It’s Oscar week!
This is usually more exciting for me than Christmas. But then, I’m usually excited about the possibilities of what might win awards.
This year…not so much.
I know I’ve mentioned my disdain for La La Land and I 100% stand by those feelings. In fact, the more I ponder and read and discuss that movie, the more I think I was too kind in saying it was fine. The more I think about it, the more I think it’s actually a pretty lousy flick. I’ll get more into that later in the week when I give my Best Picture rundown.
But for today, I want to take a slight detour on the road to this week’s Oscar show and talk about The Days of Oscar’s Past.
Specifically, I want to talk about five times when Oscar picked the wrong Best Picture.
Now, this is COMPLETELY subjective, I know. And it’s impossible to know in 1956 which film people will still be talking about in 30, 40, 50 years. But with the magic of hindsight, and the gift of understanding 30, 40, and 50-year-old legacies, today we can look back on films and see them in a different way.
In the past few years I’ve been fairly vocal about my opinions on certain winners–
(*cough*12 Years a Slave*cough*)
–but I wanted to look back farther. Far enough back that we have a better idea of how some of these films have impacted the culture and endured. Oh, and I also only picked years where I had seen at least the majority of the nominees. And I didn’t include films that weren’t nominated, even though I easily could, since some movies deserve to win and don’t even get a nomination. But anyways.
So…here we go:
Shakespeare in Love/Saving Private Ryan, 1999
Okay, I’ll go with one of the most obvious first. It’s been almost 20 years since the shocking moment when an adorable romantic comedy beat out one of the most realistic war films ever made. And a Stephen Spielberg film at that! I love Shakespeare as much as the next girl who adores Joseph Fiennes. But there is NO WAY you can make a sound argument to convince me that this is a better film than Saving Private Ryan. The grit, and characters, and emotional gut punches abound. Shakespeare is sweet and I’m much more likely to watch that on a random Saturday afternoon. But not because it’s deep. It’s because it isn’t.
Driving Miss Daisy/Dead Poets Society, 1990
This is probably going to stir a bit of disagreement. And I’ll admit that a big part of my reasoning for this comes down to two facts:
- Driving Miss Daisy is boring as hell. Not even Morgan Freeman can saves this snoozefest.
- I saw it when I was helping care for my grandmother with Alzheimer’s and the parts that didn’t make me sleepy made me really pissed off.
But also? Dead Poets Society is an incredible film that has had a MUCH more lasting impact on our culture than Daisy has. A coming-of-age story that is accessible to multiple generations. And, okay, yes, Robin Williams is AMAZING. But you know what? There are a number of great performances. It’s funny and heartbreaking and endearing. And it endures.
Chariots of Fire/Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1982
Have you ever seen Chariots of Fire? I rest my case.
Okay, fine, Chariots of Fire is a really good movie. And the score is as easily recognizable as that fanfare from the Indiana Jones flicks. It was based on a true story and has all the key ingredients of an Oscar winner. But Raiders of the Lost Ark is clearly the beginning of an entire category of Pop Culture. Plus, it’s actually a REALLY good movie, too. It’s not just pulpy fun. There’s intrigue and sweeping landscapes and fighting the Nazis. If that doesn’t sound like a Best Picture, I don’t know what does.
Lawrence of Arabia/To Kill a Mockingbird, 1963
Honestly, I wish these two films had been released in different years so that they could both be winners. But, really. Lawrence of Arabia is good, of course. And Peter O’Toole, wow. But Lawrence of Arabia is one of those films you only watch is you’re obsessed with Oscar movies or Omar Sharif. On the other hand, To Kill a Mockingbird is basically part of the curriculum for junior high or high school. Gregory Peck, for crying out loud. Who doesn’t love Atticus Finch? I even know friends who have named their children after him. How many people do you know named Prince Feisal?
Annie Hall/Star Wars, 1978
And now we come to the oft-debated 1977 Academy Awards year. Yes, it’s true that Annie Hall was a great breakthrough performance for Diane Keaton. It put her on the map. She deserved that Best Actress Oscar and I’ll never say otherwise. And I’m sure that back in 1977, the funny and charming Annie Hall was a more appealing Best Picture selection than the slightly campy Sci Fi romp, Star Wars. But it’s been 40 years. We’re talking multi-BILLION dollar industry that has transcended generations, cultures, races, economics, and every other category. Star Wars is arguably the most broadly appealing Best Picture nominee of all time.