Best Unique and Artistic Quality of Production
What it means: The first Academy Awards in 1928 marks the only time the Academy gave out this award. F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans took it home, though the next year the Academy retroactively decided that Wings (the winner for Outstanding Picture) was 1928’s pinnacle of filmmaking.
The idea behind Best Unique and Artistic Quality of Production is more than just the usual Best Picture: it allowed for the Academy to give two different “top” awards, based on different criteria, effectively recognizing films that did something new and unique with the medium. Confusing? Probably, but if you look at the difference in the artistic and cinematic merits of Sunrise and Wings, you’ll see why they wanted to have their cake and eat it too.
Why have it: We now have a whopping ten spaces for Best Picture, out of which only one will bring home the statue. Why not provide a space where films that are not quite Oscar-bait material have a chance? Art pictures, indie films, experimental films…all can have their time to shine. It might mean that the Academy will begin to think a bit outside the Hollywood mainstream, encouraging the production of different kinds of films spurred by public recognition of their achievements.