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If All the Discontinued Oscars Categories Were Still Awarded Today, Who Would Win Them?


Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

No one would ever accuse the Academy Awards ceremony of being too short—but it’s not as long as it could have been. The 24 categories we know and love are a pared-down list of all the categories that have existed over the decades. Since the first Oscars ceremony in 1929, several categories have been added and discontinued, whether because they were made redundant or because they became technologically obsolete.

When we at Slate started looking into the defunct categories, we wondered: If these categories existed today, who would deserve to win them? In an act of ahistorical conjecture, we have awarded a winner from the pool of eligible movies from 2015 in each discontinued Academy Awards category:

The Academy Award for Best Unique and Artistic Quality of Production, a somewhat ill-defined category that died after the 1st Academy Awards, goes to Sean Baker’s singular, energetic, cartoonish-yet-nuanced Tangerine.

The Best Original Story Oscar existed between 1928 and 1956 to honor the writers who came up with the idea or treatment for a film but may or may not have actually written the script. This year’s award goes to Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen for Inside Out, which featured one of the most original narratives in recent memory.

The award for Best Director, Comedy Picture, which was discontinued after the first Oscars ceremony, goes to The Big Short’s Adam McKay, who managed to make the financial crisis funny but almost certainly will not win Best Director.

The Academy Award for Best Dance Direction, originally awarded between 1935 and 1937, goes to Alison Faulk, Teresa Espinosa, and Luke Broadlick for the orgiastic climactic scene of Magic Mike XXL.

The Best Engineering Effects Oscar was awarded during the 1st Academy Awards and then discontinued. In modern terminology, “engineering” probably aligns most closely with practical effects, so we are giving the award to the pyrotechnic team behind the flamethrower guitar in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Best Original Musical or Comedy Score split off from the main original score category between 1995 and 1998. This year’s award goes to Theodore Shapiro, whose chipper, playful compositions were the perfectly schmaltzy backdrop for Nancy Meyers’ The Intern.

The Academy Award for Best Score, Adaptation or Treatment existed in the 1960s and 1970s and was mainly awarded to movie musicals adapted from the stage. This year, the Oscar goes to John Williams for adapting all his previous Star Wars themes for The Force Awakens.

The special category of Academy Juvenile Award was awarded intermittently to exceptional child actors between 1935 and 1961. Although Jacob Tremblay has gotten plenty of deserved plaudits for his performance in Room, Slate has chosen to give the juvenile award—and the miniature Oscar statuette representing the honor—to Abraham Attah, whose astonishing performance as a child soldier was the heart and soul of Beasts of No Nation.

The special category of Special Achievement Academy Award was awarded intermittently between 1972 and 1995 to individuals who made exceptional contributions in categories like visual effects, sound effects, and sound editing. In 1977, Ben Burtt received a Special Achievement Academy Award for achievements in “Alien, Creature, and Robot Voices” in Star Wars. This year, the award for Special Achivement in Alien, Creature, and Robot Voices goes to Bill Hader and Ben Schwartz, the vocal consultants for BB-8 in The Force Awakens.

The Oscar for Best Assistant Director was awarded between 1933 and 1937 and then discontinued, probably because it’s very difficult to detect and evaluate the impact an assistant director has on a film. This year’s Academy Award for Best Assistant Director goes to someone who proved his commitment to filmmaking in spectacular fashion. Spectre assistant director Terry Madden “suffered multiple fractures … when a camera truck veered off a road and crashed into a barn during a shoot in the Alpine ski resort of Sölden,” according to the Guardian. Thanks for your sacrifices, Mr. Madden, and we hope you’re feeling better.

The Academy Award for Best Title Writing was bestowed at the 1st Academy Awards and then disappeared. “Title” here refers to intertitles, the blocks of text that appear in between scenes in silent movies, but in an effort to modernize the category, Slate is awarding it to the film with the best name. Congratulations, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared!

The Academy Award for Best Short Subject, One Reel was awarded between 1936 and 1956. One reel of film corresponds to about 11 minutes, so this year’s winner is Pixar’s Sanjay’s Super Team, which clocks in around seven minutes.

The Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Two Reels (also originally awarded between 1936 and 1956) goes to Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow, which is 16 minutes long.

The Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Novelty (originally awarded between 1932 and 1935) goes to Matt Little’s “New York City rat taking pizza home on the subway (Pizza Rat).” (What could be more novel than a rat dragging a slice of pizza down a flight of steps?)

The Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Comedy (originally awarded between 1932 and 1935) goes to Nicholas Fraser’s “When she say she got a cute friend for you,” a.k.a “Why You Always Lying?”

The Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Color (originally awarded between 1936 and 1937) goes to Aubrey Drake Graham for the polychromatic “Hotline Bling.”