10 Most Egregious Academy Awards Decisions

February 25th, 2009 by Barak

The Oscar winners have been announced. As expected, Slumdog Millionaire won all the major categories: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director for Danny Boyle. Sean Penn snatched Best Actor from Mickey Rourke, and Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor (big surprise…). The pick that made me mad was Kate Winslet for Best Actress. First, Meryl Streep deserved it. Second, The Reader is an awful movie and Kate Winslet portrays “a good Nazi.” That’s annoying in itself, and her performance isn’t that impressive: she came up with a reasonably good German accent, and she was naked during the entire first hour of the movie. I too can speak in a decent German accent with no clothes on; it doesn’t mean I deserve an Oscar.

To express my disappointment with the Academy for picking the naked Nazi, here are the top ten atrocities ever committed by the Academy decision makers:

10. The Academy ignores a group called Monty Python

Monty Python’s influence on comedy has often been compared to The Beatles’ influence on music. In their last film they even managed to explain the meaning of life. So why the hell weren’t they honored at the Oscars?

The Holy Grail (1975) melds the ridiculous with the sublime. This anachronistic social satire was an instant cult hit, generated a host of quotes, and even inspired a computer game 20 years later.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) is a scathing send-up of religion and Hollywood’s depiction of it. This second – and tightest – feature film, directed by Terry Jones, does for ancient Rome what The Holy Grail did for the Middle Ages.

In The Meaning of Life (1983), the group explains it all in an episodic comedy that dares to take on the most “sacred” aspects of life – sex, food, politics and religion – and bring them hilariously down to earth.

9. Shakespeare in Love gets the Oscars, Saving Private Ryan loses

Saving Private Ryan did get Best Director, but the much inferior Shakespeare in Love got both Best Picture and Best Screenplay at the 1998 Oscars.

Director Steven Spielberg‘s World War II tour de force chronicles the journey of a GI squad on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines. The first unforgettable 20 minutes of the movie realistically and horrifically depict the Normandy invasion as Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks), his second-in-command Sergeant Horvath (Tom Sizemore), and the others in the unit land at Omaha Beach. Saving Private Ryan is considered one of the best war movies ever made, while Shakespeare in Love is just another so-so period piece.

8. Kramer vs. Kramer gets the Oscars, Apocalypse Now loses

Kramer vs. Kramer is a well-observed adaptation of Avery Corman’s novel about the aftermath of a divorce. But to choose it over Apocalypse Now? The guys who made this decision in 1979 are nowhere to be found, probably in hiding.

The grueling production and Francis Ford Coppola‘s insistence on authenticity led to vast budget overruns and physical and emotional breakdowns. It was all worth it: Apocalypse Now is a surreal masterpiece, another of the best war movies of all time. With incredible performances and beautifully chaotic visuals, it’s an absolute must-see.

7. Scarface doesn’t even earn a nomination for Best Picture

Terms of Endearment is a deeply observed drama about the intimate relationship between a mother and daughter, based on the novel by Larry McMurtry. This decent but unremarkable drama won all the major awards at the 1983 Oscars. Scarface, one of the most memorable and beloved gangster movies of all time, didn’t even get a nomination.

Brian De Palma‘s gory saga of a Cuban immigrant’s rise to the top of Miami’s cocaine business has become something of a popular classic since its release. It’s been referenced in rap songs and subsequent gangster movies and quoted the world over. In one of his most memorable performances, Al Pacino stars as Tony Montana, whose intelligence, guts, and ambition help him skyrocket from dishwasher to the top of a criminal empire – but whose eventual paranoia and incestuous desire for his kid sister (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) prove his undoing.

6. Ridley Scott

1979: Alien, one of the best Sci-Fi movies ever, wasn’t nominated in any major category.

1982: Blade Runner, one of the most outstanding dystopian futuristic movies ever made, wasn’t nominated in any major category.

1992: With Thelma and Louise, Scott lost Best Director to The Silence of the Lambs, which is reasonable. But Thelma and Louise wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture.

2000: Gladiator got 5 awards including Best Picture, but Scott himself lost Best Director to Steven Soderbergh for Traffic.

2001: With Black Hawk Down, Scott lost again in the Director category, this time to Ron Howard and his uplifting, mad-genius tale A Beautiful Mind.

2007: American Gangster should have been nominated in a year when Michael Clayton and Atonement were.

Needless to say, the Academy isn’t big on Ridley Scott, and by now he’s not big on them. I foresee an Academy Honorary Award coming soon – I just hope he gets it while he’s still alive…

5. Orson Welles

Many consider Orson Welles the best director in the history of cinema, mainly thanks to two masterpieces. Citizen Kane (1941) is a landmark in cinema history and Touch of Evil (1958) is a near-perfect examination of the dark underbelly of society and the tragic downfall of a once-proud man. It’s amazing that Citizen Kane lost to How Green Was My Valley (John Ford), both for Best Picture and Best Director. Touch of Evil is worse: he wasn’t even nominated!. Welles was nominated as an actor for Citizen Kane (and lost), and once again ignored for Touch of Evil, although his portrayal of the racist Captain Hank Quinlan, a grotesque, troubled, and powerful figure, was absolutely brilliant.

4. Sergio Leone

This genius director never got the honor he deserved. The academy ignored him totally.

A Fistful of Dollars was the first true Spaghetti Western, and the first in Leone’s A Man with No Name trilogy, starring Clint Eastwood as the lone-wolf hero and a stunning score from Ennio Morricone. In The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Leone used vivid Cinemascope imagery to depict a bleak and bloody American West, in this final installment of the trilogy. In Once Upon a Time in The West, Leone used techniques previously unseen in the genre. Close-ups, color, and Morricone’s trademark score create a tense and somber meditation on death, widely considered to be one of the best westerns in cinematic history.

Once Upon a Time in America, an epic crime saga that runs nearly four hours starring Robert De Niro, James Woods and Joe Pesci, gave the Academy a chance to compensate for their shameful disregard of Leone’s movies, but they failed to do so. Sadly, this great movie was the last one Leone directed before dying in 1989 at age 60 from a heart attack (and without a single Academy Award).

3. Martin Scorsese

It all started in 1976 when Rocky won and Taxi Driver lost. Then came the outrageous decision to choose Ordinary People over Raging Bull. Martin Scorsese probably thought  – That’s okay, they’ll make up for their bad decisions with an Oscar for The Last Temptation of Christ. Wrong. Scorsese lost again and Barry Levinson (Rain Man) was the happy winner. It seemed like Scorsese couldn’t possibly lose with Goodfellas against Dances with Wolves. Kevin Costner and the Academy were the only people in the world that thought differently. No Oscar yet…

Scorsese was becoming desperate, so he made Casino – a movie with De Niro, Pesci and Sharon Stone in her prime. The Academy wouldn’t have the guts to ignore such a movie, would they? Wrong again. Casino wasn’t even nominated. In 2002 and 2004 he was hopeful again with Gangs of New York and The Aviator, and of course he lost again and again.

When Scorsese lost all faith in the Academy and possibly also himself and mankind, 2006 arrived with nominations for The Departed, not one of his best movies. The guys at the Academy may be cold-hearted, but even they probably couldn’t bear Scorsese’s usual disappointed Oscar face, so they finally gave him the Oscar. Well-deserved, just not for the right movie.

2. Stanley Kubrick

None of Stanley Kubrick’s movies ever won Best Picture or Best Screenplay. He himself never got Best Director. May I remind you that we are talking about the genius who made -

Paths of Glory (one of the best war movies ever), Spartacus (an amazing epic), Dr. Strangelove (brilliant dark satire), 2001: A Space Odyssey (one of the best Sci-Fi movies ever), A Clockwork Orange (maybe the best movie ever), The Shining (one of the best horror movies) and Full Metal Jacket (also an outstanding war movie).

Is it because his movies never have a happy end? Is it because he himself is a misanthrope? It can’t be because he’s British: just ask Kate Winslet and Danny Boyle.

1. Alfred Hitchcock

Probably the greatest director of all time, Hitchcock was too controversial for the square, conservative, boring people in the Academy (or maybe they do have something against Brits – Scott, Kubrick and now Hitchcock). He was nominated for Best Director 5 times (for Rebecca, Lifeboat, Spellbound, Rear Window and Psycho), and lost all five.

Strangers on a Train – ignored. Dial M for Murder – ignored. The Man Who Knew too Much, Vertigo, and The Birds – all ignored in the major categories.

After all of these outrageous decisions, the studios have the nerve to complain about the Academy members for tending to choose indie or foreign winners over the big, popular mainstream studio productions. Ha…!

To end on a positive note, I say to all the suffering cinematic geniuses out there: take comfort in the fact that you will be recognized eventually, just probably after you die. …

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