Well, with cinemas back to being closed thanks to another national lockdown, I’m having to fill a lot more time than I anticipated. So, I have to come up with a bunch of these listicles and I thought, you know what? It’s January — I want a good rant. And since there’s no Oscar ceremony this year, now is a more perfect time than ever to rant about some of the worst decisions that the Academy has made over the years.
Now, to be fair, a lot of these dumb wins or dumb nominations that the Oscars list, people often act like they’re the worst thing ever and they’re not always, and they often also are based on so much hindsight. And to be fair, hindsight—as the saying goes—is always 20/20. So, for this list, I decided I wanted to try and avoid this: “in hindsight that film was a terrible idea,” and mainly on decisions that were dumb at the time, and even then, I wasn’t able to completely avoid it as a couple of examples will prove. And it was very hard to rank these, so as a result I decided they won’t get ranked; this is just simply a complete list of dumb decisions. I also had to combine a few things together in order to illustrate points. Believe me, it was really tough.
I also didn’t want to go for some of the obvious ones that people talked about, so no, you won’t see Crash winning Best Picture, which is one of the most obvious beating sticks for any critic to make now. Yes, Crash was a very undeserving Best Picture winner and it’s only gotten worse as time has gone on. But really, by now it’s so obvious and I wanted to highlight some other ones. I also went in to check in regard to some choices why certain films weren’t nominated. For example, I was really astounded that The Rainmaker wasn’t nominated for any Oscars in its respective year. But then you realise, well, Matt Damon was already getting tons of nominations for Good Will Hunting, including a Best Actor nomination, and really there wasn’t room for two big films starring Matt Damon even if Francis Ford Coppola was directing one of them. And, if I had to choose, as much as I like The Rainmaker, I’m going to say Good Will Hunting probably deserved the nomination more.
Another thing to remember is how the Academy works: you don’t get nominated unless you do a very good ‘For Your Consideration’ campaign. And some studios will spend a lot—millions of dollars—on these campaigns. To such an extent, the Oscars has almost entirely become a massive bribery contest just to get those nominations. Nevertheless, they’re purporting that this is based on quality so I’m going to take their word for it…
In no particular order, here are 10 dumb Oscar decisions:
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut loses to Tarzan
Let’s get started with an Original Song category. Believe me, we’re going back to Disney at some point but I wanted to start with this one. At the Oscars in the year 2000, South Park got its only Oscar nomination for Best Original Song for ‘Blame Canada’ which was performed on the night by Robin Williams. However, they would not be walking out of the Oscars with the award because they lose to Tarzan, with Phil Collins’s song, ‘You’ll Be In My Heart’. Okay, put aside that South Park absolutely deserved that win, not only did they lose but they lost to one of the worst songs from the film. Seriously, I’m not someone who hates on the Tarzan soundtrack—I actually think it’s really good, but I would not have nominated ‘You’ll Be In My Heart’. I would’ve much rather nominated ‘Son of Man’ or ‘Strangers Like Me’. And, in any sense of the word, you can’t compare the soundtracks of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut with the soundtrack of Tarzan. South Park simply dominated this category and they somehow still lost. Mind you, it’s probably a good thing in some regards that they didn’t win given that they probably wouldn’t have been able to give an acceptance speech—Matt Stone and Trey Parker freely admitted they turned up at the ceremony higher than Mary Poppins’s kite on acid.
Green Book and Driving Miss Daisy robs Spike Lee twice
Let’s go back to 1990, the year I was born. I was really curious what film won Best Picture on my birth year and was genuinely surprised that it was Driving Miss Daisy of all things. Spike Lee by now absolutely deserves to be raining in Oscars—he’s an excellent filmmaker. And both times that he’s made some of the best films of his career he has received credit from the Academy. However, both times he was completely robbed.
Let’s start with 1990: Spike Lee does probably his best work ever with Do The Right Thing, an absolutely astounding film that I absolutely recommend as it’s surprisingly and shockingly still relevant to this day, and just saying that is rather saddening. And it was not just the fact that he didn’t win on the night even though a couple of nominations were brought out, Do The Right Thing wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture, when Driving Miss Daisy—a very easy and inoffensive film about racism—not only was nominated but won. Flash forward to 2019 and the Oscars now has a chance to rectify this. Now, to be fair, Spike Lee’s brilliant film BlacKkKlansman did get nominated in several categories, and Spike Lee finally got his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. But even then, unlike what I wanted, he didn’t end the night with the Best Picture Oscar because that went to Green Book, yet another cookie-cutter film that was designed to win Oscars and presented a very easily digestible take on racism in America, which once again did not take into account the systemic nature of racism in not just America but the Western world.
Now, Spike Lee does have an Oscar now and he did win it for BlacKkKlansman, but I think in 2019 it was even more egregious. BlacKkKlansman released a year after the Charlottesville rally to the day. It was Spike Lee’s point of message that white supremacy was not only alive and well but it was thriving and in the White House, and he used our past to show us our future that has come to pass. But in both years where this case was made the Academy chose the easy answer; they suggested that racism could be solved by people “coming together”, a nice sentiment but it’s frankly too easy and was not confrontational enough. And, in one case, at a time when it was desperately needed.
Bohemian Rhapsody is the biggest winner on the night
Okay, we’re back to the 2019 Oscars! And who allowed this? Okay, Bohemian Rhapsody was the big winner on the night and it absolutely deserved one of its 4 Oscar nomination, Best Actor for Rami Malik who did an excellent performance as Freddy Mercury. However, its three other wins were all in technical categories, including Best Sound Editing, which is absolutely its worst category. There were brilliant films nominated for that with brilliant editing such as First Man; I even commented in my review how I thought the sound editing was great in that film. And Searching—a film where the editing is the star of it—wasn’t even nominated. It wasn’t just the fact that a rather mediocre film won so many Oscars, it’s that it won for what for what is its worst quality.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close gets nominated for Best Picture
If you ever look up Best Picture nominees you’d be very surprised to find that Crash is not the lowest scoring on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The reason I say Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is one of the worse decisions for the Oscars is the fact that it’s a film that really feels designed to get Oscar nominations more than any other, and I mean particularly Oscar nominations—this film wasn’t nominated at the Baftas or the Golden Globes. And the quality in it is not great if I’m honest; this is really a bizarre and weak film in my opinion. I’ve heard some people really like this film but I’ve never gotten what they see in it. To me, it’s just kind of a very bland, bizarre, cookie-cutter film that doesn’t really have much to say about its chosen subject; it just throws a whole bunch of Academy tropes at the wall. And voila! Very good ‘For Your Consideration’ campaign and it gets nominated.
The Lego Movie is not nominated for Best Animated Feature
Moving forwards to the 2015 Oscars and the Best Animated Feature category. Now, I will say, the 2015 Oscars got a lot right. I would say a few of them were slightly weird choices but, overall, a pretty good selection. But the one thing that bothered me the most was Best Animated Feature. Now, Big Hero 6 ended up winning that year—not a terrible choice though I wouldn’t have picked it—but the nominations that year were astounding bar one. Big Hero 6 was nominated along with How To Train Your Dragon 2, Song Of The Sea, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and surprisingly The Box Trolls got a nomination. Look, The Box Trolls is not a bad film but it is not one of Ardman’s best films, and there was a very noticeable absence for The Lego Movie which was excellent. If The Box Trolls had not got the nomination and The Lego Movie had, this would have been the strongest year for that award—all of those movies are outstanding in some form or fashion. There wouldn’t have been a bad one and we could have been happy with any winner. Granted, Big Hero 6 was not a terrible choice, though I would have preferred Song Of The Sea take that Oscar, and The Lego Movie didn’t do too bad from this. It was already a financial success and it did get a song nomination for ‘Everything Is Awesome’ which it lost to ‘Glory’ from the film Selma which, yeah, was the rightful decision. But it should have had a Best Animated Feature nomination.
Mickey Rourke doesn’t win Best Actor for The Wrestler
This one stings for me in so many ways. I’m a big wrestling fan and The Wrestler was a sharp but very true-to-life takedown of the business. And it’s genuinely upsetting but necessary for wrestling fans to watch it as it reminds us that, while these men and women have great entry plans, their exit plans are not so great. And it’s strengthened by a great central performance from Mickey Rourke. He’d won the Golden Globe and Bafta and it looked like the Oscar was in the bag. However, he lost to Sean Penn for the film Milk which, yeah, it’s a worthy performance and he should have been offered a nomination, but Mickey Rourke should have gotten that Oscar. And what stings is a lot of people have speculated that it was Mickey Rourke’s potential involvement in Wrestle Mania that year that actually cost him the Oscar.
See, there was talk for a match between Mickey Rourke and Chris Jericho at that year’s Wrestle Mania, however his agent insisted that Rourke back out because it wouldn’t look good to Academy voters. Though Rourke would attend Wrestle Mania, the match was changed to Jericho facing a group of older legends, and Rourke would then get in the ring and knock Chris Jericho out. Putting aside that it’s really weird that WWE would want anything to do with this film considering that it basically points out the real shortcomings of the business and why wrestlers should unionize, for potential actual wrestling involvement cutting the chances for a film about wrestling doing well at the Oscars and costing a man his nomination is really baffling for me and always one that’s stung.
Pocahontas wins multiple Oscars for its music
I’ve already commented on how I don’t like the music in Pocahontas, and the fact it not only won Best Score against Toy Story, it also beat ‘You Got A Friend In Me’ from that film for that Oscar along with ‘Dead Man Walking’ by Bruce Springsteen for the film that shared the title of the song. And I’ve already commented I think ‘Colors Of The Wind’ is one of the worst songs in the entire film; the only song that’s even worse is ‘Just Beyond The Riverbend’. The fact that that song has an Oscar is so astoundingly annoying for me on multiple levels—it’s a badly written song that hasn’t aged well and it lost to a song which is one of Randy Newman’s only good songs. Yeah, I’m not a big Randy Newman fan. If you want a prime example of that, remember the music he did in James and The Giant Peach?
Ordinary People wins Best Picture
This is for the 1981 Oscars, and this is one that actually stems back to one of the big problems the Oscars have: they can’t see how films are going to be seen in the future. Ordinary People was the directorial debut of Robert Redford and it’s an alright film but man is it not that compelling. And it’s rather telling that, several decades later, no one talks about this film. Now, compare that with two films that were nominated for Best Picture that year, Raging Bull and The Elephant Man, both of which could have easily won Best Picture and are way more interesting to watch now; you could easily put those on now and you’d get an excellent watch. What’s worse, The Shining, which came out the exact same year, didn’t get a single Oscar nomination. Again, what films have had more of an impact on the language of film going forwards? Ordinary People doesn’t stick out at all, and it’s amazing that a rather dull film lost to several films that would change the cinema landscape going forwards.
Scarface isn’t nominated even once
Here’s another film that should have been nominated. This time, it’s the 1984 Oscars. Brian De Palma’s film is fantastic—I know Scarface is now very heavily parodied but if you’ve actually gone and watched the film it’s a really excellent piece of cinema about falling down a rabbit hole, and the fact that it wasn’t even nominated for any category astounds me. Al Pacino wasn’t even nominated for Best Actor. And what makes it even worse is that you have to look at who did get the nominations. Honestly, look up the five films that were nominated for Best Picture in 1984; I guarantee if you’ve heard of any of them other than the one that actually won I’ll be astounded. I’ve never even heard of most of these films! The only films I’ve heard of were The Big Chill and, eventual winner, Terms of Endearment which was directed by—sometimes—Simpsons producer, James Earl Brooks. But I’ve never heard of The Dresser; I’ve never heard of The Right Stuff; I’ve never heard of Tender Mercies. It’s frankly astounding that Scarface didn’t have a place there.
Finally, A Silent Voice and Your Name didn’t get nominated
Now, I’m not sure what year Your Name could have been nominated because there were multiple opportunities for it, but it definitely should have. Your Name is not only an astounding animated film but it could have easily been up for Best Picture; in fact, it was at the London Film Festival when it debuted there. I spent several weeks a few months ago gushing over Your Name so I won’t go into too much detail over it but the fact it doesn’t have an Oscar nomination astounds me to no end. But then you also have A Silent Voice. Now, A Silent Voice is a beautiful film about overcoming your own feelings of inadequacy and suicidal thoughts. It centres around a bully attempting to rehabilitate himself after his life goes downhill and make it up to a deaf girl who he made miserable, and the fact that the two of them come together to try to make something positive in their lives. It’s an excellent and beautiful film directed by Naoko Yamada. Not only should this film have been up for Best Animated Feature, it also could have easily been up for Best Picture and Naoko Yamada could have easily been up for Best Director. Now, I have no idea if that would have even been under consideration, but I’m not too worried about Makoto Shinkai; I think he will get an Oscar nomination somewhere down the line. But it will be rather like other directors where he will get it but just for the wrong film. But I don’t think Naoko Yamada is ever going to get that chance and she deserves it for the contributions she’s made to Kyoto Animation—her work is astounding. And what makes it worse, not only did these films not even get nominated for Best Animated Feature, The Boss Baby did, as well as Ferdinand, starring John Cena as a bull.
Now, I did admit that both Your Name and A Silent Voice were licensed by Funimation and I’m pretty sure this was pre-acquisitioned by Sony, so they might not have had enough money to do a really good ‘For Your Consideration’ campaign in the States, but it does highlight that the Oscars not only lack to really look into great animated films but to look into great foreign animated films. It really does show that it’s a massive Hollywood love fest. There’s a very good reason why the film Mirai is the only Japanese animated film not made by Studio Ghibli to get an Oscar nomination: all the films that did had major Western stars in the dub. Now, the Academy is doing a lot better with how it treats foreign language films, and we saw that last year with the win for Parasite which genuinely shocked me. Saying that, I think they’ve got a long way to go and they need to start acknowledging that great animation can come from other countries. What’s more, I want them to actually nominate an animated film for Best Picture again and have an animated film win Best Picture.
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