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Worst Oscar choices


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The Oscars 2005 thread inspired me to start a new topic the mini-Ebert in me has always wanted to kick around.

What are the worst choices the Academy has ever made? These can be sins of omission or commission.

I'll start by nominating an entire year, 1997. First and foremost, where were all the awards for The Apostle? Did the Academy really believe Titanic, The Full Monty, Good Will Hunting and As Good as it Gets were BETTER "best picture" candidates than The Apostle?

Sure, Duvall was up for best actor, but that was it. Where was his nomination for best director? Screenplay? Where were the supporting actress nominations for Miranda Richardson and/or Farrah Fawcett?

The supporting actress category: Maybe the weakest in the history of the Academy. (OK, OK, that's hyperbole ... but certainly the weakest in my lifetime.) L.A. Confidential, a great movie with great performances by a bunch of men (Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell) gets only one acting nomination ... for supporting actress? What exactly did Kim Basinger do to merit a nomination other than look smashing?

Gloria Stuart nominated for Titanic? Minnie Driver for Good Will Hunting?

In the best actor race, Duvall -- the clear standout -- lost to Jack Nicholson winning a third Oscar for playing a variation of the neurotics he's perfected over the last 40 years.

And Peter Fonda for Ulee's Gold ... you could just hear those Academy members saying, c'mon, we've got to give a third Fonda a nomination even though Peter never changed his expression through the whole darn film. (For my money, Fonda should have gotten a supporting nomination two years later for The Limey, but noooooooo ...)

Start ranting, folks.

"The most important thing is that people love in the same way. Whether they are monarchists, republicans, or communists, they feel pain in the same way, as well as hatred, jealousy, fear, and fear of death. Whether you are a deeply religious man or an atheist, if you have a toothache, it hurts just the same." - Krzysztof Kieslowski

"...it seems to me that most people I encounter aren't all that interested in the arts. Most of the people who are my age ... appear to be interested in golf, fertilizer, and early retirement schemes.... I will stop caring passionately about music, books, and films on the day that I die, and I'm hoping for Top 100 album polls in the afterlife." - Andy Whitman

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I was fine with the

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I think Shakespeare in Love winning much of anything is a travesty.

Oh yeah. Jaw-dropper. But most people didn't seem to mind. At least not in my circles.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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FWIW, I too did not care for L.A. Confidential all that much -- as I've been saying for years, the plot was wound so tight around the characters that they didn't breathe. I made a point of seeing the film a second time just to see if I had missed anything, and, well, no, I hadn't. Titanic, on the other hand, went down just fine the second time I saw it -- but mind you, the second time I saw it was in the first or second week of the film's release, before the hype got REALLY crazy.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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What exactly did Kim Basinger do to merit a nomination other than look smashing?

or smashed up bully.gif (ba dum bum).

For me it is most any movie that Miramax deluges the trade papers with ads for. But gee, that's most every year right? I mean, c'mon, The English Patient?!?!?! Why in the world???

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1985

The Color Purple

0 FOR 11!!!!

The biggest snub in Oscar history! If ever there was a move that let us African-Americans know where our stories and experiences stand in the eyes of the Academy, that's the move. No disrespect to Denzel and Halle. But their Best Actor/Actress roles really could have been played by any actor regardless of color. "The Color Purple" was ultimately and decidedly an African-American story. Zero wins.

The very thought of this makes me angry.gif .

Add "Do The Right Thing" to this list as well. 2 throway nominations (Best Screenplay/Best Supporting Actor). Gimme a break! I was very proud to see Kim Basinger take a stand for that film during that year's Oscar ceremony.

Edited by utzworld
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L.A. Confidential might not have given its characters room to breathe, but my biggest gripe with Titanic is that it didn't have characters. That, and it kept putting me to sleep.

Agreed about the Shakespeare in Love criticism, though. Don't even get me started on Gwyneth ....... cripes, she beat Cate Blanchett that year.

"The most important thing is that people love in the same way. Whether they are monarchists, republicans, or communists, they feel pain in the same way, as well as hatred, jealousy, fear, and fear of death. Whether you are a deeply religious man or an atheist, if you have a toothache, it hurts just the same." - Krzysztof Kieslowski

"...it seems to me that most people I encounter aren't all that interested in the arts. Most of the people who are my age ... appear to be interested in golf, fertilizer, and early retirement schemes.... I will stop caring passionately about music, books, and films on the day that I die, and I'm hoping for Top 100 album polls in the afterlife." - Andy Whitman

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Elizabeth might not have been a great film, but Blanchett knocked my socks off.

After watching You Can't Take It with You again the other night, I find it hard to believe it won Best Picture, even in 1938. Fine group of actors, but the rewrite of Kaufman/Hart's stage play, although it starts promisingly by upping the stakes, degenerates into belabored dead-horse beating in the third act. Frank Capra is at his least restrained and appears to have lost track of the story about halfway through.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

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1985

The Color Purple

Beaten by Out of Africa, which would be my pick for one of the most god-awful "Best Picture" winners in Oscar history. I'm with you Utz... Despite all the controversy surrounding the adaptation of Walker's novel and Spielbergs tendency to Disney-ize his subject matter, Color Purple is still one of my favorite movies of the 80's.

Still fresh in my mind, is the despicable snubbing Bill Murray recieved this year. angry.gif

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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I dunno, utzworld, I don't remember caring for either The Color Purple ("serious" Spielberg films are always a dicey bet, especially when they don't take place during World War II) or Do the Right Thing (which, as I recall, seemed a bit too didactic and/or incoherent) all that much when I saw them back in the '80s. I especially didn't buy Basinger's line about the latter film telling some sort of "truth" that no one wanted to hear. Maybe I should see 'em again ...

To be fair, the films that won Best Picture in those years -- Out of Africa and Driving Miss Daisy -- haven't stuck with me either. Maybe I should see those films again, too.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Elizabeth might not have been a great film, but Blanchett knocked my socks off.

Hmmm... I love the film, but then I did do some writing on it during my degree and that does always increase my love when being more objective I would find fault. But come on! Hair chopping to Elgar's Nimrod! Great!

Bear with me on this one but I was very, very dissapointed that Belleville Rendezvous/Triplets of Belleville lost out to Finding Nemo. Not because I don't like the latter, but because for a brief moment after Spirited Away it looked like the Best Animated Feature award was about to become a really exciting category for recognising new and dynamic forms of animation, even those not primarilly in English. But by picking twice in three years the biggest American release, all it's becoming is just the excuse to keep animated films out of the Best Picture running which it was designed to be. (And, yes, I do agree that it's very, very unlikely that an animated film would have won Best Picture but the sheer act of Beauty and the Beast being *nominated* was a huge deal. And the chance of that recognition being repeated has now gone) It could have been one of the highlights of the Oscars for those who like to see non mainstream work get its due. Instead it's destined to become an annoying non-category in an already too bloated evening.

Phil.

Edited by Shantih

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Bear with me on this one but I was very, very dissapointed that Belleville Rendezvous/Triplets of Belleville lost out to Finding Nemo. Not because I don't like the latter, but because for a brief moment after Spirited Away it looked like the Best Animated Feature award was about to become a really exciting category for recognising new and dynamic forms of animation, even those not primarilly in English.

I would happily agree with you, if only Triplets were a better film. Nobody walked into it hoping harder that it would be on a par with Spirited Away, and as much as I appreciated what it was, it wasn't that. Not even close.

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I just tracked down the 1985 nominees and was startled to see that Sydney Pollock

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I think Shakespeare in Love winning much of anything is a travesty. (Sorry, Beth.)

I liked Fonda in Ulee's Gold...

No need to apologize to me just because I'm borrowing Gwyneth's Viola as an avatar! tongue.gif It's not because of her performance! While I think Shakespeare in Love is a lot of fun, I agree that it probably shouldn't have won any awards.

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The Color Purple

0 FOR 11!!!!

The biggest snub in Oscar history!

Actually, it's tied with 1977's The Turning Point, which also lost all 11 awards for which it was nominated.

My personal pic for worst Oscar choice would have to be Julia Roberts win over Ellen Burstyn in 2000. While I thought Julia was just fine in Erin Brockovich, IMHO she didn't hold a candle to Burstyn's performance in Requiem for a Dream.

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

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Alan Thomas wrote:

: ROTK didn't deserve many of its awards (esp: soundtrack/score) . . .

Oh, it's a fine score, actually. But there WAS some debate about its nomination, since, like a lot of sequels, it does re-use motifs that were written for the earlier films. (I forget which thread dealt with this, but Lord of the Rings is now the only film series to win Oscars for two of its films' soundtracks, the other winner being TFotR. TTT was not even nominated.)

: Another example: Judi Densch's award for Shakespeare in Love. Truly, Dame

: Densch deserved an award, for Mrs. Brown and other wonderful performances--

: but not for this bit part and all of 10 minutes on screen (if that).

Agreed.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Judi Densch's award for Shakespeare in Love. Truly, Dame Densch deserved an award, for Mrs. Brown and other wonderful performances--but not for this bit part and all of 10 minutes on screen (if that).

I would also agree with this. And here's another example of an actor winning for one movie but deserving the award for another. Maybe a little different, since the actor spent a large amount of time on screen... perhaps also subjective to my personal taste. Richard Dreyfuss won the Best Actor Oscar for 1977's The Goodbye Girl, yet I feel gave a much better performance that same year in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Maybe it's just my bias against the lightweight material of Neil Simon, but I felt Dreyfuss' performance in The Goodbye Girl was over the top in many instances, and nowhere near as believable as his Roy Neary character.

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
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I dunno, utzworld, I don't remember caring for either The Color Purple ("serious" Spielberg films are always a dicey bet, especially when they don't take place during World War II) or Do the Right Thing (which, as I recall, seemed a bit too didactic and/or incoherent) all that much when I saw them back in the '80s. I especially didn't buy Basinger's line about the latter film telling some sort of "truth" that no one wanted to hear. Maybe I should see 'em again ...

Just wondering...

What were/are your issues with "The Color Purple" and "Do The Right Thing"?

Needless to say, I bought Basinger's statement. The "truth" in which she spoke of is part of the everyday reality that we African Americans live with: various ethnic groups opening businesses in Black neighborhoods who rake big dollars but fail to honor the community that's feeding them those dollars; constant intimidation, harrassment, and "accidental" deaths by the police; people so broken that their identity revolves around the amount of cash they carry or how loud their radios blast the latest jams or their addiction to alcoholism; the overall feeling of being loathed and hated by other ethnic groups simply because you exist. It may not beyour truth...but it's definitely OURS.

As I said in my original statement, it is unfair that those films, which triumphantly expressed a portion of the African American experience, were not given their proper honor and respect by the Academy. And, in spite of Halle Berry's claims that "the doors have been kicked open" by her winning Best Actress, those doors still looks shut to me. African-American actors/filmmakers (those not named Denzel or Halle or Spike) are pigeon-holed by the studios into making comedies and action flicks. Any African-American based film that ISN'T a comedy or action flick is usually a low-budget, grass-roots effort that can only shot/completed/released with financial contributions by other African-Americans (see "Woman Thou Art Loosed". The closing credits include a lengthy listing of African-Americans who contributed $$$ to get the film MADE!).

When Oscar time comes, those films are forgotten and tossed to the side...while almost every other culture in American and the world is free to express their cultural experience on film and get the nominations/wins for that expression. That is not fair at all.

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Personally I didn't think Do The Right Thing was all that didactic at all. In fact I think part of it's brilliance is how it merely portrays the problem without really taking sides (kinda like Soderbergh's Traffic only more character oriented). I think it's a brilliant film that was horribly snubbed. I mean, how can you possibly say that Driving Miss Daisy was a better film? I think Do The Right Thing was easily the best film of 1989. I highly recommend picking it up and revisiting it if you get a chance, preferrably on the excellent Criterion disc that's out there.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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utzworld wrote:

: What were/are your issues with "The Color Purple" and "Do The Right Thing"?

I thought I indicated that in my post. Since I haven't seen either film in over 15 years, I'm not sure how much detail I could go into now. My memories of the former film are tainted by the critiques I have read since then which slam Spielberg for missing the point of the novel with his usual over-the-top sentimentalism (e.g., the colour purple is valuable because it is supposed to be rare, so of course Spielberg floods the screen with it), and my memories of the latter film boil down to people talking about race and talking about race and then starting riots for no good reason; add to this the memory of me thinking, "Boy, four-letter words sure sound extra-funny when spoken with a Korean accent," and the gratuitous ice-cube-on-the-nipple shot, and the review in the New Yorker which pointed out that you don't have to be racist to react to a guy who blares his music too loud in your store -- at THAT volume, said the critic, even Philip Glass would be likely to drive someone into a frenzy.

: The "truth" in which she spoke of is part of the everyday reality that we African

: Americans live with . . . It may not beyour truth...but it's definitely OURS.

True, as a Canadian, and especially as a Vancouverite, I can't say African-American (or African-Canadian, if such a term exists) issues are a part of my everyday reality. My friends and colleagues are much, much more likely to be Chinese or Sikh or whathaveyou, and quite a few Canadian films have expressed that aspect of our culture lately. So perhaps this makes me insensitive to those truths. Or perhaps it makes me more objective when evaluating the films as films.

Anders wrote:

: Personally I didn't think Do The Right Thing was all that didactic at all.

I am thinking here primarily of scenes like the one where Spike Lee gets the one Italian guy to rattle off all his favorite entertainers and then points out the hypocrisy of being racist when most of those entertainers are black.

: In fact I think part of it's brilliance is how it merely portrays the problem without

: really taking sides (kinda like Soderbergh's Traffic only more character oriented).

Whoa! You thought Traffic DIDN'T take sides!?

: I mean, how can you possibly say that Driving Miss Daisy was a better film?

I wasn't aware that I had.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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SDG:

: Not that Elizabeth was a great film.

Yes.

: (I)f only Triplets were a better film.

Yes.

1997 is a wacky year for me regarding Best Picture nominees, as my feelings regarding all five films (As Good As It Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential and Titanic) are nearly equivalent (that is, like-but-not-love). So I'll stay out of that discussion.

Secrets and Lies, the best film of the 1990s, lost out the previous year to The English Patient, but an even worse miscarriage of 1996 cinematic justice (since TEP isn't a bad film) was the Best Actor category, where one of the worst "mentally challenged" performances in the history of cinema (Geoffrey Rush in Shine) beat out one of the best (Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade).

Also, even though I don't hate American Beauty, any of the non-Kevin Spacey performances nominated in 1998 -- Russell Crowe, Richard Farnsworth, Sean Penn, Denzel Washington -- would have been a considerable upgrade.

Dale

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Whoa! You thought Traffic DIDN'T take sides!?

If by not taking sides you mean "I have no idea what the solution to the problem is," but perhaps that is a side. Let me be clear, I think it's a great film (one of Soderbergh's best, perhaps second to Out of Sight) but I guess I didn't come out of it feeling that I had been preached at. Maybe it's because I agree with the movie. Hmmm. Have to think about it some more.

Either way, I suggest you go back and revisit Do The Right Thing because I really think it is Spike Lee's masterpiece.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Anders wrote:

: If by not taking sides you mean "I have no idea what the solution to the problem

: is," but perhaps that is a side.

Heh, the question is not what *I* meant by "not taking sides", but what YOU meant, since you're the one who brought up the term!

: I guess I didn't come out of it feeling that I had been preached at.

Huh. I did. I believe, in my review, I even cited scenes like the one where one of the characters responds to a guy's speech by saying, "Are we on CNN or something?" The didacticism of the film was so blatant even the characters started to notice it.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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