As we look forward to this year’s Academy Awards on February 27th, let’s first take a look back at some of the grave injustices that have plagued the awards show throughout its checkered history.
For the purposes of this discussion, we’re defining a “snub” as either a movie (or person) that wasn’t nominated at all in a given category, or one that was nominated but lost to some less deserving candidate.
- Christopher Nolan – Among the newest batch of nominees, it’s hard not to focus on the snub of Christopher Nolan not getting nominated for Best Director. Keep in mind that the Best Picture category was expanded, for the first time in decades, from five nominees to ten, as a response from the public outrage that Nolan’s 2008 superhero epic ‘The Dark Knight‘ didn’t nab a nomination. Even if you didn’t think ‘Inception‘ was the greatest thing since sliced bread thrown down a zero gravity hallway (which I did), it’s hard not to be impressed with the artful craftsmanship with which Nolan fashioned the tale of dream thieves. Yes, perhaps its trippy outrageousness alienated some older Academy members who simply didn’t understand what the hell was going on. That’s all well and good, but to watch ‘Inception’ and not think that it was brought to the screen by a determined and accomplished artist is totally beyond me. Between his direction of the actors, his expert juggling of multiple storylines (and planes of existence), and the sheer wide-eyed awe that he handles everything else with… Even if you don’t think ‘Inception’ is a masterpiece, it’s a hell of an accomplishment. Christopher Nolan should have gotten recognition for that.
- ‘Citizen Kane‘ – Whenever I think of the most egregious Oscar snubs, I always think of how ‘Citizen Kane’ was largely shut out of pretty much every single award. Awards it should have won definitely include Best Actor, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Picture. In short, ‘Kane’ should have walked away from those Oscars with a record number of wins. Instead, it walked away with Best Screenplay and that’s it. The movie, which is widely accepted as the best film ever made, won one measly trophy at the awards show of awards shows. Sure, there are quite a few other big snubs out there, but the across-the-board snubbing of ‘Citizen Kane’ is unforgivable.
- Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant – For biggest Oscar snub, I pick a pair that often collaborated: Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant. Hitchcock was nominated for Best Director five times. As much as I love ‘Rear Window’, I can understand the 1954 Best Director going to Elia Kazan for ‘On the Waterfront’. However, three losses to Billy Wilder? That had to sting. I really enjoyed ‘The Apartment’, but compared to the job Sir Alfred did on ‘Psycho‘? Come on. And then there’s Cary Grant. He was only nominated for Best Actor twice. There’s no disrespect in losing to Gary Cooper, but to Bing Crosby (who was directed by Billy Wilder, no less)? That had to hurt. Then to not even get a nod for ‘Notorious’ or ‘Father Goose’ or ‘North by Northwest‘? So unfair. I suppose the flaw both Hitchcock and Grant had is that they made everything look too easy.
- ‘District 9‘ – I couldn’t tell you if it’s the worst snub of all time, but the one that stands out to me in recent years is ‘District 9’ losing the Best Visual Effects award. Neill Blomkamp’s first feature film is an eye-opener, reminding us that science fiction doesn’t have to mean “space opera.” Sci-fi can be grimy, emotional and complicated. It can deal with political issues in a real way, and it can make us think about the real world possibilities of meeting alien life. There’s no way the movie was going to get Best Picture, but it wasn’t just the story and directing that made the movie great. ‘District 9’ is also one of the very few movies that uses digital effects to create something that looks absolutely real, and it deserved recognition for that. Viewers can sit back and forget about the effects, and immerse themselves in the story. Forget the silly CG of the ‘Star Wars’ prequels. This is how it’s supposed to be done. But the Oscars voters have clearly come to prefer silliness over good special effects, and gave the award to the goofy-looking James Cameron cartoon ‘Avatar‘. Go Academy.
- ‘The Wrestler’ (Best Song) – I’m sure with a bit research I could find a bigger snub, but the one that stands out for me off the top of my head is Bruce Springsteen for his song “The Wrestler” in 2009. It’s not so much that I dislike the songs that were nominated that year: “Jai Ho” (winner) and “O Saya,” both from ‘Slumdog Millionaire‘, or Peter Gabriel’s “Down to Earth” from ‘Wall-E‘ – it’s the fact that the Academy chose only to nominate three songs in this category when they could have included five. For me, that’s the definition of snub, especially considering that “The Wrestler” was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Original Song just a few months earlier. Springsteen previously won an Oscar for “The Streets of Philadelphia” and was nominated for his song “Dead Man Walking,” so it’s a bit of headscratcher as to why he was so overlooked here. Perhaps Oscar is just not a fan of the film ‘The Wrestler‘? After all, even though Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei received nominations that year, both lost and the film was also overlooked in the Best Picture and Best Director categories.
- Paul Giamatti – Trying to picture ‘Sideways‘ without Giamattti’s quietly perfect turn as discouraged novelist, full time teacher, and overindulging wine snob Miles is just impossible. It’s just as hard to believe that he wasn’t even nominated. I don’t like to get too caught up in the drama of Oscar nominees and non-nominees, but are you F$%&ing kidding me?!! Without him, there is no ‘Sideways’, and ‘Sideways is one hell of a film!
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
- Stanley Kubrick – Quick! Straight off the top of your head, rattle off the five most universally revered filmmakers you can think of. Virtually every last one of you would’ve ranked Stanley Kubrick SOMEWHERE on that list, and many likely awarded him the top spot. The Academy apparently disagrees. To be fair, Kubrick and his films were continually nominated, with only ‘The Shining‘ interrupting what would otherwise have been a quarter-century long streak. Despite more than a dozen nominations in all – including four for Best Director! – Kubrick only took home a single statuette: Best Visual Effects for ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘. In fact, ‘2001’ wasn’t even in the running for Best Picture, and somehow ‘Oliver!’, of all things, managed to take home the top prize. Go figure.
- Mickey Rourke – Politics – man, do I hate ’em. I blame them for Mickey Rourke (‘The Wrestler‘) losing to Sean Penn (‘Milk‘) for the Best Actor statue. Penn was great as Harvey Milk, no doubt, but Rourke was in a completely different stratosphere (a far more awesome one) with his depiction of a down-and-out pro wrestler that, in my eyes, is one of the greatest performances ever.
- ‘The Empire Strikes Back‘ – ‘Star Wars’ not winning Best Picture isn’t the end of the world, but the vastly superior sequel not even getting a Best Picture nomination? Absurd! To be fair, ‘The Elephant Man’ and ‘Raging Bull‘, equally deserving films, didn’t win either. But the greatest sci-fi film ever made (a proven fact, just ask me!) totally got snubbed, with only a sympathy Oscar for Best Sound and an “honorary” win. Lame.
- ‘Pulp Fiction‘ – I have to go for some obvious ones here. We’ll start with the train wreck that was the 1995 Academy Awards, in which the despicable ‘Forrest Gump‘ took home 897 trophies, while Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’ was lucky to limp away with a token Best Original Screenplay consolation prize. (And the only reason it won that one is that ‘Gump’ was competing in the Best Adapted Screenplay category instead.) I’ve written of my hatred for ‘Forrest Gump’ elsewhere, so I won’t belabor that any further. ‘Pulp Fiction’ was so obviously a more vital, inventive, intelligent, and entertaining film. And yet it lost to the “Stupid is as stupid does” movie? How does something like this possibly happen? I just don’t understand the world sometimes.
- ‘Goodfellas‘ – Other than ‘Raging Bull‘, Martin Scorsese had kind of a dry decade in the 1980s. He made a few interesting movies, but nothing that inflamed the passions of either the critics or the public too much. But then he blazed back to relevancy in 1990 with his mob masterpiece ‘Goodfellas’, which is indisputably one of the greatest crime movies ever made, and just plain a great movie regardless of genre. ‘Goodfellas’ cemented Scorsese’s standing as America’s greatest living filmmaker. Yet the movie lost both Best Director and Best Picture to ‘Dances with Wolves‘. Now, I’m no fan of ‘Dances with Wolves’, but I can understand its middlebrow appeal to audiences and to the Academy. (I loved it when I was a teenager, before I was able to see through its Liberal Guilt fantasy nonsense.) In a year with weaker competition, I might give the Academy a pass on rewarding this one. Still, compared to ‘Goodfellas’… Well, there’s no comparison at all. Even when I actually liked ‘Dances with Wolves’, I realized that was a friggin’ joke.
- Any Movie Released the Same Year as ‘Gladiator’ – Really, Academy, you think that ‘Gladiator‘ was the best film of 2000? Honestly, you’re not kidding about that? That’s your choice? Did this movie even get any good reviews when it came out? I know that it made a lot of money, but so did ‘The Phantom Menace’, and who’s going to argue that one’s a Best Picture worthy film? It’s completely beyond my comprehension how this movie was even nominated for a “Best…” anything award, much less won the highest honor that the world filmmaking community has to give. It was my pick for the worst film of 2000.
Unleash hell! We’ve told you our picks for the worst Oscar snubs. Now tell us your picks in the Comments section below.