OK, it’s time to get serious about the Century Awards for 1914. I’ve spent some time reviewing the way the Academy Awards work, and I’ve realized I needed to make a few changes. Below, you can see the categories I plan to use for the awards this year. It’s subject to change in subsequent years.
Let’s start with the big question I had to face: shorts vs. features. Pretty much all the categories in the Academy Awards (best acting, best makeup, etc) are only given to feature-length films defined as being over forty minutes in length. The only awards that shorts can compete for is “Best Live-Action Short Film,” Best Animated Short,” and “Best Documentary Short.” Well, in a world that’s defined by feature films, that makes sense, but features were just getting started in 1914, and that would severely limit my choices and also not really represent filmmaking as it existed at the time. The features have a bit of an advantage, because in general more work went into them, so in future years, I may start moving away from including all films of all lengths in all categories, but for this year that’s how I plan to do it. I’m also making no distinction between American and “Foreign” movies. This is an international award, and language makes little difference for silent movies. Obviously the categories relating to sound have been eliminated.
There are a couple of other choices I made: I’ve eliminated “Best Animated Movie” and “Best Documentary” for this year, because I didn’t see very many of them. I only saw one animated film (“Gertie the Dinosaur”), so I guess it wins “Best Animated Movie” hands-down. I’ve decided, however, that animation counts as “Visual Effects,” so that movie will be up for that category. There were no true documentaries at all that I managed to see. Let’s remember that a lot of films from the silent era are lost, and that I only had so much time to put into this project. I’m sure there were documentaries in 1914. “In the Land of the Head Hunters” doesn’t count, because it showed a fictional story – it’s in the running for all the usual categories.
One category I regret removing: “Best Score.” That may sound crazy, since these are silent films, but scores were often written and sent out in sheet music for presenters to give to their house orchestras. The problem is that I often can’t find a copy of a movie with that score included, and sometimes I can’t tell whether they’ve used an original score or some cheap public domain substitute on a DVD. So, I can’t make a fair assessment. If there’s a silent movie music fan out there that wants to take this on as their task for future years, contact me and we’ll try to work it out.
I’ve decided to simply give one award for screenplay, eliminating the distinction between “Best Original” and “Best Adapted” screenplays. That’s partly a matter of personal preference: I really don’t see the difference, since nothing is ever 100% “original” anyway, all ideas come from somewhere. But, it also saves me having to verify in each instance whether some long-forgotten novelette or theatrical piece actually preceded the movie.
I’ve added a new category also: “Best Stunts.” The Academy has resisted adding this as a category, I think for two reasons: one, in the world of CGI, it can be hard to distinguish a stunt from an effect, and two, having such a category would encourage people to take unreasonable risks in their stuntwork. Neither one applies to movies from 100 years ago, so I’m including it.
OK, enough with the rules, here are the categories for 1914. I’ll be announcing my nominations on January 15, 2015 (same day as the Academy Award nominees will be announced). There’s a difference, however, because I’m willing to take nominations from readers right up until Feb 28. So, if you think a movie should be up for a certain category, let me know in the comments. You can see all the 1914 films I’ve reviewed here.
Best Costume Design
Best Production Design
Best Film Editing
Best Visual Effects (incl. animation)
Best Supporting Actress
Best Supporting Actor
Best Leading Actor
Best Leading Actress