDs of the actual rescued Americans appear beside screen grabs of the actors who played them, historical shots alongside counterfeit scenes.
Marvel’s The Avengers. After almost saving the world, my favorite character, Robert Downy Jr.’s Iron Man, expresses a craving for shawarma, an Arab meat dish. He tells his A-team, “There’s a shawarma joint two blocks from here, don’t know what it is, but I’ve always wanted to try it.” When the soundtrack play out and credits fade, find our heroes binging. And … scene!
I know there were more … blanking now. Gosh, does this mean I have to sit through them all again?
To make more room for my new category, we could try ending sexism and lump all the men, women, boys and girls into unisex “Lead Acting” and “Supporting Roles” categories. What drama to have Meryl Streep up against Daniel Day-Lewis. Ahem. Even NASCAR’s sexist barriers have been busted through by Sunday’s other main event: Danica Patrick’s inclusive triumph. Because, yeah, just for her to qualify makes her a winner.
OK, pure cheekiness about the new category, but here’s your reward for staying ’til the end: trivia answer is b) The Animated Feature category was added in 2001. Visual Effects has been around since 1939; Sound Mixing since 1930; Original Song, 1934; Hairstyling and Makeup, 1981 (it’s the most recent addition before Animated Feature –before that, it was Sound Editing, added in 1963); and the Documentary Short has been awarded since 1941.
- Oscars picks from a patron in a leading supporting role (mommytongue.com)
- The Oscars 2013 – Let’s Take The Animation Category Seriously, Okay? (contactmusic.com)