The Academy Awards are far from perfect, failing to honor key aspects of motion pictures. Every year, the Oscars ignore the hard work of stunt coordinators and casting directors. And they combine hairstyling and makeup in a single category as if they’re the same thing.
But the biggest oversight of this 85-year-old awardsfest is the lack of recognition for voice-over performances. (Be sure to vote in our poll at the bottom of this post.)
This year that shameful exclusion is being felt across Hollywood. You’ve probably already heard about about the show-stealing performance of Scarlett Johansson in “Her.” However, she’s been deemed ineligible by the Golden Globes because she doesn’t appear physically on-screen. Johansson’s story is gaining a lot of attention in the aftermath of this announcement, particularly because she still can be nominated at the Oscars and SAG … as Best Supporting Actress. But no voice-over performer has ever contended at the Oscars.
Johansson’s isn’t the only voice causing an uproar. When “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is released on Dec. 13, audiences will be blown away by Benedict Cumberbatch‘s impressive and nail-bitingly frightening performance as the titular dragon. (Another franchise star, Andy Serkis, has had his fair share of Oscar snubs over the years as Gollum, but that’s another story altogether.)
Yes, antagonists and haters will argue that audible-only performances like Johansson’s and Cumberbatch’s get lots of unfair help in post-production from the sound crews and visual effects wizards.
But doesn’t that actually just cement the idea that these are special performances that should compete against each other rather than in the general acting fields where they’ve been sentenced, unsuccessfully, all these decades?
Besides Johansson and Cumberbatch, other top contenders for Best Voice-Over Performance at this year’s Oscars would be: Billy Crystal and John Goodman (“Monsters University”), Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel (“Frozen“), Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig (“Despicable Me 2“) and Oscar champ Nicolas Cage (“The Croods“).
Since the Oscars are constantly evolving, it’s hard to imagine that voice-over talents will continue to be ignored from here to eternity. The only question we have for the Academy Awards chiefs is what’s taking them so long to adapt? It’s not like their categories are set in stone.
Back in 2001 they realized the importance of recognizing animated features so they created a brand new category, with “Shrek” being the first ever Animated Feature champ. Last year, they added Hairstyling to the Best Makeup race so that both creatives could be honored together.
Best Makeup was introduced in 1981 as a response to critics who complained the previous year that the breakthrough work on “The Elephant Man” (1980) had no representation at the Oscars. Notice what happened there? An outcry from people like you stirred a movement at the Academy Awards, resulting in the creation of a category that should have been there in the first place!
Over on the small screen, the Emmys started recognizing voice-over talents more than twenty years ago. In 1992, the TV academy created an award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance and their initial call to arms was to honor six actors collectively for their work on “The Simpsons.” Since then, everyone from Christopher Plummer (“Madeline,” 1994) to Anne Hathaway (“The Simpsons,” 2010) to reigning champ Lily Tomlin (“An Apology to Elephants,” 2013) have earned Emmys for their voice work.
Even the Golden Globes, despite their current issues, realized in 1993 that there are some instances where voice-over talents deserve recognition. They gave Robin Williams a special award for his memorable performance as the Genie in “Aladdin.”
A common complaint about the Oscar ceremony is that there are too many below-the-line categories and not enough celebrities accepting trophies. Creating a new platform for vocal talents might ensure that one more familiar face would grace the stage on Oscar night and make a memorable acceptance speech in addition to those we’ve come to expect from the annual quartet of acting winners.
We’ll forgive the Oscars for their eight plus decades of neglecting such performances if they were to announce the new Best Voice-Over Performance category this year. No hard feelings, it can be a clean slate! And now is the time to make that move.
Do you agree that the academy should add a Best Voice-Over Performance race at the Oscars? Vote now in the poll below and sound off in the comments section!