I spent much of Saturday with my brilliant friend Sharon, and one of the subjects we covered at length was different ways of looking at art forms. One of the interesting areas, for me, was an idea of regarding the physical skills of many screen performers as part of what we call ‘acting’. It’s what actors do on screen as part of playing the role, so how is it not part of what we call acting?

Obviously people have been appreciated and loved by filmmakers and audiences for such abilities since the very early days of movies (I am writing this with Buster Keaton on my TV screen, albeit in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum), but when do people ever include such aspects in considerations of awards? Why shouldn’t a good acting (conventional sense) performance by Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly*, plus fantastic dancing, be worth an Oscar? Or to take a recent example, what about combining Jet Li’s rich and already badly underrated performance in Hero with his peerless martial arts skills, and how is that not then the performance of the year? I’m not trying to argue that we should stop looking at portrayals of emotion and the like in favour of noting physical or athletic qualities only (“And the winner of the best actor Oscar is…The Rock!”), but I can’t think of a single reason not to include those qualities at all.

* I’m not 100% certain I could cite such a performance with great confidence (not my territory), but you take my meaning, I hope.