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The 10-Year Oscar Re-Vote

Let the academy correct the errors of Oscars past, on live TV.

Stills from A Beautiful Mind and Moulin Rouge!
Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind. Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge!

A Beautiful Mind © 2001 Imagine Entertainment. All rights reserved. Moulin Rouge! © 2001 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

During the Hive, we’re asking writers and editors from inside and outside Slate to present their ideas for improving the Oscars.

Ten years ago, academy voters had the privilege of choosing best picture from a diverse and dazzling array of films, all of which grappled with life’s cry for action and its unpredictable violence through vivid and uniformly moving means: English manners (Gosford Park), French theatricality (Moulin Rouge!), American desperation (In the Bedroom), and Hobbits (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring). Oh, and there was also A Beautiful Mind. Guess which movie won.

Ten years later, why not hold a re-vote?

And not just a token re-vote, but a re-vote with consequences, in which golden statues are repossessed and redistributed, the previous owners relegated to mere placeholders in history. Right after risking hip and limb in his opening number, Billy Crystal would become the ceremony’s grim reaper, forced to present new results for the most prominent awards from 2002. What pleasures those few minutes might bring! Watching the anticipation trying to mold itself on the face of Moulin’s Nicole Kidman, a decade older but less wrinkled, now with a chance at redemption (and more, since her The Hours victory would soon be up for review). Ron Howard (yes, it really did happen), at his gracious best but still caught on camera somewhere between scorn and trepidation. It wouldn’t take away from Halle Berry’s accomplishment; indeed, she might double her historic import, as the first African-American woman to win best actress and the first to lose it all over again. Perhaps even my best actor choice for ’02, Tom Wilkinson, would have a chance over Denzel Washington—an even better chance had the academy been able to correct Denzel’s unjustifiable Malcolm X loss (to Al Pacino, ugh) from 1993. See how the domino effect works?

We’d begin to have an officially sanctioned shadow awards, always 10 years the wiser, with perhaps less relevance but more respect. Think of the other changes! New Netflix categories to browse: “Oscar Make-Up Winners.” Richly understated performers will no longer have to poorly mask their disappointment (I’m looking at you, 2004 Bill Murray) at losing to their show-offy chameloid counterparts; instead they can flash signs that say, “See you in a decade.” And when names come up again as confirmed winners (Adrien Brody, Hilary Swank, No Country for Old Men), partisans will have to make tough decisions about old grudges—whether to put them to rest or extend them indefinitely.

There is no final judgment in the arts, only hash marks on the calendar for when we choose to look in again and reassess. It’s time the Oscars embrace this. If not this year, then soon; it’s not too late for those who gasped in horror along with so many others when Crash stole the honors from Brokeback Mountain in 2006. That vote’s coming up in a few years. Do it for Ennis.

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