Great Oscar Snubs Part 3: Top 10 Greatest Oscars Mistakes
Hello one more time, Dear Reader. You’ve made it to the final installment of Great Oscar Snubs. This is the one you’ve been waiting for (or at least my editor, Brandy Dean, has). These are the Top 10 Greatest Oscars Mistakes – acting and film winners that walked away with the top prize while a better nominee grimaced, clapped in pain, and then refilled their glass of liquid heartache.
This was both the easiest and hardest list to put together. Easy, because there is a deep chasm of awards that arguably went home with the wrong person. Hard, because this is the one topic everyone has an opinion about and it’s all so very subjective. Plus there are so many awards in question over the years, picking just ten is almost impossible. So I’ve decided to pick my personal 10 biggest award faux-pas, knowing that there are many, many more. So please, go ahead and let us know what you think were the bigger offenses.
Since my last two installments already listed some great films and performances that were not even nominated, for the purposes of this list, I’ll only mention the nominees that offered a superior option. Starting with the most recent. With out further ado here are
The Top 10 Greatest Oscars Mistakes
WINNER: BEST PICTURE
Really? When was the last time you popped this one into the DVR because it’s just so damn good? Granted, a lot of Oscar’s depressing subject matter make past winners difficult to watch more than once, but this overwritten, self-important “examination” of racism and class inequality will probably deserves the same shelf-life as Cavalcade. (Huh? Which? My point exactly). BETTER OPTIONS: Every other best picture nominee that year: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Goodnight & Goodluck, Munich
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
WINNER: BEST FILM, BEST ACTRESS
Granted, this film’s inclusion contradicts the statement I just made above. This is probably a film you would enjoy watching multiple times. It’s a fine rom-com, made all the more respectable cause it’s a period piece and a (literal) bodice-ripper, but when reflecting on the films and performances of the same year, it pales. Especially when considering the actress. Here, Gwynneth Paltrow barely impresses with her “British light” accent. Have her stand next to my girlfriend – sorry – current World’s Greatest Actress – Cate Blanchett, and her performance is downright flat.
BETTER NOMINATED OPTIONS: FILMS – Saving Private Ryan, Elizabeth. ACTRESS – Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth
Marisa Tomei in (1992) My Cousin Vinny
WINNER: BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
In my High School senior year, an awful – Stephen King’s Carrie – prank was played on two of the least popular kids in school. The Homecoming King and Queen actually got the least amount of student votes. Some political nastiness had led to the football jock and the head cheerleader messing with the ballots, and thus the band harpist and tuba player ascended the stage and joyfully wore the crowns and carried the scepters. Karma, though, is a bitch, because it backfired. All the other nominees had the good taste to not say anything, and so the King and Queen held that position for time immortal, and the pranksters, unbelievably handsome and hot in the 80s are probably now parking cars and pregnant (not necessarily in that order). Obviously, my point here is that I think the Price-Waterhouse number crunchers accidentally fed the wrong info into their master computer in 1993, because based on all the competition Marisa Tomei had as a Best Supporting Actress Nominee, someone done screwed up. Don’t get me wrong. Marisa Tomei is an incredibly talented actress, and her performance in My Cousin Vinny was cute, charming and thoroughly enjoyable. But feast your eyes on the nominees that year, and tell me what you think. BETTER NOMINATED OPTIONS: SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Judy Davis in Husbands & Wives, Vanessa Redgrave in Howard’s End, Miranda Richardson in Damage, Joan Plowright in Enchanted April.
Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
WINNER: BEST PICTURE
This was the year that, in my misguided youth, I thought the Academy’s old guard had made a final stand. Only Academy voters who went to matinees midweek and enjoyed Denny’s Early Bird Specials could’ve voted for this racially confused antique. (I’ve been proven wrong decades since, as the voting octogenarians still seem to raise a withering hand and mark an X in the boxes next to Shakespeare in Love and The English Patient.) Today, Driving Miss Daisy survives as nothing more than a Chris Rock punch line. BETTER NOMINATED OPTION: Born on the Fourth of July (EVEN BETTER OPTION: NON-NOMINATED Sex, Lies & Videotape)
WINNER: BEST PICTURE
A bloated, plodding history of the great Mahatma Gandhi, even under the grand performance of Ben Kingsley, the pre-emanate leader of Indian Nationalism is sexier in text than was rendered here by director Richard Attenborough. A perfect example of the older Oscar voters hoping to recreate the furor behind epics like Lawrence of Arabia. Today, it’s only epic in length. BETTER NOMINATED OPTION: Tootsie
Ordinary People (1980)
WINNER: BEST PICTURE
WINNER: BEST PICTURE
Bet you haven’t even sat through this one. (For argument sake, I have). This was the death knell for the Hollywood Musical 2.0, and stands the test of time only as the title that the Simpson’s so eloquently parodied with Streetcar! If you disagree, watch it again, and get back to me. BETTER NOMINATED OPTION: 2001: A Space Odyssey
My Fair Lady (1964) & Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins
WINNER: BEST PICTURE & BEST ACTRESS, respectively
This was one of those “make good” years. The My Fair Lady story goes Warner Brothers didn’t feel comfortable giving Julie Andrews the role of Eliza Doolittle that she made famous on stage, because she had yet to make a film. Instead, they went with the more “bankable” star, Audrey Hepburn, a strange choice because she didn’t sing in the traditional “Broadway” sense. So they hired Marni Nixon to sing for her. In hindsight, we all wonder why they just didn’t bite the bullet and cast Julie Andrews? Ironically, Disney made Mary Poppins that same year, and Andrews became the darling of Hollywood. Her subsequent Best Actress nomination and win that year is “unofficially” considered Hollywood’s apology and “make good” for the slight of giving her role of a lifetime to someone else. My Fair Lady itself is not a real stinker, but it’s by no means a well-crafted film. The charms are in the book and music. In fact, I would argue that My Fair Lady is more enjoyable if you just listen to the stage album than see the staid and uninspired film. BETTER NOMINATED OPTION: Dr. Strangelove
The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
WINNER: BEST FILM
Cecil B. DeMille was as “Hollywood” as Hollywood gets. While the title of The Greatest Show on Earth refers to the circus, it’s yet another example of DeMille’s self-aggrandized view of himself and his work. According to DeMille, his films were bigger, better, and bolder than anything else offered in entertainment. How could you not give that title the Best Film award? In all honesty, The Greatest Show on Earth is a thoroughly enjoyable popcorn movie – soap operatic in its episodic melodrama, over-the-top performances and black and white view of life. But when compared to two of the other nominees that year, as the “greatest”, it just doesn’t measure up. BETTER NOMINATED OPTIONS: High Noon, The Quiet Man. (EVEN BETTER NON-NOMINATED FILM: Singin’ in the Rain.)
Robert Donat (1939) Goodbye Mr. Chips - WINNER: BEST ACTOR
James Stewart (1940) The Philadelphia Story – WINNER: BEST ACTOR
One of the more famous “make good” awards, Goodbye Mr. Chips was a by-the-book, nostalgia-laden story about an aging teacher who recalls his career and personal life over the years. If you’re trying to convince a friend to dip their toe into the waters of classic film, don’t include this one. For its time, Goodbye Mr. Chips had the sentimental charm that audiences wanted, and Robert Donat’s effete performance and style was a safe and comfy choice for Oscar. But what was the Academy thinking? The same year, James Stewart acted the hell out of Jefferson Smith, the naïve junior senator who takes on corruption and graft in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It was obvious that the Academy felt so guilty, that they were ready to give Stewart a “make good” for whatever he turned up in next. That happened to be 1940’s The Philadelphia Story. Don’t get me wrong – it’s one of the greats, but there’s not a lot of heavy lifting to this role. Add to that the fact that he was nominated and won Best Actor for a role size that was arguably a supporting part, and you have the definite feeling something screwy was going on those two years. Either way, spend your time watching BOTH Stewarts performances, and leave Goodbye Mr. Chips in the Cavalcade bargain bin. BETTER NOMINATED OPTIONS- ACTING: (1940) James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, (1941) Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath.