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Oscar for stunt work would increase awareness of incredible feats

Tribune-Review
| Saturday, December 15, 2018 1:33 a.m
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There’s a continuing conversation about adding a category for stunt work to the Academy Awards. Here, Tom Cruise is shown doing his own stunts as Ethan Hunt in “Mission Impossible: Fallout.”

For a group of people who communicate with the public professionally, the entertainment industry has a disconcerting tendency to shoot itself in the collective foot.

Kevin Hart’s exceedingly brief stint as the Oscars host last week eclipsed an arguably more consequential misstep by the body that hired him earlier this year. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences advanced and then backtracked on a plan to introduce a Best Popular Film category in a self-
defeating acknowledgment that audiences and filmmakers don’t necessarily share much in the way of taste.

Fortunately, there are remnants of good sense floating around Hollywood. Recently, director-writer Christopher McQuarrie demonstrated that he was in possession of some of that quality when he suggested a different approach: the creation of an Academy Award for stunt work.

Establishing such an award wouldn’t just bring more movies into the awards-season conversation. It could increase public awareness about what it takes to pull off the most impressive feats in the blockbusters that drive so many movie ticket sales, and make sure that the people who do that work are valued — and protected.

According to a disturbing report from Scott Johnson in the Hollywood Reporter earlier this year, “the huge increase in streaming content … has led some productions and stunt coordinators — whose job it is to oversee all aspects of a production’s stunt work — to cut corners. … An official from SAG-­AFTRA says that with the jump in both the number of productions and their geographical dispersion, there comes ‘an increased risk of unqualified stunt coordinators’ who might be putting people’s lives at risk.”

A significant part of that content boom is happening in television, though streaming outlets such as Netflix are trying to play aggressively in movies as well. Wherever stunts are happening, though, elevating the people who perform them and the people responsible for doing those deeds in a way that’s both safe and convincing could help bring attention to this aspect of the movie-­making business.

Alyssa Rosenberg is a Washington Post writer.

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