Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve called out movies that actually deserved their Oscars, as well as movies that Oscar wrongly snubbed. For this week’s Roundtable, we’re going to take a look at movies that just plain had no business winning the trophies they took home. You better believe that there have been a bunch of those over the years.
Before we start, I figure that you guys are probably tired of hearing me rant about my hatred of ‘Forrest Gump‘ and ‘Gladiator‘. So, I’ll be going a different route for my own pick on this topic. (However, I can’t promise the same for the rest of the staff.)
- ‘Ghost‘ – I bet most of you have purged this one from memory. I’m sorry to remind you that ‘Ghost’ honest-to-god actually won two Oscars, for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay. Yes, that really happened. (It was even nominated for Best Picture too!) Have you seen this thing lately? It’s embarrassingly bad! I don’t necessarily have a problem with Whoopi Goldberg in general (she was much more deserving of her nomination for ‘The Color Purple‘), but her character in this is a one-dimensional, one-note stereotype at best. It’s not the sort of thing anyone deserves any award for. And Best Original Screenplay? Are you kidding me? This is like some horrible practical joke. ‘Ghost’ is a very, very bad movie that is staggeringly undeserving of being immortalized among so many of the best films of all time.
- ‘Crash‘ – The Academy Awards are littered with boneheaded decisions, particularly when it comes to the big daddy prize for Best Picture. Can anyone really argue that the everyone-is-a-little-bit-racist simplicity of ‘Crash’ is superior to the morally thorny issues that ‘Brokeback Mountain‘ or ‘Munich’ were concerned with? For some reason, the Oscar nominations will occasionally be gutsier when it comes to the smaller categories, but when it comes to Best Picture, they’re hopelessly conservative.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
- ‘Scent of a Woman‘ – What kind of terrible, terrible world do we live in where ‘Scent of a Woman’ could score so many Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay? To pour a shaker full of Morton’s into that wound, how did Al Pacino manage to take home one of those little golden statuettes for Best Actor? There is, of course, no argument that Pacino was an extraordinary actor, once upon a time. Those years were pretty far behind him in the rear view mirror by the early ’90s, though. I can only guess that ‘Scent of a Woman’ was the Academy’s way of making up for his seven nominations and zero wins up to that point. Pacino at this stage in his career had given up. Certainly throughout every last frame of ‘Scent of a Woman’, he’d stopped acting and settled for a grotesque, deliriously over-the-top parody of himself. I don’t know what’s worse: Pacino throwing all of that immense talent away, or Hollywood celebrating him for it. Depressingly, Pacino hasn’t looked back, and he’s been “HOO-AHH!”-ing it up in pretty much every role he’s latched onto ever since.
- ‘Juno‘ – There is no bloody way in hell this movie could be considered one of the five best of its year. (It doesn’t even come within a mile of the other nominees, which are all stellar works.) But the real bitch slap comes from the fact that Diablo Cody won for Best Original Screenplay. It’s “original” only in the sense that every line of dialogue is a load of hipster, trendy, referential, nonsensical garbage. Of course, the fantastic ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ script got robbed. That movie made a sex toy a more convincing and powerful actress than Ellen Page. ‘Juno’ is a horrendous film that’s only memorable due to how gimmicky its characters speak. Its presence at the Academy Awards ceremony, let alone a win, is a giant “Fuck you!” to each and every actor, actress, director and writer in the film industry, past and present.
- ‘The English Patient‘ – I’m with Elaine. I hate this movie. I just don’t get it. It’s just a slow, boring, pointless slog, with zero payoff at the end. This seems to be standard issue drudgery and pointless when it comes to author Michael Ondaatje’s work. In college, I was forced to read ‘In The Skin of the Lion‘, another ungodly boring tale. Afterward, Ondaatje came and spoke to us about his writing habits. His method? Write mountains of random scraps, toss them in a drawer, then pull them out and stitch them together into a larger work. No structure. No jumping off point. No overriding plan for the final product. That explains so much! I’ve seen the movie again and it never gets better. I still can’t believe this snagged Best Picture!
- ‘Disney’s Tarzan‘ – When I think Oscar winners that didn’t deserve their awards, my mind goes back to the year 2000, which still seems like the future in a weird way. It was a time when I was absolutely in love with ‘South Park’, as I think many of us were. The movie ‘Bigger, Longer & Uncut’ was up for an Oscar for the original song “Blame Canada,” which was performed by Robin Williams at the 72nd Academy Awards. It was a clever and well-written song on a clever and well-written soundtrack. Of course, “Blame Canada” didn’t get the win. The award went to Phil Collins for writing a song that sounds like every other Phil Collins song ever written. “You’ll Be in My Heart” is boring adult contemporary crap. It doesn’t have an edge, it doesn’t say anything that a million songs don’t already say, and it doesn’t do anything musical that hasn’t been done yet. It’s flavorless, predictable and all-around awful.
- ‘Forrest Gump‘ – I recently re-watched this movie thinking that maybe I had missed something the first go-round. But I had the same reaction as my initial viewing – annoyance at the clichéd characters and plotlines, and at all the neatly tied-up little bows. Compared to other Best Picture candidates ‘Pulp Fiction’ or ‘The Shawshank Redemption‘, ‘Gump’ has not stood the test of time. This dialogue from ‘Tropic Thunder‘ pretty much sums up how the Oscars work on this type movie/acting job:
Kirk Lazarus: Everybody knows you never go full retard.
Tugg Speedman: What do you mean?
Kirk Lazarus: Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, ‘Rain Man’, look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Counted toothpicks, cheated cards. Autistic, sho’. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, ‘Forrest Gump’. Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain’t retarded. Peter Sellers, ‘Being There’. Infantile, yes. Retarded, no. You went full retard, man. Never go full retard. You don’t buy that? Ask Sean Penn, 2001, ‘I Am Sam’. Remember? Went full retard, went home empty handed…
- ‘Chicago‘ – Some years, the Academy gets so caught up by glitz and glamour that it forgets about numerous other movies that deserve to win in the biggest category. Just thinking back on this Best Picture winner gives me the willies. Let’s see what other movies it went up against that year. Well, there were ‘Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers‘, ‘Gangs of New York‘, and ‘The Pianist’, to name a few. Come on! Any of those movies is more deserving than ‘Chicago’ was. I think this is the same phenomenon as ‘Glee’. A big lavish musical comes around and people flock to it saying, “Wow, we haven’t seen something like this in a long time. It’s revolutionary!” No matter how mediocre it really is. Just wait until the popular Broadway play ‘Wicked’ gets adapted into a movie. I’m predicting an Oscar win for it too.
- Honorable Mention: ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen‘ – I’m going pretty obscure on this one, but it’ll make sense. Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ was nominated for Best Achievement in Sound. I’m sorry, but any movie that features gigantic robo-balls disguised as humor and John Turturro in a thong should effectively be disqualified from being nominated for any Academy Awards. That, and the sound design to ‘Transformers: ROTF’ gave me a freaking headache. An Academy Award world where Daft Punk can’t get nominated for Best Original Soundtrack, but the hulking, clanking husks of robots can get nominated for Best Sound is just beyond me. How does crap like that happen? Good thing ‘The Hurt Locker‘ actually ended up walking away with the award, or I would have been livid. Sitting through a torturous 147 minutes of crashing metal and groaning robots isn’t my idea of impeccable sound design.
We know that you must have your own thoughts on this topic. Tell us in the comments which Academy Award winners you feel were the most undeserving.