MoviefiedNYC: Top Ten Oscar Mistakes

Since the first Academy Awards presentation, Academy voters have consistently made what can only be called odd choices (sometimes controversial, sometimes just plain stupid) in their recognition or omission of various films. With this year’s peculiar snubs of Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director, and not-so-surprising disregard of The Master and its director Paul Thomas Anderson, 2013 has proven to be status quo for the Academy.
The Academy’s shenanigans began during the first Academy Awards in 1929 when it failed to nominate the silent masterpiece Sunrise for Best Picture. Instead, it received the slightly different award “Best Unique and Artistic Picture.”  The intention of this “unique” category was, in the words of Kim Newman,to honor both mainstream, audience-friendly ‘big pictures’ and the innovative, experimental, limited-appeal films” (those pesky little European art films that could). Oddly enough, the academy eliminated the “Unique and Artistic” category the following year in favor of “Best Picture” only and thus began the tradition of awarding the best picture to traditional, artistically moderate, and controversially harmless films while ignoring more innovative films: the passing over of Citizen Kane in favor of How Green was My Valley in 1941 stands as a classic example.
One can only imagine how many great films might have won an Oscar had the Artistic category remained. Certainly 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) would have won in this category, as a decade earlier, they might have recognized A Touch Of Evil (1958) along with Vertigo. More recently, The Tree of Life (2011) and The Master (2012) come to mind as strong contenders, in that fantasy world where the true best picture actually wins…
With the recent expansion from five to ten films in the Best Picture nomination pool—a tactic most likely employed to allow more commercially successful films to be nominated and thus increase broadcast ratings—we find ourselves back at watering down the pool to appeal to “mainstream, audience-friendly ‘big pictures.’”  The bottom line is: if the Academy is confused by an artistic and not-so-immediately accessible film, they don’t vote for it: witness 2012’s brilliantly-directed Holy Motors. However, if a film is epic, historic, visually stunning, politically neutral (Chariots of Fire, 1981), or, even better, about the film industry itself, it stands a good chance of taking home the Oscar.
In fact, that’s what happened in 2012: A black-and-white, silent (mostly), visually stunning film about Hollywood appeared unique to today’s audiences.  The voters for Best Picture thought they were bringin’ artistic back and deluded themselves into believing that they were voting for the Best Unique (without being new or unique) and [the] Artist[ic] Picture—in other words, The Artist walked home with the Oscar. 
In light of all this, we’ve decided to partake in some Academy-style shenanigans of our own, expanding our traditional Top Five List to a list of ten, ‘cause there’s so many darn Oscar mistakes to choose from. What’s more, in addition to films, we are opening it to all categories. In the immortal words from Paddy Chayefsky’s Network (1977), another unfortunate loser for best picture, we’re as mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore.”  Click on the movie title for scenes and trailers. 

—John David West

Oscar’s biggest mistakes as David sees it:


1)  1941: Citizen Kane loses Best Picture to How Green Was My Valley.

How Green was my Valley – Citizen Kane

2)  1980Martin Scorsese‘s film masterpiece Raging Bull loses Best Picture to Robert Redford’s Ordinary People.
Ordinary People – Raging Bull

3)  1981: Chariots of Fire wins Best Picture over Reds.

Chariots of Fire – Reds

4)  1952Singin’ in the Rainranked #5 on AFI’s 100 Greatest American Films is not nominated for Best Picture, while The Greatest Show on Earth wins. 

Gene Kelly

5)  2000: Julia Roberts wins Best Actress for Erin Brockovich over Ellen Burstyn’s unforgettably devastating performance in Requiem for a Dream.

Julia Roberts – Ellen Burstyn 

6)  1958: Hitchcock’s Vertigo is not nominated for best picture, perhaps an example of a film’s story not being immediately accessible to its audience. 
Kim Novak

7)  1989Do the Right Thing is not nominated for Best Picture, while the controversially harmless, socially conscious, and audience friendly Driving Miss Daisy wins.

8)  1976: Rocky wins Best Picture over Network (oh, and Taxi Driver).
Rocky – Network
9)  1930: City Lights is not nominated for Best Picture.

Charlie Chaplin 

10)  1998: Gwyneth Paltrow wins Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love over a more deserving Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station

Gwyneth Paltrow – Fernanda Montenegro
Oscar’s biggest mistakes as Myrna sees it:

1)  1994: Forrest Gump wins Best Picture over Pulp Fiction, arguably one of the most important and influential movies of the last twenty years.  


2)  1982: Gandhi wins over E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.


3)  1968: Stanley Kubrick, director of 2001: A Space Odyssey looses Best Director to Carol Reed for Oliver!.


4)  1964: “Chim Chim Cher-ee” (Mary Poppins) wins Best Song; it truly can not hold a candle to other year’s winners such as “The Morning After” (The Poseidon Adventure), “You Light Up My Life” (You Light Up My Life), and “You’ll Be in My Heart” (Disney’s Tarzan).


5)  1992: Denzel Washington in Malcom X looses Best Actor to Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman.



6)  1998: Saving Private Ryan loses Best Picture to Shakespeare in Love.



7)  1964: My Fair Lady won Best Picture over Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.



8)  1996: The English Patient wins over Fargo for Best Picture. Fargo is a dazzlingly funny and twisted take on the crime caper, and was one of only three movies from the 1990s listed in AFI’s first polling of the 100 greatest films.


9)  1972: Bob Fosse wins Best Director for Cabaret over Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather.


10)  1979: Apocalypse Now loses Best Picture to Kramer vs. Kramer.

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