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Top Five Races Oscar Got WRONG…

February 5, 2010

No one is perfect, but there have been times that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may have needed to call for a re-count.   Here are my top five…

5.) Movies That Directed Themselves

Despite a win for Best Actor Adrien Brody and a nomination for Best Picture,  Roman Polanski was robbed of a Best Director nomination in 2002 for The Pianist.  This may have been an example of a director’s personal life overshadowing his talent.  Still, if one bases the awards on merit and skill alone, Polanski was greatly snubbed.

Snubbed for The Pianist

Even more egregious, despite nominations for Best Actress (Nicole Kidman), numerous technical awards, and, once again, Best Picture,  Baz Luhrmann never got the recognition richly deserved for his luminous masterpiece of poetry and romance, Moulin Rouge,  in 2001.  

Apparently, these amazing films directed themselves.

Luhrmann in action

4.)  Gwyneth Trumps Cate

No doubt riding the wave of the 1998 Oscars’ love of the Independent Film, Gwyneth Paltrow snagged the Oscar that year for a performance that was really nothing more than looking longingly at her more deserving co-star, Joseph Fiennes.  Poor Fiennes, giving the more masterful and in-depth portrayal as Will Shakespeare himself, wasn’t even nominated. 

Cate Blanchett’s powerhouse performance as England’s mighty Elizabeth I was a career-making performance.  She embodied the role, heart and soul, transforming in under two hours from a timid pampered princess to a tower of be-wigged strength.   She would later go on to snag her first (and well-deserved) Oscar for her potrayal of another Kate, Kathrine Hepburn in The Aviator.

Gloriana Personified

3.) Gladiator Slaughters a Tiger

I adore Ridley Scott, and Blade Runner will forever be one of cinema’s most underappreciated films.  Still, while his 2001 film Gladiator was a rip-roaring crowd-pleaser of an sword and sandals epic, it was no match in the screenplay and acting department for Ang Lee’s brilliant Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.    Tiger was an eloquent and thrilling blend of action and allegory and its power doesn’t diminsh as the years slip past.

Lee’s overlooked 1997 film, The Ice Storm, also escaped the eye of the Academy, and his moving 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, while nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Kate Winslet, who would win her Oscar in the lead category this past year for The Reader) and scoring a win for Best Adapted Screenplay (Emma Thompson), missed  making the Best Picture cut that year.

Ang Lee's masterpiece

2.) Cher Bests Holly Hunter in 1987

James L. Brooks’ hilarious parody of the world of network television news, Broadcast News, was one of the best comedies of the 1980s.   At its heart was a stunner of a star named Holly Hunter, and her breakthrough role as determined  producer Jane was a mass of endearing eccentricities.  But, it was Cher’s one-note “Guidette” performance in Moonstruck that ended up winning the prize.  Hunter would wow critics again and finally win her well-deserved statuette for 1994’s The Piano.

Hunter and William Hurt in Broadcast News

1.) Kevin Costner Vs. The Goodfellas

Dances with Wolves is another audience pleasing epic (see: Gladiator) that dazzled the Academy on original release, but perhaps hasn’t held up as well in hindsight.  With Dances‘ overt preachiness and underwhelming lead performance, it was a shame that Martin Scorsese’s cult classic,  Goodfellas, didn’t walk away with the prize in 1990’s Best Picture race.

Goodfellas’ masterful screenplay,  adapted almost word for word from Nicholas Pileggi’s non-fiction expose Wise Guy (which tells the true story of lead character Henry Hill’s rise and fall in the lower ranks of the Mafia), was a springboard for amazing performances from Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro and Lorraine Bracco.  Scorsese’s up-front approach to the inticrate universe of the mafia errand boys.  Also, Goodfellas is infinitely the more re-watchable (and eminently quotable) of the two, hands down.

The titular Fellas

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