When I watch movies-which I’ve done assiduously since 1966-I am often distracted. If a natural landscape appears, I immediately lose interest in plot, character and dialogue, and focus instead on where that landscape is, and if it is true to the movie’s geography. Such is the moviegoing ecologist’s curse.

I recently watched the remake of True Grit, an interesting but violent film, which gave me ample room for ecological distraction. The landscapes, which played a huge role in the film, were very carefully chosen, and lovingly shot. But they had absolutely nothing to do with the landscapes of 19th century Missouri, where the story was set. Instead, they were the shortgrass prairies, pine woodlands and cottonwood riverbottoms of New Mexico and West Texas.

At least the Coen brothers substituted ersatz landscapes on purpose; most directors choose them randomly, and count on the landscape illiteracy of their audience. The grassy oak savannas east of Hollywood have stood in for any number of landscapes, from the South of France to the Dakota Badlands. British Columbia’s landscapes have been pressed into bogus service any number of times, all for the sake of cheaper labor and movie tax credits. Wet coniferous forests are regularly substituted for tropical jungles. In Seraphim Falls, Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan manage to ride from an Oregon landscape to one in New Mexico over the course of a single afternoon.

I don’t mind so much when one city is cinematically substituted for another, because cities by and large are not unique. I didn’t even mind that much when my former community of Nelson, BC was made over into a Colorado town for Steve Martin’s film Roxanne. But I do grind my ecological teeth when one landscape is indiscriminately substituted for another, I guess because it reminds me of our collective landscape illiteracy.

So I’m proposing an Oscar for Natural Landscape Veracity. It would go mostly unbestowed.