For the average movie-goer, only a handful of the awards handed out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences actually matter. Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay (original or adapted), and the supporting acting awards are really the ones most people care about. And if there’s a good Disney movie, sometimes the Original Song category gets a bit more glory.
In all, there will be 24 golden statuettes disbursed on Feb. 24. More than half the awards don’t get the credit they deserve for their achievements because they lack popular clout. Editing, production designs, make-up, and sound are just as vital to the overall effect of a film as the acting and the screenplay, I would argue. Some of these aspects are more important in certain films than others and that is reflected in the nominations. So let’s have a look at a few of the lesser known categories.
Best Achievement in Make-up and Hairstyling
This is one of those places that my beloved horror movies often shine. Nominees this year are Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel for “Hitchcock”; Peter King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”; and Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell for “Les Miserables.” Berger, one of the founding members of KNB Effects, is one of those guys whose work is consistently amazing. Given some other Oscar history, I’d betting “Hitchcock” wins this for pulling of the late 1950s and early 1960s hairstyles. Sadly, this is the only nomination for the film.
Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Sci-fi, action, horror and other genre films also dominate this category. “The Hobbit” gets another nod here for Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White; Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik De Boer, and Donald Elliott are up for “Life of Pi”; Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Phil Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson got a nomination for “Snow White and the Huntsman”; “Prometheus” earned a nod for Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley, and Martin Hill; and the best movie of the year, “The Avengers,” gets its one and only nomination for Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams, Daniel Sudick. Seriously, if “The Avengers” doesn’t win this, even it’s a token of the film’s overall greatness, I might riot.
Best Short Film, Animated
The nominees are “Adam and Dog,” “Fresh Guacamole,” “Head Over Heels,” “Paperman,” and “The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare.” I can’t resist the idea of giving an Oscar to “The Simpsons.” This short appeared before “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” in 3-D and starred baby Maggie Simpson. So there’s no dialogue. How cool is that? I’m sure the other nominees are worthy of the award, too, but the pull of “The Simpsons” is too great.
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
Yes, this is one of those categories that occasionally get a big push. Last year, only two songs were nominated and I even called the eventual winner, “Man or Muppet?” from “The Muppets,” the moment I heard it. This year, we get a full slate of nominees: “Before My Time,” written by J. Ralph for “Chasing Ice” and sung by actress Scarlett Johansson; the new song “Suddenly” performed in “Les Miserables” by Hugh Jackman and written by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer; “Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi,” written by Mychael Danna, Bombay Jayshree; the title song from the James Bond film “Skyfall” by Adele and Paul Epworth; and “Everybody Needs a Best Friend,” written by Walter Murphy and Seth McFarlane for McFarlane’s “Ted.” McFarlane is the host of this year’s ceremony, so there’s a good chance he’ll get to do some singing in addition to performing his own song. What I’d love to see is a duet between McFarlane and Jackman not unlike the duet between Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris at the Tony Awards a couple years ago. It’d be cool if McFarlane and Murphy won this award, too, but I’m betting on “Skyfall” for this award.
So, what awards are most important to you? Even better, what are your Oscar traditions? If you are having a good Oscar party, I might want to come over.
• Backstage Pass is a new blog on www.yakima-herald.com covering pop culture from Hollywood to your backyard. T.J. Tranchell, a freelance journalist and Herald-Republic customer service clerk, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.