Is that new Oscar category a good idea?

The Oscars are adding an award for casting, beginning in 2026.
(Matt Sayles / Invision / AP)

I’m grabbing my board and heading ... to La Mirada? It has been that kind of week. Maybe this guy could recommend something off the menu to warm my spirits?

I’m Glenn Whipp, columnist for the Los Angeles Times and host of The Envelope’s Friday newsletter. Hope you’re drying out and, it goes without saying, rooting for the Niners. Let’s look at the week’s news.

Beginning in 2026, Oscars will reward casting directors

The Oscars will be adding a new award for the 2026 ceremony — and it’s not the one that people have been lobbying for over many, many years. (Sorry, members of the stunt community.)

The motion picture academy’s board of governors announced Thursday the first new Oscar category since the creation of the animated feature film category in 2001. It’s for “achievement in casting,” mirroring awards presented at the Emmys and the British film and TV academy awards.


“Casting directors play an essential role in filmmaking and as the Academy evolves, we are proud to add casting to the disciplines that we recognize and celebrate,” academy Chief Executive Bill Kramer and President Janet Yang said in a joint statement announcing the award. “We congratulate our Casting Directors Branch members on this exciting milestone and for their commitment and diligence throughout this process.”

Casting directors have their own branch within the academy and have been pushing for this prize for about as long as stunt coordinators have been campaigning for recognition. And as casting is an essential part of the filmmaking process, it’s hard to argue with the addition, provided, of course, that voters use it to recognize innovative work and not merely rubber-stamp the ensembles featured in the best picture nominees.

I have my doubts. Looking at the Emmys, which have four separate casting awards (drama, comedy, limited series/movie, reality program), you’ll find the nominees pretty much mirror the shows celebrated for top series. Oscar voters will likely follow suit. If the casting prize was awarded this year, I’d expect it to add to “Oppenheimer’s” overall haul, with “Barbie,” “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Poor Things” joining Christopher Nolan’s film as nominees. Oscar voters, unfortunately, too often equate biggest with best, and that will probably be the case with this new category.

But maybe the casting directors branch will offer a delightful surprise or two. Could impeccably cast comedies like Christopher Guest’s “Best in Show” or the Coen brothers’ “The Big Lebowski” have earned deserved recognition for their superb leads and deep benches? Well, dude, we just don’t know. And we’ll have to wait a couple of years to find out.

Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Steve Buscemi, Jeff Bridges and John Goodmantalk in a bowling alley in "The Big Lebowski."
Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Steve Buscemi, Jeff Bridges and John Goodman — part of the ace ensemble of “The Big Lebowski.”
(Merrick Morton / Gramercy Pictures)

Five Oscar categories still up for grabs ... and who’s going to win

The Oscars are still a month away, meaning there’s plenty of time for awards campaigners to sabotage the best-laid plans of their rivals and go through the ordeal of trying to find the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for their partner or perhaps, in lieu of that, simply throw themselves out of a second-floor window, à la “Anatomy of a Fall,” so they don’t have to A) shop for scented candles and B) endure one more awards season Q&A.


Most of the 23 Oscar categories are pretty much over and done. For some, thank-you speeches should be in the fine-tuning stages. For others, demonstrations of gracious defeat should be honed. (Paloma Diamond, I’m sure, would have some useful advice.)

But there are a handful of categories still up for grabs, which is good news for awards consultants trying to justify their retainers and columnists hard-pressed to find something — anything — to write about between now and the March 10 ceremony. (Why are the Oscars in March again? Asking for a friend.)

I looked at the five categories in question in a recent column, offering some early thoughts before the guilds weigh in, possibly causing me to change my mind (though probably not — unless Cillian Murphy prevails at the SAG Awards).

Cillian Murphy in a tight black-and-white frame touching his hand to his chin.
Cillian Murphy, nominated for his lead turn in “Oppenheimer.”
(Ryan Pfluger / For The Times)

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Global cinema the real winner at this year’s Oscars

Gone from The Times but never forgotten, my old friend Justin Chang wrote one last column for The Times, weighing in on his distaste for the idea of Oscar “snubs” and celebrating how the academy’s increased global membership made this year’s nominations a victory for international cinema.


Writes Justin: “Cannes, it’s worth noting, screens only a fraction of world cinema’s annual bounty. But its consistent influence at the Oscars — an event often assumed to be dominated by Hollywood-made, English-language movies — carries mighty symbolic weight, particularly on the heels of a year that was often written about, reductively, as being about “Barbenheimer” and nothing else. The mere fact that so many voters cast their ballots for a movie as purposely, defiantly uncommercial as “The Zone of Interest” should be heartening news to anyone who loves the Oscars but loves cinema even more.”

Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer.
Jonathan Glazer earned Oscar nominations for writing and directing “The Zone of Interest.”
(Annie Noelker / For The Times)


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