Sunday, February 22, 2009

Egregious Sins of the Academy

We're not sure why people get so into the Academy Awards. It has five times the prestige of any other award shows, but it's not clear that they get it right more than 50% of the time. I mean, any purportedly cinematic organization that would have the producer of Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo as it's president should pretty much be a tip-off that maybe they'll get it wrong from time to time. They're kind of like sports writers voting for the MVP in that regard.

The difference between MVP voters and the academy is this: with MVP voters, there's no rhyme or reason; with the Academy, you can pretty much figure out who's going to win as soon as the nominations are revealed. It's why Nate Silver can say with 99.7% certainty that Slumdog Millionare is going to win Best Picture: the Academy is so predictable.

It doesn't matter what the actual best picture/actor/director was, it simply matters (A) how long it was, and (B) how much money it made. Bonus points are awarded for historical pieces.

Anyway, here's a list of awards that we think the Academy would like to have a "do-over" for over the last 15 years. Or at least, the ones that most of the public now realize were bo-o-o-o-o-gus.


1996. Best Picture.
What won: The English Patient.
What didn't win: Fargo.
Actually, we're kind of surprised that Fargo even got nominated. We suppose some sort of kudos for the Academy is in order for that. But still, find me one person that enjoyed the English Patient more than Fargo. Actually, find me one person that enjoyed the English Patient.

1997. Best Picture.
What won: Titanic.
What didn't win: As Good As it Gets. L.A. Confidential. Good Will Hunting.
A pretty strong group, aside from the movie that won it. Ten years later, Titanic is a punch line and Celene Dion is the joke. Thankfully, Leo and Kate were able to pick up the pieces and make respectable actors out of themselves. No thanks to James Cameron.

1997. Best Director.
Who won: James Cameron.
Who didn't win: Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential).
My guess is the academy regretted this decision about 30 seconds after he won it with the ridiculous "I'm the king of the world!" acceptance speech. Now it looks even more ridiculous. Side note: James Cameron's Aliens of the Deep is the worst nature documentary you'll ever see. In fact, I'm not sure how you'd make a worse nature documentary. And we're total suckers for nature docs.

1998. Best Picture.
What won: Shakespeare in Love.
What didn't win: Life is Beautiful. Saving Private Ryan. American History X (not nominated).
Maybe the most confusing winner of all time. Saving Private Ryan had all the ingredients: really long, period piece, tangentially related to the Holocaust, starred Tom Hanks. We think this might have been an accident. Like the most incredible typo of all time.

1999. Best Actress.
Who won: Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry).
Who didn't win: Annette Benning (American Beauty).
Who hasn't reenacted the scene where Annette Benning slaps herself because she can't sell that house? OK, probably a lot of people. But at least you know what scene we're talking about.
Side note: this was the year Magnolia came out. Only nomination was for Tom Cruise, Best Supporting Actor. The omission of Magnolia being nominated is unsurprising, but probably the most egregious sin on this list.

2000. Best Picture.
What won: Gladiator.
What didn't win: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Traffic.
Gladiator wasn't that egregious, but we'll never figure out why it would win Best Picture while Traffic took Best Director. Oh wait, stop me if you've heard it before: super-long, historical setting, made lots of money.

2002. Best Picture.
What won: Chicago.
What didn't win: Gangs of New York. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Adaptation (not nominated).
Simply ridiculous. And at least a LOTR victory might have saved us from 2003's travesty.

2002. Best Actor.
Who won: Adrian Brody (The Pianist).
Who didn't win: Daniel Day Lewis (Gangs of New York). Nic Cage (Adaptation). Jack Nicholson (About Schmidt).
Actually a really strong category. Can't argue too much with Brody, but...

2002. Best Director.
Who won: Roman Polanski (The Pianist).
Who didn't win: Martin Scorsese (Gangs of New York). Spike Jones (Adaptation, not nominated).
So let me get this straight: The Pianist wins best Director, and best Actor, but Chicago is the best film of the year? Was Catherine Zeta-Jones that spectacular?? It doesn't matter, the neglect of Adaptation is criminal. Seriously, why are congressmen hauling in baseball players for steroids but no one is investigating the 2002 Oscars?

2003. Best Picture.
What won: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
What didn't win: Lost in Translation.
Once again, we beseech you. LOTR was essentially filmed as one long movie. Then they split it into three more still-long movies. The point is, there's nothing really that distinguishes the LOTR films from each other. Yet, all of a sudden Return of the King, the most superfluous of the three, is the Oscar winner. That makes total sense considering the movie was about an hour too long.

2004. Best Actress.

Who won: Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby)
Who didn't win: Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine...). Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace). Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake).
You could have thrown a dart and found a more deserving performance. In fact, maybe that's how they decided this one.

2005. Best Picture.
What won: Crash.
What didn't win: Brokeback Mountain. Capote. Good Night and Good Luck. Munich.
Probably the worst Academy decision since Titanic. If you're going to get it wrong that's one thing. If you're going to get it wrong because you want to look like you're being all race-relation-y, that's much much worse. This movie didn't win anything of importance besides best picture. So it didn't have the best actor, actress, supporting actress, supporting actor, screenplay, or director, but somehow it's the best picture out there? Makes no sense. At least, it doesn't until you see the immense liberal guilt just oozing from the uber-wealthy Hollywood class.


We didn't see many any of the movies nominated for this years' awards, so we have no comment, but rest assured, when we have one, you'll be the first to know it.


Ash said...

Wow, pretty harsh on Crash man. I really liked that movie.

Kelly said...

Yeah...Crash actually made it in my Myspace profile favorite movies list, and that is saying something. =)

Seriously, when you see Slumdog (which I mentioned to steph before all this Academy hullabaloo (sp?)), let me know. It really is a great one.

gk said...

So far I've only seen 'Milk' and I have to say Sean Penn was indeed fantastic in it.

As for 'Crash,' I don't think a movie should be allowed to win Best Picture if it doesn't win Best Director, Actor, or Actress. It won the fewest Oscars of any movie that won Best Picture (3, tied with 'Rocky'). It wasn't even nominated for Golden Globe Best Picture.

Adam said...

I agree about Crash. I didn't like it. Too simple.