50. Wings (1927/28)
What Should Have Won: Two of the greatest silent films – The Crowd and Sunrise – were nominated in the Unique and Artisitc category (the only year they had it), and both were better then Wings.
What Was Snubbed: Buster Keaton’s The General is perhaps the best silent comedy of all time, and it didn’t get noticed. Also, Metropolis and The Passion of Joan of Arc are two masterpieces, but I’m not sure either was eligible (they are both foreign films).
Review: In some ways, Oscar’s first winner became the prototypical winner. An audience friendly film, with lots of action, lots of romance, and big stars, that is also quite well made. Yes, Wings has aged a bit more than some of the other films they could have given the first Oscar to, but it is still a hell of a war movie, with exciting aerial battle scenes. Not a masterpiece, but a worthy winner.
49. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
What Should Have Won: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was my favorite of the nominees, but I also would have taken Milk.
What Was Snubbed: My personal preference was Synecdoche, New York, but that was never going to happen. But The Dark Knight, Wall-E and The Wrestler were all way better than anything that was nominated.
Review: Although many thought that picking Slumdog, which after all was a film set in India, with no stars and in another language for much of its running time, was daring for the Academy, it really wasn’t. This is the type of underdog story that the Academy loves. And it is a very well made film, and almost too entertaining for words – at least on the first time through. I’ve seen it three times now, and have to say, I don’t think I’ll watch it again any time soon.
48. Terms of Endearment (1983)
What Should Have Won: The Right Stuff is probably the best movie ever made about astronauts.
What Was Snubbed: They gave a lot of nominations to Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny & Alexander, but not for Best Picture. But at least they didn’t completely ignore it like they did with Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy and Brain DePalma’s Scarface.
Review: Even though I like a number of films more than this one from 1983, it’s hard to argue with the choice, as it’s one of the few times they ever gave an Oscar to a movie about women. Shirley Maclaine is wonderful as the difficult, aging mother, and Debra Winger matches her as her dying daughter. Jack Nicholson also earned his Oscar as the astronaut Maclaine falls for. True, since the movie came out it has been copied so many times it isn’t funny, but watching the film reminds you just how good “chick” flicks can be.
47. Rocky (1976)
What Should Have Won: Taxi Driver was the best film of the year. But Network and All the President’s Men also would have made a better choice.
What Was Snubbed: Brian DePalma’s Carrie is probably his best film, and one of the best about being a teenager ever made.
Review: Stallone has done his best to sully the reputation of Rocky over the years making five sequels, but the original film still holds up remarkably well. The Rocky formula, which was pretty well worn terrain when this movie got there, has essentially been the template for every sports movie made since, but this film is still inspirational every time you see it. It’s possible to see why people thought Stallone would go on to even greater things when the film was released. As it stands, this was his apex, but he’ll always be remembered for it.
46. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
What Should Have Won: Born on the Fourth of July was the best of the nominees.
What Was Snubbed: Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is probably the best film on race relations in history, and certainly puts Driving Miss Daisy to shame.
Review: As much as I would love to rag on Driving Miss Daisy, I really can’t. Yes, it’s view of race relations can be simple (although not as simple as some would have you believe) but it is also such a touching film about two people, brought to life in wonderful performances, that I have a hard time criticizing it too much. It certainly isn’t the best film of the year, but it is one of the most re-watchable.
45. The Sting (1973)
What Should Have Won: The Exorcist was the best.
What Was Snubbed: Last Tango in Paris was thrilling, and Mean Streets was brand new, but the Academy didn’t nominate them.
Review: It’s not tough to see why audiences fell in love with this movie. Two of the most charming movies stars of all time – Robert Redford and Paul Newman – are both at the top of their game, and Robert Shaw is excellent as “the mark”. And director George Roy Hill keeps it all moving remarkably quickly. Certainly an entertaining movie, but I can think of many films from that year that are better.
44. From Here to Eternity (1953)
What Should Have Won: Personally, I have always loved Julius Caesar, one of the best Shakespeare screen adaptation, although I also think Roman Holiday was better.
What Was Snubbed: Another great Hitchcock film, I Confess, was overlooked, but why didn’t they even nominate Stalag 17?
Review: From Here to Eternity is a fine romance, with a little war stuff thrown in for good measure. The entire cast is wonderful, especially Montgomery Clift, who I think has the best role in the film, although he’s often overlooked. While it would not have been my choice, it is a solid, respectable one for the Academy.
43. How Green Was My Valley (1941)
What Should Have Won: Citizen Kane – that was easy.
What Was Snubbed: The Lady Eve is one of the best comedies of the studio era – and should have got a nomination.
Review: How Green Was My Valley is probably best remembered for being the film that beat Citizen Kane at the Oscars – forever marring it in the eyes of some. But the film can’t be blamed for not being as good as “the greatest film ever made”. It really is a fine film, about a poor Irish family struggling, all told through the eyes of their young son. No, it wouldn’t make my list of John Ford’s best films, but it really quite good – just not as good as Citizen Kane.
42. Titanic (1997)What Should Have Won: LA Confidential was the best film nominated by a mile.
What Was Snubbed: Boogie Nights was a masterpiece, and Jackie Brown and The Sweet Hereafter are certainly better than anything nominated aside from LA Confidential.
Review: Titanic gets a bad rap simply because it is the biggest movie of all time. Sure, the writing isn’t the best – it is a clichéd story and has some clunkers in the dialogue, along with the awful Billy Zane performance. But the movie is still rather thrilling in an old fashioned way. The last hour is action filmmaking at its very best. Wouldn’t have gotten my vote, but this is hardly the embarrassment some make it out to be.
41. Forrest Gump (1994)
What Should Have Won: I like Gump, but Pulp Fiction should have won this one hands down. Or Quiz Show. Or Shawshank Redemption. But at least Four Weddings and a Funeral didn’t win.
What Was Snubbed: I know many hate Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, but it is a masterpiece. I also love Tim Burton’s Ed Wood.
Review: Forrest Gump has gotten a lot of slack over the years for being a right wing parable, which hates the 1960s counter culture, but truly, that’s a load of crap. Gump is a fine film, one that never fails to draw me in whenever it’s on TV. Few heartwarming films get to me, but for whatever reason this one does. You get no complaints from me about it winning the best picture Oscar.