Over at Grantland (http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8942448/tournament-determine-worst-academy-award-moment-modern-history) they have an amusing graphic that shows the 32 biggest travesties in the Modern Oscars (seemingly for 1972 on). I’m going to rank them, from least horrible, to most horrible. Obviously, this is being done all in good fun by Grantland and I’m going to keep that spirit when I do this admittedly silly exercise.
32. 13 Nominations for Benjamin ButtonWhy am I the only one who seems to like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? What do problem do people have with a slow moving, three hour movie about death? Sorry, I love this movie, so no travesty here.
31. Seth Macfarlane, PreemptivelyI’m going to give Seth Macfarlane a chance. He can be witty and charming, and he can’t be worse that James Franco, right?
30. American Beauty Wins Best PictureAmerican Beauty is a solid movie. True, of the nominees, The Insider was the best, and they should have nominated Magnolia or Fight Club. But you hardly blame the Academy. Critics went gaga for American Beauty at the time. This is one of those wins that looks suspect in retrospect, but didn’t at the time.
29. Travolta Loses for Saturday Night FeverWhen was it decided that John Travolta’s performance in Saturday Night Fever was one of the best ever? True, he was WAY better than winner Richard Dreyfuss in the annoying The Goodbye Girl, but considering the Academy nominated two amazing actor, Richard Burton and Marcello Mastroianni that year, and neither of them won, let’s save our outrage for that, shall we?
28. Bjork’s Swan DressYes, the dress looked stupid. But it’s Bjork. What the hell did you expect? And since she damn well should have been nominated for Best Actress that year for her brilliant work in Dancer in the Dark, if she wants to show up and look like an idiot, she has my blessing.
27. Bill Murray Loses for Lost in TranslationI love Bill Murray, and do think he should have won for Lost in Translation. But for it to be a real travesty, something wholly undeserving had to win instead – and Sean Penn was brilliant in Mystic River.
26. Angelina Jolie Kissing Her BrotherThat was admittedly creepy as hell, but an Oscar travesty? Not really.
25. Rob Lowe’s Duet with Snow WhiteLuckily, I didn’t watch the ceremony live that year (I was too young). But I’ve seen the clips dozens of times. Who the hell green lit this one?
24. Roberto Benigni’s Acceptance SpeechRemember that year everyone was in love with Roberto Benigni? Yes, the speech was stupid – I’m assuming we’re counting walking on the chairs, right? – but hasn’t he suffered enough, since no one has liked anything he’s made since then?
23. Uma? Oprah. Oprah? Uma.Lame joke, repeated ad nausea. But then again, isn’t that what Letterman does every night?
22. The Dark Knight SnubbedIt was ridiculous because it was the highest grossing movie of the year, as well as one of the most critically acclaimed. If The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated, no superhero movie ever will.
21. Rocky Wins Best PictureI really like Rocky, but a film that beat Taxi Driver, All the President’s Men and Network had damn well better be in the same league, and this one isn’t close. All the sequels don’t help either.
20. Driving Miss Daisy Wins Best PictureThe real travesty was that Do the Right Thing wasn’t nominated that year, which makes this simplistic take on race relations sting a little bit more. Still, mock me all you want, I like Driving Miss Daisy.
19. Shakespeare in Love Wins Best PictureShakespeare in Love is a fine, enjoyable romp with some very good performances. It got lucky that year. Everyone was sick of hearing about Saving Private Ryan since it opened in July. Shakespeare snuck in and stole it from Spielberg. Why do I have a feeling in a few years Argo will be on a list like this?
18. Crash Wins Best Picture
Okay, the movie is merely average, but the outrage over its win is way, way over the top. Brokeback Mountain was great, but I’m sick of hearing whining about this one. Besides, Munich was better than either of them. (And the not nominated A History of Violence and Cache, better than it).
17. James Franco as Oscar HostIt wasn’t just that he sleepwalked through the ceremony, but then he badmouths everyone else besides himself for it. If he didn’t want to do it, he should have said no.
16. Every Dance NumberYes, please get rid of all dance numbers now and forever. They are all lame at the Oscars.
15. Bill Crystal in BlackfaceThis was just last year. Did no one tell them that unless it’s 1927, you have no business being in blackface (and even then, you shouldn’t have been)?
14. Kathryn Bigelow Snubbed for Zero Dark ThirtyTrue, I think Paul Thomas Anderson deserved a nomination even more this year, but it was clear they didn’t like his film. Bigelow not being nominated was clearly the biggest snub of the year – no matter what Ben Affleck says. I’d hate to think a few idiots whining about torture cost her a nomination.
13. The Best Song CategoryA great song (Skyfall) will win this year, and that’s amazing. Mostly though, this category is lame and boring, and for some reason, they always make us listen to all the lame and boring songs nominated. This isn’t the Grammys, where they actually play songs you know. Why the Songs are highlighted more than any other single category is a joke that luckily we haven’t had to sit through in a few years. (And since they never get them right, can we add Foreign Language Film and Documentary as well?)
12. King’s Speech Over Social Network
On one hand, you have a brilliantly written, brilliantly directed, brilliantly acted movie about the world we now live in, and on the other, you have a King of England with a speech impediment. Listen, I liked The King’s Speech – I too know the sting of stuttering – but really, come on!
11. Samuel L. Jackson loses for Pulp FictionThis didn’t make my top 10 simply because I really do think Martin Landau is great in Ed Wood. BUT, Samuel L. Jackson’s performance in Pulp Fiction is justifiably legendary, so he should have won. But as with American Beauty, you can blame the critics as much as the Academy on this one – Landau won A LOT of critic’s prizes that year.
10. Al Pacino Never Winning for The GodfatherI’m going to assume that they mean for the whole series. Yes, he should have won Supporting Actor for The Godfather in 1972. And He should have won Actor for The Godfather Part II in 1974 – but he lost two good performances – Joel Grey in Cabaret and Art Carney in Harry and Tonto -really, I dare you to watch Carney say goodbye to his best friend Tonto the cat in that one and not end up in a puddle on the floor. It cannot be done!
9. John Cazale Never NominatedJohn Cazale was a brilliant actor who died before his time of cancer at the age of 43. He damn well should have been nominated for The Godfather Part II in 1974, for his heartbreaking performance as Fredo (really, they nominated THREE supporting actors from the movie that year, and none of them was Cazale!!!). He only appeared in five movies – The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon, The Deer Hunter – all of them brilliant, and he damn well should have been nominated for something.
8. Forrest Gump Beats Pulp FictionYou run this race today, and you’ll see the same result. Tarantino is too divisive, and I can almost guarantee he will never win Best Picture or Director. That’s not an excuse for why Pulp Fiction, which revolutionized film, didn’t win, just that it’s the type of movie that never will. And I don’t hate Forrest Gump like some.
7. GoodFellas Loses Best PictureGoodFellas is the best gangster film of all time – yes better than The Godfather – and one of the most entertaining and endlessly rewatchable films ever made. It should have won this award easily. BUT, I like Dances with Wolves – I even kind of love it, so even though Kevin Costner would go on to embarrass himself after this film, it’s a notch below the next one.
6. The English Patient Over Fargo
I HATE The English Patient, and love Fargo. The Coens eventually won their Oscar (hell, they won a screenplay award for this, and probably three apiece for No Country for Old Men), so it all worked out in the end, but still, I hate the idea of future Oscar completest have to suffer like Elaine on Seinfeld watching The English Patient. “JUST DIE ALREADY!”
5. Denzel Washington Loses for Malcolm X
The Academy had to eventually make up for Oscar travesty number 10 and give Al Pacino an Oscar, but for Scent of a Woman. Really? Denzel Washington’s performance in Malcolm X is absolutely brilliant – perhaps the best lead performance of the 1990s, and he should have won this one hands down.
4. Spike Lee Shut OutSpike Lee has only ever been nominated for two Oscars – for Writing Do the Right Thing and for his documentary 4 Little Girls. Now, there are many reasons for this, and why he hasn’t won (one of them is surely that he has called the Academy racist about a million times), but he is also one of the best directors of his generation – of any race – and should have a few Oscars at home. The fact that it’s 2012, and only two African Americans have EVER been nominated for Best Director is embarrassing. The fact that neither of them is Spike Lee is a travesty.
3. Kramer vs. Kramer Over Apocalypse NowApocalypse Now is the best film ever made. Period. That was my opinion in high school, and it hasn’t changed since. Kramer vs. Kramer is an average divorce drama, with some good performances. But Apocalypse Now is an epic masterpiece, and should have easily trounced this one. But remember, the critical opinion wasn’t exactly fully behind Coppola’s film in 1979.
2. Scorsese Not Winning Until The DepartedMean Streets. Taxi Driver. Raging Bull. The King of Comedy. After Hours. The Last Temptation of Christ. GoodFellas. The Age of Innocence. Casino. Gangs of New York. The Aviator. You could make a case that Scorsese, my favorite filmmaker ever, should have won for any of those films. He didn’t until 2006 for The Departed. For years this was probably the most embarrassing thing the Academy had not remedied, but since they eventually did, it ranks behind…
1. Stanley Kubrick Never Wins Best DirectorThe Killing. Paths of Glory. Lolita. Dr. Strangelove. 2001: A Space Odyssey. A Clockwork Orange. Barry Lyndon. The Shining. Eyes Wide Shut. Pick any of those films and retroactively give Kubrick a Best Director Oscar for them. He’d be deserving. Kubrick gets my vote for the Best Filmmaker never to win the Best Director Oscar. And since he’s dead, they can never change that.