Those Oscar Missed: Best Picture

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CONTRIBUTED BY JAKE THOMPSON

Best Picture has been a troubling category in the last few years.  I remember being pissed off when 2006’s Babel got nominated.  While it’s a good movie, it had no business being nominated over Pan’s Labyrinth and Children of Men.  After the controversy in 2008 when The Dark Knight DIDN’T get a Best Picture nod, the Academy expanded the field from five to ten nominees (besides The Dark Knight, the slot occupied by The Reader could’ve been occupied by Wall-E or The Wrestler).  Then last year, the Academy changed the rule from ten nominees to up-to-ten nominees (for instance, there could be six, seven, eight, or even nine Best Picture nominees).  I would also like to point out that, in a cruel twist of irony, The Dark Knight Rises was completely snubbed in all categories (including Best Picture) when the latest Oscar nominations were announced earlier this month.  Let’s now peacefully take a look at some major snubs.

One major snub is 1958’s Vertigo.  Directed and produced by Alfred Hitchcock, this film features James Stewart as a former police detective who’s been forced into early retirement due to the vertigo and clinical depression that he developed in the line of duty.  He’s hired some time later as a private investigator to follow a married woman, who is behaving oddly.  Things become complicated when he falls in love with her.  This was a great movie that was mostly ignored by the Academy, although it is possible it wouldn’t have gotten a Best Picture nod anyway because there was no official producer credit among the film credits.  It’s such a shame that this outstanding film wasn’t nominated here.  Hitchcock is a five-time nominee (5 Director nods for 1940’s Rebecca, 1944’s Lifeboat, 1945’s Spellbound, 1954’s Rear Window, and 1960’s Psycho).

The actual nominees at the 31st Academy Awards were:
Gigi – Arthur Freed (*Winner)
Auntie Mame – Jack L. Warner
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof – Lawrence Weingarten
The Defiant Ones – Stanley Kramer
Separate Tables – Harold Hecht

Another major snub is 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick, this film starts with a series of encounters between apes and a large black monolith that affects human evolution, then shifts to a space voyage to Jupiter.  The ship, known as the Discovery, is tracing a signal emitted by a monolith found on the moon to Jupiter.  Things start to go wrong when HAL-9000, the ship’s computer, starts to malfunction, leaving one of the astronauts to continue the mission alone.  This science fiction masterpiece wasn’t completely ignored by the Academy; it won Best Visual Effects for its innovative special effects, giving Kubrick his only Oscar win.  It’s too bad this excellent film wasn’t nominated here.  Kubrick is a 13-time nominee (4 Adapted Screenplay nods for 1964’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1971’s A Clockwork Orange, 1975’s Barry Lyndon, and 1987’s Full Metal Jacket, 1 Original Screenplay nod for 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, 4 Director nods for 1964’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1971’s A Clockwork Orange, and 1975’s Barry Lyndon, 3 Picture nods for 1964’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1971’s A Clockwork Orange, and 1975’s Barry Lyndon, won Visual Effects for 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey).

The actual nominees at the 41st Academy Awards were:
Oliver – John Woolf (*Winner)
Funny GIrl – Ray Stark
The Lion In Winter – Martin Poll
Rachel, Rachel – Paul Newman
Romeo and Juliet – Anthony Havelock-Allan & John Brabourne

One major snub that definitely comes to mind would be 1984’s Once Upon A Time In America.  Directed by Sergio Leone and produced by Arnon Milchan, the director’s cut of this epic gangster film follows the lives of Jewish ghetto youths who rise to prominence in New York City’s organized crime across three different time periods in non-chronological order.  The U.S. release of this film featured a butchered, chronological story that destroyed the great film that had been made by Leone and Milchan.  This was no doubt the best movie of 1984.  It’s a shame this terrific film wasn’t nominated for here. Milchan is a one-time nominee (1 Picture nod for 1997’s L.A. Confidential).

The actual nominees at the 57th Academy Awards were:
Amadeus – Saul Zaentz (*Winner)
The Killing Fields – David Putnam
A Passage To India – John Brabourne & Richard Goodwin
Places In the Heart – Arlene Donovan
A Soldier’s Story – Norman Jewison, Ronald L. Schwary, & Patrick Palmer

Another major snub is 2005’s Kingdom of Heaven.  Directed and produced by Ridley Scott, the director’s cut of this Crusades-era epic follows a French blacksmith who journeys to Jerusalem to take his birth father’s place as the Baron of Ibelin and seek redemption for his dead wife’s soul.  He must also aid the King of Jerusalem with the uneasy tensions between the Christian and the Muslim armies.  The director’s cut, which was even better than the theatrical version, actually played in L.A. for a couple of weeks in December ’05 but not in NY, which is why it technically wasn’t eligible for Best Picture (20th Century Fox tried to push Walk the Line as its Best Picture nominee but was unsuccessful).  It’s a shame that this excellent film wasn’t nominated here.  Scott is a three-time nominee (3 Director nods for 1991’s Thelma and Louise, 2000’s Gladiator, and 2001’s Black Hawk Down).

The actual nominees at the 78th Academy Awards were:
Crash – Paul Haggis & Cathy Schulman (*Winner)
Brokeback Mountain – Diana Ossana & James Schamus
Good Night, and Good Luck – Grant Heslov
Capote – Caroline Baron, William Vince, & Michael Ohoven
Munich – Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, & Barry Mendel

One final major snub would be 2009’s Star Trek.  Directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Abrams and Damon Lindelof, this sequel/reboot follows the origins of the original crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise in an alternate timeline, which was created when a 24th century Romulan ship fell into an artificially-created black hole and emerged roughly 150 years into the past (altering the future, most notably the life of James T. Kirk).  The film chronicles the coming together of the crew as well as the difficulties Kirk and Spock have in learning to work together to save Earth from a vengeful future Romulan.  This film was a surprise box office hit and was completely superior to The Blind Side, which was given a Best Picture nod instead of this film.  It’s too bad the Academy didn’t nominate this terrific film, for Abrams and Lindelof have yet to receive a single Oscar nod.

The actual nominees at the 82nd Academy Awards were:
The Hurt Locker – Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier, & Greg Shapiro (*Winner)
Avatar – James Cameron & Jon Landau
A Serious Man – Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Inglourious Basterds – Lawrence Bender
District 9 – Peter Jackson & Carolynne Cunningham
An Education – Finola Dwyer & Amanda Posey
Precious – Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness, & Gary Magness
Up – Jonas Rivera
Up In the Air – Jason Reitman, Daniel Dubiecki, & Ivan Reitman
The Blind Side – Gil Netter, Andrew A. Kosove, & Broderick Johnson

Other films that were considered include 2008’s The Dark Knight, 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and 2012’s The Avengers.

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3 Responses to Those Oscar Missed: Best Picture

  1. davecrewe says:

    Great list – Vertigo and Once Upon A Time In America in particular are among the best films I’ve ever seen, hard to believe that they got so little respect at the Academy Awards! I wonder if OUATIA would have got nominated had Leone’s original cut been released rather than the atrocious US release.

    • I think if the 229-minute version had been released and had a good enough box office run (considering its length) in the U.S., it’s very likely Warner Bros. would’ve given Once Upon A Time In America a good push when awards season arrived.

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