In Contention

Movies that Oscar missed

Posted by · 12:12 pm · May 26th, 2008

As film junkies, we all know it happens. Usually every single year there are one or more films the Academy passes over for Best Picture consideration, in some cases because there are, after all, just five slots available, but in others because, well — they blew it.

Like the rest of you, I sit and listen to the nominees announced live every January and have never had a year when I did not roll my head and ask to no one in particular, “Where is such and such or so and so?”

I mean for me, the great honor is the nomination, because when “Kramer vs. Kramer” defeats “Apocalypse Now” for Best Picture, how can you possibly take the winners seriously? However, a nomination — that is decidedly different.

Where was the Best Picture nod for John Ford’s masterful “The Searchers,” arguably the greatest American western ever made? And Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” which redefined the horror genre?

Since 1980 there have been a number of truly brilliant films passed over, leaving this critic often shaking his head in disgust, though I get over quick enough to watch the damned awards…talk about hooked. But it amazes me how “The Empire Strikes Back” can be a better film than “Star Wars,” yet not be nominated in the big race. Ditto Brian De Palma’s “Blow Out,” possibly the finest film of his career, ignored in every category despite its artistic mastery. The very same year Milos Forman gave us “Ragtime,” a much stronger film than “Chariots of Fire,” which won the Oscar, or even “On Golden Pond,” one of the five nominees!

Nothing for “Under Fire,” one the greatest political films ever made, nor “Once Upon a Time in America,” the great Sergio Leone masterpiece that plays like a grand symphony and contains the last truly great performance from Robert De Niro.

Though Rob Reiner was up for a Directors Guild award for “Stand By Me,” Oscar looked the other way, as they did with James Foley’s “At Close Range.” Do I even need to mention Steven Spielberg’s “Empire of the Sun,” one of his greatest films, snubbed by the Academy in favor of something like “Fatal Attraction!”

Though I believed Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” should have been nominated, I understand why it was not, for the same reasons, however gutless, that “The Passion of the Christ” was similarly snubbed.

Spike Lee was more than a little vocal when his “Do the Right Thing” was ignored, but not half as vocal as an obviously drunk Kim Basinger, who took it upon herself to discuss the film’s lack of a nomination while presenting an Oscar. The very fact that “The Godfather Part III” was nominated over “The Grifters” or Warren Beatty’s wildly imaginative “Dick Tracy” is an abomination to me, and though “Beauty and the Beast” was lovely, was it a greater film than “Thelma and Louise?”

How was Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” passed over? Or further into the 1990s, “The Bridges of Madison County,” “Seven,” “The Usual Suspects?” Long touted as an Oscar contender, “The Crucible” was terribly midhandled by the studio, and though brilliant: D.O.A.

Paul Thomnas Anderson finally had a film nominated last year, after watching “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia” ignored for Best Picture nods despite being among the best of their respective years. And though Atom Egoyan was up for a Best Director nomination in 1997, his “The Sweet Hereafter” named best of the year by the Los Angeles Times and runner-up for the New York Film Critics Circle award, the film was snubbed in the big race. One year later, how did Warren Beatty’s lacerating political satire “Bulworth” get left out?

More recently, “Road to Perdition,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “Minority Report,” “Cold Mountain,” “Far From Heaven,” “The Passion of the Christ” and “King Kong” (shoot me, I love it) are among the films deserving of Best Picture notice but sadly ignored. Just last year we witnessed the terrible snub of “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” a masterful western that richly deserved to be among the nominees for, certainly in place of “Juno” or “Michael Clayton.”

Again in many cases, the simple answer can be embarrassment of riches. Too many good films to whittle down to a five picture slate. But more often than not, I’d say it all boils down to terrible misfires.

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18 responses so far

  • 1 5-26-2008 at 12:19 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    For me, the biggest blunders of the last ten years would include “Gattaca,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” “Children of Men,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Dogville,” “City of God” and “The Truman Show.”

  • 2 5-26-2008 at 12:37 pm

    Belik said...

    I really hoped the academy would nominate Memento in 2001 for best picture. And Fight Club for best screenplay in 1999.

  • 3 5-26-2008 at 12:42 pm

    Xavi Rodriguez said...

    My biggest blunders in last ten years:

    2007: “Away from Her” is a wonderful film about the real love not like the overracted Atonement. “Zodiac” is the other biggest snubbed film of the year…
    2006: “Children of Men”
    2005: “The Constant Gardener” and “Pride & Prejudice” deserves more AMPAS love instead the awful “Crash”.
    2004: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” instead “Ray”
    2003: —-
    2002: “Far From Heaven” instead “gangs of New York”
    2001: “Amelie”, “Mulholland Dr.” and “In the Mood of Love” instead “A Beautiful Mind” and “In the Bedroom”
    2000: “Dancer in the Dark” and “Billy Elliot” instead “Gladiator” and “Erin Brockovitz”
    1999: “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Magnolia” instead “The Cider House Rules”
    1998: “Gods and Monsters” instead “Shakespeare in Love”
    1997: Awful Omission: “The Sweet Hereafter”

  • 4 5-26-2008 at 12:49 pm

    Blake said...

    I disagree on “City of God”, Kris. While they did snub it for foreign language film in 2002, I think the academy more than made up for their mistake by giving it 4 nominations the following year, when pretty much every other group had forgotten about the film. Those 4 nominations brought the film a lot of new viewers, including myself, and to this date I think it’s the best film I’ve seen this decade.

    Should it have been nominated for Best Picture? Of course. But I certainly wouldn’t call it a blunder.

  • 5 5-26-2008 at 1:49 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Fair enough.

  • 6 5-26-2008 at 9:44 pm

    Joel said...

    I still don’t forgive them for not nominating “Minority Report”, which to me is Spielberg’s greatest triumph and the best film of the decade. “King Kong” was Jackson’s masterpiece and should have been nominated. And NOTHING can repay their snub of “Children of Men”.

    The greatest blunder, however, was in 1998, when they didn’t nominate “The Truman Show”, which is my favorite Jim Carrey movie, and much more.

  • 7 5-27-2008 at 12:44 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I actually love that they nominated “Fatal Attraction” in 1987. I wish the Academy had the guts to nominate brilliantly executed genre fare more often, instead of endlessly filling up the slate with middlebrow, milquetoast drek like “The Cider House Rules” and “Finding Neverland” – films that ultimately please neither audiences nor critics.

    Seriously, would anyone have had a problem with “The Bourne Ultimatum” replacing “Michael Clayton” on last year’s list? A great film is a great film, genre be damned.

    And let me join the “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” brigade. Not only was it shafted for Best Picture, but nothing for its editing (!), art direction, score?

  • 8 5-27-2008 at 12:51 am

    Marvin said...

    I wouldn’t have nominated Cold Mountain or King Kong, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford did not feature among my top 5 last year.

    Some films that IMO the Academy grossly overlooked this decade include:

    Kill Bill Vol. 1
    Kill Bill Vol. 2
    A Prairie Home Companion
    The Edukators
    I <3 Huckabees
    La Mala Educación

  • 9 5-27-2008 at 12:56 am

    Marvin said...

    Minority Report did not even make it as a nominee for Visual Effects, correct? That was a def. oversight. That film has some of the best special effects I have ever witnessed.

    Children of Men at least found itself nominated here and there, though I agree it should’ve been up for Picture and Director.

  • 10 5-27-2008 at 5:23 am

    John Foote said...

    Great reactions folks and so many great films mentioned — perhaps we should set up our own retro Oscars going back to 1970? Loved that there was some support for The Sweet Hereafter, Away from Her, Jesse James (which I adored…can you tell?) and King Kong —

  • 11 5-27-2008 at 9:34 am

    mike said...

    Jesse James and Zodiac should have been nominated this past year, they were robbed…

    Children of Men should have been nominated and I think Pan’s should have been up for best picture too (not best foreign – I think it was much better than Lives of Others).

    Se7en is a big one on my list too…

  • 12 5-27-2008 at 10:31 am

    seasondays said...

    my biggest blunders in the last 10 years

    2007: the diving bell and the butterfly
    2006: children of men / pan’s labyrinth
    2005: the squid and the whale
    2004: eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
    2003: 21 grams
    2002: adaptation / catch me if you can
    2001: the royal tenenbaums
    2000: almost famous
    1999: magnolia
    1998: the truman show

  • 13 5-27-2008 at 1:51 pm

    Andrew said...

    Are you accitourist from EW Bulletin Boards?

  • 14 5-27-2008 at 4:04 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    THERE’S a blast from the past. Who are you talking to, Andrew?

  • 15 5-28-2008 at 11:58 am

    movielocke said...

    yes it is terribly unfair that not every film can be nominated and that we can’t redact nominations and replace them with the right people, the right films, and the right thoughts. Down with diversity of opinion, only the taste of cineastes (only the ones that think exactly like me) should be regarded as true and just and laudable.

  • 16 5-28-2008 at 11:36 pm

    Andrew said...

    You. Just asking…

  • 17 5-29-2008 at 5:10 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Oh I see.

    No. Not in the slightest.

  • 18 5-29-2008 at 2:33 pm

    Patrick said...

    This is going to be another one of those years where they screw up. After getting two years of great nominees, They are going to screw it up this year, a la 2004, when Million Dollar Baby won simply because, the academy’s nominees showed a complete lack of imagination (Finding Neverland, Ray, The Aviator) thus preventing them from nominating the films that could actually prove that not all good films come from Clint Eastwood (Vera Drake, Eternal Sunshine, even Motorcycle Diaries)

    They’ll go for something like “Defiance” or “Brideshead Revisited” and ignore potential masterpieces from Spike Lee, Sam Menedes, Ridley Scott, or David Fincher, and the like.