It’s Oscar weekend and that means it’s time to whine about what was snubbed (not much love for
Llewyn Davis, eh?) or what was undeserving of a nomination ( Philomena for Best Picture? What?). Let’s face it: Year after year, we watch these awards ceremonies, even though everyone has a strong opinion about this, that, and the other snub.
Truth is Academy voters do tend to make bizarre decisions, leading to these 15 movies, for example, that clearly did not deserve to take home the big prize in their respective years. Feel free to agree or disagree and leave your thoughts in the comments section, where I will promptly disregard them.
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The King's Speech
Hmmm... a straightforward crowd-pleasing story about a guy overcoming difficulties with uplifting results. That's
The King's Speech in a nutshell, and boy was it Oscar bait 101. The 2010 victor beat out The Social Network, The Fighter, Black Swan, Toy Story 3, Inception, and Winter’s Bone. You could be blind-folded, throwing a dart at that list, and you'd manage to pick one that would have been more deserving of the crown.
American Beauty came out in 1999, everyone gave into the excessive hype. "It's a commentary, man, on the conformity of bourgeois surburbia and stuff," we all said as we watched Wes Bentley cry while talking about a plastic bag blowing in the wind. It was deep for the time; and, sure, it's still a pretty decent movie. But did it deserve to beat out The Insider or The Sixth Sense (Oh, M. Night, we miss you)? Nope. Not to mention that un-nominated were classics like Being John Malkovich, and the first Matrix.
My Fair Lady
The Oscars' ugly bias against comedy reared its head in 1964 when voters gave
My Fair Lady (a fine musical, indeed) the top prize over Stanley Kubrick's hilarious-to-this-day anti-war satire Dr. Strangelove. Fifty years later, political black comedies are still kneeling before the Strangelove throne. My Fair Lady should have moved its bloody arse to the side.
Dances with Wolves
Until he won Best Picture for
The Departed (definitely not among his best), Martin Scorsese suffered a series of ridiculous upsets, including the 1990 crown going to Kevin Costner's middle-brow mediocrity Dances with Wolves instead of friggin' Goodfellas. GOODFELLAS. 24 years later, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks that's acceptable.
Speaking of Scorsese upsets.
Rocky was a good movie, yes; a timeless classic, perhaps. But did it deserve to be honored as the "BEST" of 1976 when facing Scorsese's Taxi Driver? Nope. Or the movie that warned us all about the perils of the 24/7 news cycle, Network? Nope.
One last Scorsese upset to discuss; this time in 1980. The solidly-acted
Ordinary People beat out Raging Bull, the greatest sports movie of all time and Robert De Niro's crowning achievement. Meanwhile, in hindsight and by comparison, Ordinary views like a dated drama you catch on TV late at night.
While patronizing, overly sappy, and a bit too long,
Forrest Gump is actually a good movie. I enjoy it. You probably enjoy it too. But how it beat out Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction -- perhaps the seminal movie of that decade -- for the 1994 prize is truly beyond me.
Chock full of lazy racial stereotypes, formulaic tension, and
social messaging, 2004 Best Picture Crash had all the subtlety of a cute little girl getting shot in the chest in slo-mo. In other words: It was a ham-fisted melodrama. And it was terrible. Continuing their trend of going with the safe pick, however, voters selected this star-packed dullard over more impactful films like Brokeback Mountain, Capote, and Good Night, and Good Luck.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Look, I'm a Tolkien fan; you're a Tolkien fan; we're all Tolkien fans. But that doesn't mean the third installment in the
Lord of the Rings trilogy deserved to win Best Picture in 2003. Giving LoTR3 the crown seemed solely like a celebration of the fact that we all made it through the trilogy. Cinematically, it was the weakest of the three, and, frankly, Mystic River and Lost in Translation were better movies.
A Beautiful Mind
Lord of the Rings: The first installment of the trilogy absolutely deserved the Best Picture nod. Did it get it? Nope. Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind took that crown in 2001. The fascinating story of economist John Nash was good, but pretty standard fare when compared to the epic achievement that was the first LoTR. Also: Not nominated at all that year were Memento and Mulholland Dr., who also obviously deserved it over Mind.
Chicago was a good musical film. But of the especially weak 2003 Oscar class, it definitely wasn't the best. The glitzy glam of Chicago seemed like an odd choice over Roman Polanski's The Pianist.
Driving Miss Daisy
This 1989 Best Picture winner has become synonymous with the sort of bland, well-intentioned safe picks known as "Oscar bait." It's not a bad movie -- heck, most of the films on this list are good -- there's just no way it deserved to be celebrated as "best" that year when placed against classics like
Born on the Fourth of July, Field of Dreams, Dead Poets Society, and My Left Foot. Also, the clearly superior Do the Right Thing wasn't even nominated.
How Green Was My Valley
1941 saw what might be the worst Oscar upset of all time.
John Ford's middling family-friendly drama How Green Was My Valley somehow beat out Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, widely considered the greatest film of all time. In hindsight, no one ever talks about Valley, but Kane is still making an impact.
Shakespeare in Love
Saving Private Ryan. Harvey Weinstein practically bought the votes for the very adequate Shakespeare by funding an army of highly-skilled publicists. The result was the snubbing of arguably one of the greatest war films ever made.
The English Patient
I won't say much about 1996 winner
The English Patient beyond the fact that it was obvious Oscar bait that no one remembers today. Meanwhile, it beat out the Coen Brothers' Fargo, which is an essential part of '90s film canon. Oh, and Trainspotting also came out that year.
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