Thursday, February 2, 2012

All-Time Top 5: Mistakes Were Made; The Academy’s Most Egregious Best Picture Flubs

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the Academy messes up.  A lot.  There's celluloid blood on their hands. For an awards ceremony so iconic, the number of times they've ignored something crucial makes for a pretty impressive rate of failure. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and there's no going back to correct the damage done, so, it falls to everyone else to point out the hits and misses each year like clockwork.  Amazingly, for all my grievances, I realized I'd never bothered to make a list of the biggest Oscar insults. So, in honor of the snubbing The Tree of Life will inevitably receive, I present a shortlist of the films nominated for Best Picture that really should have made the cut.

5. WINNER: In the Heat of the Night  / LOSERS: The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Books have been written about 1967 as a groundbreaking year for American cinema.  
Literally. Mark Harris' Pictures at a Revolution recently detailed the film quake through the lens of the five nominated films in that particular year.  It's a politics of old vs. new, of race relations vs. controversy, of violence vs. sex vs. censorship.  The Graduate and Bonnie and Clyde were tremendous risks that paid off in nearly every conceivable way.  From them we gained an increased celluloid freedom, a new standard of public acceptance, and two undisputed classics.

4. WINNER: All About Eve / LOSER: Sunset Boulevard (1950)
I hesitated here.  I quite like All About Eve.  In fact, it made it to #4 on my list of favorite Best Picture winners. Still, in 1950, I can only imagine the race was a tight one, and there was another very deserving drama queen story in the running: Sunset Boulevard.  As pure entertainment, I'm of the opinion that you can do no better.  Beyond that, however, Sunset Blvd. is perhaps the greatest film Hollywood has ever produced about Hollywood. It's a lush, tragic, pitch-black comedy noir with an unforgettable performance by Gloria Swanson and a highly literate, satirically biting script.  I'd also note, it says significantly more about silents than current favorite The Artist...  

3. WINNER: Forrest Gump / LOSER: Pulp Fiction (1994)
This one seems incredibly obvious to me. Honestly, I have no idea how Forrest Gump won.  Even though I was a child when it came out, I remember thinking its Oscar win was the wrong decision.  Forrest seemed trite to me then and now I really have to ask: are people still taking that movie seriously?  
Pulp Fiction, comparatively, was the paragon of cool and an all-time great piece of pop culture.  It turned around careers, rewrote the crime saga, had a script that's still echoed, and seemed to usher in a new enthusiasm for sharp, brutal indie dramas.  All that and I'd rather hear a reference to a royale with cheese over life being like a box of chocolates any damn day.

2.  WINNER: Ordinary People / LOSER: Raging Bull (1980)
I'm of the opinion that Raging Bull is a masterpiece and that it's very nearly criminal that the only Oscar Martin Scorsese has ever actually won was for a remake (The Departed).  Damn this movie is good. The cinematography during the fight scenes alone would be worth a Best Picture win, but when you add a mercurial, dangerous young Robert De Niro into the picture, the film transitions from 'sports film' to 'high drama'.  This is a bitter, nasty character study that offers an unapologetic glimpse into the fractured mind of its power-hungry protagonist.  Yet, Scorsese has captured it elegantly, and the film remains oddly timeless. Ordinary People, meanwhile, has not aged well. 

1. WINNER: How Green Was My Valley / LOSER: Citizen Kane (1941)
Explain this to me.  No, really. I need you to explain this to me. I can't even... I don't even... I mean, have you SEEN How Green Was My Valley?  

Honorable Mentions: 
Going my Way's win over Double Indemnity, , Slumdog Millionaire's win...period, 
 A Beautiful Mind succeeds over Moulin Rouge!, No Country for Old Men beats There Will Be Blood


  1. agreed! half of those winners... who even remembers them? And slumdog millionaire... god I hate that movie.
    But oh my, no country won over there will be blood?? I can't believe it, I was so convinced there will be blood won that oscar! I was in denial.

  2. I am still sort of in denial, even though 'No Country' was a decent substitute (though it doesn't really compare to how crazy good 'There will be Blood' was). Slumdog Millionaire, though....yikes.


    It should win every year, for everything!


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