Another year, another Academy Awards, another funny season fueled by the same-old same-olds: studio scuttlebutt, lap-it-up media and rampant predictions from armchair experts about who will win, who will lose, what they’ll wear on the red carpet and, at this crucial juncture in human history, whether Angelina Jolie’s left leg will challenge her right for the spotlight (and subsequent internet memes).
As a collection of people sourced from inside the film industry, there’s little doubt members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have some credibility as voters, unlike the other big awards night of the season: the “dirty little secret” known as the Golden Globes.
But if you look back over the history of the Oscars, it becomes abundantly clear the Academy cannot be relied upon to get even the most basic choices right. So before you get caught up in a tizzy about who should win the 2013 gongs and why, take a moment to reflect on 10 — and this list could go on and on, but you’ve got to snip it somewhere — of the Academy’s most regrettable decisions. Then ask yourself: do I have any faith that they’ll make the right ones?
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- In 2010 Sandra Bullock, star of Miss Congeniality and Miss Congeniality II, won Best Actress for The Blind Side. In hindsight her strategy was ingeniously simplistic: keep the bar very, very low. Then, when you complete a performance that isn’t absolutely atrocious, it’ll look great by comparison.
- Stanley Kubrick, nominated four times for Best Director, never won. The only Oscar to his name is a joint win for Best Special Effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which, while deserved, hardly reflects the calibre of one of the most celebrated directors in history.
- In 1995 Quentin Tarantino didn’t win Best Director for Pulp Fiction, and the film didn’t win Best Picture. Those awards went to Robert Zemeckis and Forrest Gump, a decision as dim-witted as the film’s chocolate nibbling protagonist.
- Alfred Hitchcock didn’t win a Best Director Oscar for Psycho. Or Rear Window. Or Spellbound. Or anything. Instead the master of suspense accepted the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1968, aka the ‘We Snubbed You So Many Times It’s Embarrassing’ Oscar.
- In 1999 Shakespeare in Love won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Judi Dench. Dench appeared on screen in the film for approximately eight minutes. During her acceptance speech, Dame Judi more or less said “I don’t deserve this.”
- Mickey Rourke’s brilliant comeback performance in The Wrestler (2008) had all the hallmarks of awards night glory. He lost to Sean Penn, who collected his second Oscar for Milk.
- Rocky (1976), a thoroughly decent run-up-72-steps-to-prepare-to-win feel good sports movie, is enjoyable but hardly Best Director or Best Picture material. It won in both categories. Competition for Best Picture that year included Taxi Driver, Network and All the President’s Men. Rocky director John G. Avildsen went on to make not one, two but three Karate Kid movies.
- Instead of inventing a new category titled Most Nauseatingly Sentimental and Repetitive Song in Motion Picture History and giving it to Phil Collins’ borderline unlistenable You’ll Be in My Heart, which featured in Disney’s Tarzan (1999), the kill-me-now tune was instead awarded an Oscar for Best Original Song.
- The Academy has nominated Al Pacino for a number of blistering performances in classic films such as The Godfather Part II, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and …And Justice for All. The film that eventually scored him a run on the board? Scent of a Woman. Hoo-ah!
- How Green Was My Valley, not the best of director John Ford’s work, won Best Picture in 1942. The competition? A little film called Citizen Kane.