Thoughts on… Worst Oscar Snubs

The Oscars have crowned 87 films as the “Best Pictures” of their respective years. Some years have been incredibly strong and others relatively weak – 1975 features classics One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Jaws, while 2000’s main attraction was the less-than-stellar Gladiator – which means that the Best Picture label isn’t always indicative of cinematic quality. The Best Picture from one year may be wholly inferior to the second or even third best film of another year, and in many cases that’s true. There are also glaring inconsistencies and mistakes even within single years. Films with old, white people shedding racism or phobias or stuffy period dramas play to the Oscar voters and rake in the votes sometimes over superior films that might just be too edgy or critical for voters. We have some personal examples of poor Best Picture decisions (Silver Linings Playbook was better than Argo, Wolf of Wall Street was better than 12 Years a Slave, and The Dark Knight was better than Slumdog Millionaire to name a few) but those are relatively close and Vig is limiting me to just 5 cases and an honorable mention. So, here are Vig’s and my top 5 examples of when the Academy Award for Best Picture did not go to the best movie. ~Will

Honorable Mention

Citizen Kane loses to How Green Was My Valley 

Goodfellas loses to Dances with Wolves

Taxi Driver loses to Rocky

Apocalypse Now loses to Kramer vs Kramer

Number 5

Star Wars loses to Annie Hall

Star Wars is one of the most beloved, iconic films of all time. The upcoming sequel is the most heavily anticipated movie since the last installment in the Harry Potter series. It may be the most anticipated film of all time, sequel or not. My point is, the Star Wars series is so beloved because the original is awesome. It would be a deserving Best Picture film most years, including 1977. That being said, I am a huge Annie Hall film. It pains me to include this film on the list. I find the movie hilarious, charming, and straight-up entertaining. However, for the love of what is good and true, I couldn’t ignore this snub, as much as it hurts me to say so. Love both films, but it’s clear to anyone with some good sense that Star Wars is superior.

Pan’s Labyrinth loses to The Departed

I love The Departed. It’s one of my favorite movies, and in many other years it would deserve Best Picture. It’s gritty, dark, thrilling, and features great performances from a fantastic cast including Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jack Nicholson. It also has a killer soundtrack, as many Scorsese movies do. Pan’s Labyrinth, though, is better. It’s spellbinding, innovative, gloriously creative, and also reflective of a period of upheaval and suffering in Spain. It contrasts childhood imagination with tyranny in what is one of my absolute favorite movies of all time. I can’t fathom the fact that it wasn’t even nominated. The only silver lining is that The Departed, another great movie, won.

Number 4

Apocalypse Now loses to Kramer vs Kramer

Francis Ford Coppola is legendary director, one of the greatest of all time, no doubt about it. Apocalypse Now was the 4th and final film in a string of masterpieces that he put together. It’s also, in my opinion, the most moving. It has so much depth, a beautifully crafted story, and stunning acting by Marlin Brando and Martin Sheen (even if Brando was apparently a huge pain to work with). Kramer vs Kramer, on the other hand, is a very good film and features Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman at their very best, a combination that is tough to beat. That being said, it is no where near as poignant and well-crafted as Apocalypse Now, which is about a good a film as you’ll ever see. 

The Shawshank Redemption Should Have Beaten Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump is widely cherished, especially by many of my friends. Every time I say I dislike it they chastise me for it and insult my movie tastes. Forrest Gump took one of the most complicated, complex, and important periods in American history and boiled it down to single-take shenanigans and the idea that everyone, with just the right amount of belief, can achieve anything! How marvelous! Meanwhile, The Shawshank Redemption uses actual drama and character work to create inspiration. I’m not the world’s biggest Pulp Fiction fan, but I would gladly have seen it beat Forrest Gump as well. Tom Hanks shouldn’t have won Best Actor either. Let the hate commence.

Number 3

Fargo loses to The English Patient

This is my favorite Coen Brothers film, and its not even close. It is darkly comical and super interesting. The universe has an incredibly realistic feel to it all, but is perfectly countered with a surreal plotline. Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, and Steve Buscemi are all awesome, giving the movie a trio of very different, but interesting characters. On the other hand, The English Patient is… boring. It’s dangerously drury, to put it simply. Ralph Fiennes is pretty good, but besides that, The English Patient isn’t even comparable to Fargo. I guess putting a human being through a wood-chipper is too much for the notoriously conservative Academy voters.

Goodfellas Should Have Beaten Dances With Wolves

Martin Scorsese’s films are on this list three times. Twice his films were robbed, and once, with The Departed, he lucked out. Goodfellas is one of my favorite movies of all time, and rightly so. It’s thrilling, despite its long run-time, and it features great performances from Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, and Robert De Niro. Dances With Wolves, on the other hand, is insipid, dry, and bloated. It’s another Oscar movie where white people shed their prejudices. Yay! Frankly, the two movies aren’t even in the same league. Dances with Wolves is playing tee-ball while Goodfellas is playing ball in October.

Number 2

Taxi Driver loses to Rocky

Rocky is an iconic film, don’t get me wrong. It is the ultimate underdog film, and so many of its scenes, lines, and moments have been etched in movie history. That being said, it is not even close to being the best film that year. In fact, its probably the third best film, Network being the second best. Taxi Driver, on the other hand, is one of the greatest films of all time. It is probably my favorite Scorsese film. It is gritty, intriguing, and strikingly original. Robert DeNiro delivers one of his best performances, an electric albeit haunting turn as a psychopath taxi driver. Not only is this film entertaining, but it’s symbolic. A lot more than Rocky, in my humble opinion.

Saving Private Ryan loses to Shakespeare in Love

Seriously? Shakespeare in Love is so melodramatic. Maybe I’m not “sophisticated enough to understand its significance” as I’ve been told a number of times. In my opinion, I’m not pretentious and enough to care. The first 20 minutes alone of Saving Private Ryan are more than enough to trounce Shakespeare in Love and send it back to the pompous place whence it came (see, I can write like with histrionics too!). Saving Private Ryan is the ultimate war film, detailing the emotional and physical toll of battle while still developing its memorable and complex cast of characters.

Number 1

Saving Private Ryan loses to Shakespeare in Love

Oh man, don’t even get me started on this one. This is the most atrocious snub in the history of the academy. I don’t know how the hell the Academy screwed this one up, especially considering that this film fits perfectly within the Best Picture mold. And unlike a lot of winners, it’s actually good too! It is Spielberg at his best, Hanks at his best, and Damon at his best. Saving Private Ryan is emotional, realistic, and perhaps the greatest war film ever– and that’s saying something. Shakespeare in Love on the other hand is cute, but that’s about the most praise I can give it. It’s a sappy romance that is not even in the same realm of excellence. Congrats, Shakespeare in Love, you’re the most undeserving Oscar winner in history.

Star Wars loses to Annie Hall

It’s not that I hate Woody Allen. Sure, I’m skeeved out by some of the things he’s done in his personal life, but I actually quite like Midnight in Paris, another Allen film that stars Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and Marion Cotillard. No, it’s not that I don’t like Woody Allen. It’s just that I don’t like Annie Hall. It’s boring, pretentious, and frankly annoying. Diane Keaton is great, and I like her character, but any scene with Woody Allen just grates on my nerves. Star Wars, on the other hand, is the space epic that spawned possibly the biggest entertainment franchise in the world. As a singular movie, which is how it was being judged by the Academy, it is vastly superior to Annie Hall. Star Wars is epic, entertaining, emotional, and innovative, four things that Annie Hall only pretends to be.


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