I guess I’ll watch some of the Oscars this year. But not really with too much interest. I don’t care too much what the Academy decides for the simple reason that they so often snub the most deserving artists and movies. Aside from overlooking Citizen Kane and never once noticing Alfred Hitchcock, I think the biggest blunder in Oscar history occurred in 1976. And they’ve been getting things wrong ever since.
1976. It still baffles me that the Academy snubbed both Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro for their work in Taxi Driver. Scorsese deserved the award for taking a chance on this risky story that has become a modern classic. Instead of giving him the nod for his bold experiment, they honored John G. Avildsen for his good yet conventional Rocky. And DeNiro’s acting in Taxi Driver is one of the finest performances of all-time. He is able to make us both fear and sympathize with the lonely and deranged Travis Bickle, a job which very few other actors, if any, could have pulled off. By contrast, many actors could have successfully played the crazy Howard Beale in Network (nothing against Peter Finch).
1979. Apocalypse Now is one of the greatest films ever made. Intense performances. Stunning images. A profound story. Yet it lost Best Picture to Kramer vs. Kramer. The only thing I can figure is that the Academy was too PC and too chicken to give Best Picture to an anti-war film two years in a row, having given the honor to The Deer Hunter the year before.
1980s. I was too busy watching John Hughes films to have seen many of the movies nominated for Oscars in the Eighties. So instead of complaining about movies I haven’t seen, I’ll move onto to films I’m more familiar with.
1990. GoodFellas is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. Not only is it technically perfect, but its themes are timeless and universal, revealing the human lust for power and the many evils and disastrous consequences of crime. Yet the Academy felt that the best movie of the year was Dances with Wolves. Dances with Wolves? Fifteen years later, people are still watching and discussing GoodFellas. But when was the last time someone asked if you wanted to come over and watch Dances with Wolves?
1991. I love The Silence of the Lambs, but Jonathan Demme deserved to lose to Oliver Stone. Stone took great risks in JFK and the results were nothing short of astounding, as he made a mesmerizing film out of a story that would have been boring in anyone else’s hands.
1994. Quentin Tarantino Is Snubbed, Part One. At least Pulp lost to the lovable Forrest Gump.
1995. Susan Sarandon received a pity vote when the Academy gave her, and not Elisabeth Shue, the Best Actress award. Sarandon was very good in Dead Man Walking¸ but she didn’t come close to matching Shue’s brilliant portrayal of Sera, a hurting, vulnerable, and scared prostitute in Leaving Las Vegas. Worse than this dis, however, was the one suffered by Sean Penn. Penn’s portrayal of a murderous death-row inmate in Dead Man Walking was intense and dead-on and far more impressive than Nicolas Cage’s portrayal of a suicidal alcoholic in Leaving Las Vegas.
1996. Fargo lost to—get ready for this—The English Patient. What does the Academy have against unconventional crime films?
1997. Quentin Tarantino Is Snubbed, Part Two. This time his film, Jackie Brown, wasn’t even nominated. And this was the year in which the very mediocre and entirely formulaic Good Will Hunting received a nomination
1998. Jim Carrey shined in one of his first dramatic roles, playing the title character in The Truman Show. Yet he wasn’t even nominated.
2001. I never saw Monster’s Ball, but Haley Berry’s acceptance speech was so frickin’ vain and ridiculous that I wish someone else, anyone else, would’ve one Best Actress.
2003. Okay, maybe Lord of the Rings deserved to be recognized by the Academy. I suppose the films were quite an achievement, so blah blah blah let’s give it an award or two. But it was ridiculous that it won an Oscar for every single category it was nominated for. It might’ve deserved some of these awards, but some were clearly unmerited. Example: American Splendor had a unique and brilliantly structured script yet LOTR beat it out for Best Adapted Screenplay. Gimme a break.
2004. Quentin Tarantino Is Snubbed, Part Three. Even after seeing Million Dollar Baby, I think Kill Bill is the best movie of the year. Not only is every scene of the film fun and filled with surprises, but the movie contains quite a bit of beauty and depth. And not only did Quentin get snubbed, but so did David Carradine, who was amazing as the creepy Bill. And while we’re speaking of snubs, where’s Jim Carrey? And how did Ray receive a nomination, while Mean Creek and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind did not?