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.
1980 – Ordinary 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.
1983 – Terms 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.
1989 – Do 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.
1990 – Dances 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.
1991 – Miller’s Crossing is not nominated for anything.
1994 – Forrest 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.
1996 – The 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.
1997 – Titanic 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.