And Another Thing…

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Up the Academy

 I missed this year’s Academy Awards and no skin off of my nose for two reasons: first, I have not seen any of the Best Picture nominees yet. Second, I stopped taking the Oscars seriously a long time ago. Below, I will offer my admittedly subjective, 100% biased list of the biggest goofs that Academy voters have made in recent years. Feel free to agree, disagree, or add your own along with an explanation.

1980Ordinary People beats Raging Bull for Best Picture. Ordinary People is certainly not a bad movie, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Raging Bull.  Neither the first nor last time that a Martin Scorsese picture was to get hosed.

1983Terms of Endearment beats The Right Stuff, The Big Chill, and Tender Mercies for Best Picture. Speaking as a mental health professional, I think a more appropriate title for Terms of Endearment might have been “Terms of Enmeshment.” Shirley MacLaine’s character was one of the most obnoxious, overbearing characters in movie history, with an obscenely co-dependent relationship with her daughter who more often than not played the mother role. By the way, if you have not seen Tender Mercies, do something about that. One of Robert Duvall’s finest performances (and that’s saying something) in a tearjerker about family, redemption, courage, and faith. The final shot gets me every time.

Speaking of Duvall – I think the fact he has only won an Oscar once in his career speaks to Academy goofs.

1989Do The Right Thing is nominated in only two categories, and wins in neither one. I think that Spike Lee is a mouthy, racist jerk. But that doesn’t change the fact that Do The Right Thing was an energetic, tightly-directed movie filled with engaging characters, memorable dialogue, and that it provoked remarkably strong reactions in every person who saw it.

1990Dances With Wolves beats Goodfellas for Best Picture. Nothing against Kevin Costner’s direction or a good western, but Goodfellas was Scorsese at the top of his game and Costner just can’t hold up against it.

1991Miller’s Crossing is not nominated for anything.

1994Forrest Gump beats The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction for Best Picture.  I always felt that Gump was a little too much like the title character: good-natured but dumb as a bag of hammers. Also, am I the only person who noticed that Forrest’s “romance” with Jen-ny consisted mostly of her using him as a crutch when she needed him and then running off and abandoning him when she got back on her feet? Doormats do not make for compelling heroes. Shawshank managed to create a genuine feeling of uplift and hope from a story set in a prison, no less. Compare these two snippets of dialogue. The first is from Gump, the second from Shawshank:

“Mama always said life was like a box a chocolates, never know what you’re   gonna get.”

“I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

Really no comparison, is there?

Pulp Fiction was a wildly original ride through the underbelly of Los Angeles with some of the funniest dialogue ever committed to film. Christopher Walken’s monologue on the peculiar history of a particular family heirloom is a classic.

Also from 1994, Frank Darabont does not even get nominated for Best Director for The Shawshank Redemption.

1996The English Patient beats Fargo for Best Picture. A long, pretentious, and interminable picture, Patient tells the story of a man who sells out the free world for his lover. Yeah, a real testament to the human spirit, fellas.

1997Titanic wins Best Picture. Granted, when the boat sinks (approximately 4.5 hours into the movie) things get interesting. However, prior to this the viewer is forced to sit through a ponderous, cliché-ridden, trite love story that a freshman English major would be embarrassed to submit to an instructor. Particularly gag-inducing is the scene where Kate Winslet stands at the bow of the ship, spreads her arms and screams, “I’m flying! I’m flying!”

Keep in mind that the Academy chose this over L.A. Confidential.

__________

Well, those are mine. So I put it to you, cinephiles. What do you think are the most egregious mistakes that the Oscars have made over the years? Any category is welcome, including Best Actor, Actress, Director, Supporting, etc.

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18 Responses

  1. Kelli says:

    Great topic! I agree with you about Gump… Shawshank should have won. And I also agree that L.A. Confidential should have won over Titanic. My most recent “outrage” is the fact that The Golden Compass won for Visual Effects over Transformers! 🙂 That really is ridiculous. Here are some other personal (and probably naive) choices:

    While I enjoyed Shakespeare in Love, I think Saving Private Ryan should have one best picture in 1998.

    Robert Redford should have won for Quiz Show over Robert Zemeckis (Gump). Tom Hanks made that movie… not Zemeckis. (I’m not a big Pulp Fiction fan, so I can’t really say Tarantino should have won.)

    Don Cheadle should have won best actor over Jamie Foxx in 2004.

    The geek in me would liked to have seen Ian McKellen win best supporting actor for LOTR in 2001.

    Enya should have won for best song with May It Be in 2001. Much better than the Monsters, Inc. song.

  2. odgie says:

    Kelli – If the Don Cheadle role you are referring to is “Hotel Rwanda,” then I couldn’t agree more. It’s ridiculous that Cheadle doesn’t have an Oscar for something yet.

  3. Trey says:

    I loved both Gump and Shawshank. But it always seems to me I don’t know any of the movies or people they are talking about, so I don’t watch.

  4. Rollerpimp says:

    There are TWO very good reasons that Titanic won.

    Boring piece of crap Driving Miss Daisy over Field of Dreams.

    Boring Chariots topping Raiders of the lost ark

    The Thin Red Line ever being nominated for anything.

    I agree on all parts. The oscars have surprised me a couple times though, like giving it up to Silence of the Lambs and Unforgiven. Great movies but great movies, as you have pointed out get passed over all the time.

  5. Jerri Harrington says:

    I fell asleep during the Oscars, which is my comment about them, especially this year. I’m sure Juno won at least something, since I am the only person I know in the free world, besides my husband, who didn’t love that movie. We kept waiting for the grown-ups to show up. I fell asleep in that movie, too, apparantly during the best part, in which the father of Juno finally acts like a dad. (I think he was an obscene comedien during the 70’s–Richard Carlin, I think). Right now I’m listening to a new series with one eighth of an ear–Quarter century–similar dialogue to Juno, by the way. I’m officially an over-the-hill grandma. I don’t speak the same language as the “new generation”…..I hate that term, by the way…..hated it when I was a part of the “new generation”. My next door neighbor told me that young people want to be “edgy”. I think that means that they can say anything they want as long as they are being “honest”. That sums up Juno to me.
    I am all for authenticity, but authenticity with the purpose of growing beyond what is true about myself today.
    Authenticity apart from personal growth isn’t very interesting.

  6. Dave Roland says:

    Kelli, I used to agree with you about the whole Saving Private Ryan v. Shakespeare in Love thing–I was kind of ticked off at the time. But in the last couple of years I’ve re-watched Shakespeare in Love a couple of times… and it really is a fantastic film. So much so that I think I have finally come to the conclusion that, just perhaps, it deserved its win.

    In the meantime, I will NEVER accept that Crash was even nominated for Best Picture, much less that it beat out the truly amazing Brokeback Mountain. That, for me, was when the Academy lost any remaining shred of respectability.

  7. John says:

    Mike, you might want to check out No Country For Old Men. It is worth trying simply because it is a Coen brothers movie. The actor who won best supporting was definitely amazing – just plain creepy in a he’s-going-to-kill-me-because-I-sneezed sort of way. Where I think they got it wrong was that he really wasn’t a supporting actor. I enjoyed it enough that I’m now reading the book, and will post a review on my blog soon, which unfortunately has received little attention from myself while we’ve been moving.

    I also want to see There Will Be Blood. I thought this year’s crops of movies were actually pretty good.

  8. odgie says:

    Trey – You’re probably not missing anything by not watching

    Pimp – I liked “Driving Miss Daisy,” but I agree it is not a better movie than “Field of Dreams.”

    Jerri – Interesting take on “Juno.”

    Dave – Have never seen “Shakespeare in Love” so I can’t comment. But I thought that “Saving Private Ryan” was excellent. Also, I saw “Crash” and never got what the big deal was. Haven’t seen “Brokeback Mountain” either.

    John – I will probably rent “No Country For Old Men” when it comes out. I never got to see it as Christine had no interest; but I love me some Coen Brothers. Have you seen “Miller’s Crossing”? It’s one of their earlier ones and man is it good.

  9. This just goes to show that we don’t remember who lost. I had no idea that there were these used-to-be matchups. And I have to agree with you every time I know movies that were competing.

    Looking back, it seems like the choices have a lot more to do with the political, social mood of the day. I’m just glad that doesn’t apply to theology, preaching, church music, etc.

  10. J D says:

    Ordinary People was one of my favorite movies of all time. On many levels it seemed like such a personal movie … maybe it’s just me.

    Forest Gump … why did it have to be made? Everyone loves it but me!

  11. Tim says:

    I had to come back because I realized that Breach was not nominated for anything this year. It is in my top 5 for the year and should have nabbed a couple noms for writing if nothing else. Stupid Oscars.

  12. odgie says:

    Frank – I have no doubt that the movies that are selected are often reflective of the flavor of the month, whatever that may be.

    John – Hey, no offense. I think that “Ordinary People” is a fine movie that says a lot about self-destructive families and parental favoritism. And Timothy Hutton delivers a great performance (I wonder why he has never reached those heights again). I just think that “Raging Bull” is, on the whole, a better movie.

    Tim – “Breach” is a good movie. In addition to the writing, I think that Chris Cooper’s performance is excellent. I have heard from people who worked for the CIA and the FBI that Cooper’s portrayal is spot-on.

  13. preacherman says:

    Didn’t Pulp Fiction win an Oscar? Or John Travolta for Pulp Fiction?

  14. preacherman says:

    I really enjoyed the Usual Suspects because it was a thinking movie.
    I think Kevin Spacey did a wonderful job on that movie.

  15. odgie says:

    Preach – Travolta was nominated but didn’t win. Same with Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, and Quentin Tarantino for Best Director. However, Tarantino did win for “Best Screenplay”.

    Also, Spacey did win for “The Usual Suspects,” as did the screenplay. Both well-deserved, in my opinion.

  16. Micah says:

    Well in my opinion the Oscars is really a “give the award to the biggest lefty” thing. Which film hates on America the most this year is usually the best.

  17. andy says:

    You know, I’ve been a baseball fan for my entire life (though MLB is really testing my patience here) but I could never get into Field of Dreams. I wouldn’t even rank it in my top 5 baseball movies.

    I agree with earlier comments on The Usual Suspects and LA Confidential, those are both in my top 10 favorites. Both should have been Best Picture

    I’ll pass on the Gump/Shawshank/Pulp Fiction question, I’m a big fan of all three.

    I can understand the Dances With Wolves and Chariots of Fire choices. I’m not sure I’d actually pick them but I can understand the choice.

    I never managed to sit through the English Patient and I wish I hadn’t sat through Titanic.

  18. odgie says:

    Micah – No doubt there is a political element to the Oscars. Of course the whole thing is something of a mutual appreciation society. I don’t know how anybody sits through it at all anymore.

    Andy – I also can understand why “Dances With Wolves” and “Chariots of Fire” won. Both have powerful emotional content along with other strengths.

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