Just because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has added a new, 17th branch for Casting Directors doesn't mean there will be a Best Casting Oscar anytime soon.
But that didn't stop Oscar pundit Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience from asking the question on Twitter, which yielded a lively debate. A Best Casting Oscar is unlikely to happen because it raises too many thorny issues. For one, the Academy hates imitating other awards shows like the Screen Actors Guild Awards, which give their "Best Picture" for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. The Independent Spirits give their Robert Altman Award to the director, producer and casting director.
With movies, the director has final say on casting, with a lot of input from producers and whoever is paying for the movie, be it foreign sales companies or studios, even if a gifted casting director like Marion Dougherty, the subject of recent HBO documentary "Casting By" (review here), or Juliet Taylor, who has introduced many up-and-coming actors to directors like Woody Allen, have a huge impact on who winds up in a film--or has a career.
I disagree with Mark Harris and In Contention's Guy Lodge that the Academy voters wouldn't know how to judge a Best Casting Oscar and it would default to a Best Picture popularity vote. The Academy's largest branch is the actors, and the rest of the Academy is pretty sophisticated about how these things work. This award could open up a particularly strong ensemble with no obvious Oscar-worthy lead role to awards consideration, or an indie film with a brilliant cast like, say, "The Usual Suspects" or "The Outsiders." One answer would be to share the Best Casting prize with the director.
I was reminded of all this by the Casting Society of America's announcement today of the nominees for the 29th Annual Artios Awards for outstanding achievement in casting, given in 22 categories including film, television and theater. You can tell there is no Oscar category for this because the CSA's NY and LA awards fêtes will take place on Monday, November 18. As you can see from the list below, they are looking back at last year, with no eye for influencing the awards to come. They might want to consider changing this!