Remembering The Oscars That The Academy Forgot

Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin speaks with Matt Atchity, editor-in-chief of the movie website RottenTomatoes.com, about Academy Awards that are no longer given out. Some previous categories include: best juvenile performance, best comedy score, best assistant director and best dance direction.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It is Oscar time, when movie buffs gather around their televisions to critique the gowns on the red carpet and cheer for their favorite Hollywood stars.

COLIN FIRTH: And the Oscar goes to Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: That was the announcement last year for the winner in the Best Actress category, a fan favorite unlikely to ever slip into Oscar oblivion. But plenty of other categories have done just that. For example, did you know that in Oscar's early years, there was a separate category for Best Dance Direction and another for Best Performance by a Juvenile. Those are just two of the categories that have been discontinued by the Academy. And for more on this, we spoke with Matt Atchity. He is editor-in-chief of the movie website Rotten Tomatoes. And we started off asking him for a little history about that category for juveniles.

MATT ATCHITY: They gave this award out infrequently from 1934 to 1960, and only 12 people got them. If you look at the names, it is pretty standard who's who of younger actors at the time: Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney, Dana Durbin, Judy Garland, Hayley Mills. And they weren't tied to a specific film. It was more tied to a body of work over the course of that year.

MARTIN: So, I'm looking through the list of the discontinued Oscar categories: Best Original Musical or Comedy Score.

ATCHITY: This one came out because Alan Menkin and his lyricist partner Howard Ashman had been winning the Best Score consistently for that Disney animation renaissance that started with "The Little Mermaid," and "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A WHOLE NEW WORLD")

REGINA BELLE AND PEABO BRYSON: (Singing) A whole new world, don't you dare close your eyes, a hundred thousand things to see, hold your breath, it gets better...

ATCHITY: But the Academy had seen that basically Menken was winning all these awards and they felt, well, OK, we need to be able to also give it to people, you know, our stalwarts, like John Williams and John Barry and Albert Bernstein and James Horner. So, they split them back off. And for about four years, you saw movies like "Emma" and "The Full Monty" and "Shakespeare in Love" win that award.

MARTIN: OK. Last question - and dream big here, Matt - if you could create any Oscar category, what would it be?

ATCHITY: I would like to just split out Best Film between Best Drama and Best Comedy. I would like them to see to do that with both the films and with the acting.

MARTIN: Because the poor comedic actors and the films, they never win, right, or rarely?

ATCHITY: Consistently. Consistently. You know, the Academy likes to work for the important artistic film and I would like to see them do what a lot of other organizations do and separate out the performances between comedies and dramas. I think that that would be really exciting.

MARTIN: Matt Atchity. He is editor-in-chief of the movie website Rotten Tomatoes. Hey, Matt, thanks so much for talking with us.

ATCHITY: Oh, thank you very much for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is NPR News.

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