Film fans, critics, and writers all have their opinions about the Oscars. In the days leading up to the Academy Awards ceremony, there are endless debates about who will win, and after the awards are handed out, there’s a lot more discussion about who did win, and who should have; it’s a favorite activity among movie lovers. There have been many books written about the Academy Awards, but one of the most unique is 1993’s Alternate Oscars, by veteran film scribe Danny Peary. The book details Peary’s choices for the categories of Best Picture, Actor and Actress from the years 1927 thru 1991. Peary also details his own list of “Award Worthy Runners Up” in place of the other nominees in each category.
Sometimes, Peary agrees with the Academy’s choices, but more often than not he doesn’t. That’s where things get really interesting. For example, for the year 1958, the musical Gigi won Best Picture. Peary’s winner is Touch of Evil, the classic noir directed by Orson Welles. For the year 1977, he chooses Sissy Spacek for Best Actress in Carrie over the Academy’s choice, Faye Dunaway in Network. It’s no surprise that Peary celebrates a number of often neglected genre films among his Oscar picks, as he’s the author of the acclaimed Cult Movies books, which celebrate the weird, wild and wonderful world of genre cinema. Some of his choices even address infamous snubs by the Academy: the alternate Oscar for 1982's Best Picture goes to Steven Spielberg’s E.T. over director Richard Attenborough's epic biography Gandhi, which was the Academy's choice.
Peary’s insightful commentary regarding the performers and the films he’s selected as the winners makes for fascinating reading. Many of his choices may open your eyes to some excellent films and performances you haven’t seen, or remind you of old favorites that you’ll want to rediscover. I do wish Peary would publish an updated edition of the book, as it would be wonderful to see his own choices for some of the more recent Oscar winners. One thing’s for sure, after you finish reading Alternate Oscars, it will probably open up a whole new series of discussions with your fellow movie fans. The book is currently out of print, but affordable used copies can easily be found at online retailers such as Amazon. Seek out Danny Peary’s Alternate Oscars, and let the debates and discourses begin!