Ah, the Oscars. A night of glamor and fame. Celebrating our most prolific entertainment industry and seeing how the other half party. It’s also a complete crock of shit. It’s fun to get caught up in the spectacle of the event but don’t get upset if your favorite pick gets passed over because, as this list will demonstrate, the Oscar voters and participants have their heads up their arses.
#10 – Seth MacFarlane is Hosting
This is the only expression he ever uses. Enjoy that for three hours.
This one is certainly a matter of personal taste, but who seriously thought that he was a good choice? He can’t come up with different characters for each of his three shows, let alone give each their own specific comedic angle. Even with his movie debut he used essentially the same jokes from Family Guy. The odds of him being able to deliver the material for three hours is unlikely.
#9 – The ‘Supporting Actor’ Categories Being a Dumping Ground
If you haven’t seen the movie Whale Rider then it is strongly suggested that you track a copy down and watch it. It’s great, and very moving. You may cry. Especially the bit when Paikea, played by Keisha Castle-Hughes, gives a performance at a school event. When she sees that her Grandfather isn’t there the tears spill forth, but she pushes through the speech anyway.
Now he’s a question – why did Keisha Castle-Hughes only qualify as Best ‘Supporting’ Actress? No other actor gets as much screen time as her, the story is about her and she’s the MAIN FREAKING CHARACTER! Who is she supporting, the whales? The luscious New Zealand landscape? No, the almighty Academy of Motion Picture Sciences didn’t deem her good enough to stand amongst past Oscar winners like Marisa Tomei and Catwoman’s Halle Berry so she got dumped in the consolation category. Castle-Hughes acted the crap out of that role and she deserved better than this slight, whether it’s because of her age of ethnicity she earned an equal standing with the other actresses that year.
Again with Inglourious Basterds Christolph Waltz is relegated to the Supporting Actor category in spite of being the most consistent character through the film and possible featured in more screen time than the rest of the ensemble cast. Perhaps this is done to him not speaking enough English in the film – something we’ll get to later.
#8 – The Sam Rockwell Snub
If I were to bring up every great performance that got snubbed at the Oscar’s I’d wear out the keyboard, so instead let’s look at the egregious example. Sam Rockwell had already established himself as an immensely talented performer in both Hollywood and indie fare, being able to add a subtle emotional pull to his characters. His career has had plenty of ups and downs but his part in Duncan Jones’ Moon is such a career high that it’s practically in orbit. Rockwell plays a man who is approaching the end of his three year stint working alone on the moon when he finds someone outside…himself.
The performance is simply stunning. He plays a lost and confused soul struggling with his sense of identity and possibly even his sanity. Most impressive the only other person he interacts with on screen is himself. The performance saw critics shower him with praise. Many assumed that the Best Actor Oscar award was a foregone conclusion, even joking that he qualified for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.
Not even nominated.
He was snubbed in favor of Oscar regulars Morgan Freeman, Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Colin Firth and Jeremy Renner in a breakout role. It’s often been joked that actors need to play a handicapped person or WWII role to get an Oscar, but that’s not true. Playing an artist or a historical figure will also get you there. Or being a known as a pretty boy but turning in a dramatic role. Rockwell’s deeply psychological and profoundly moving role simply wasn’t ‘Oscar Bait’, not like Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela.
#7 – The Unsung Artists
To say that the Oscar’s are simply the movie industry patting itself on the back is facetious. It’s the movie industry patting the celebrities on the back. The most elaborate presentations and most media coverage will always go to the actors while the creative workers behind writing the scripts and creating the art design will be playing second fiddle.
Hell, at least they get a fiddle. Some movie workers and on screen performers don’t get a mention. In some cases the entire industry likes to pretend that they don’t exist. I’m talking about stunt workers. There are the people who literally put their life on the line for the movie but get very, very public attention. It has been said that this hush over the stunt business is to maintain the illusion that the actors are always the one on screen. This sometimes gets taken to ridiculous lengths, like Angelina Jolie being interviewed on how shy she felt having her naked body was scanned for stop motion effects in Beowulf even though the body used for the part belonged to stunt performer Rachel Bernstein.
Stunt people are more than people who throw themselves off buildings for Michael Bay. They often spend time with their crew coming up with the stunt, planning it and performing in it. It’s not uncommon for them to choreograph and direct the stunt, fight and car chase scenes themselves, replicating the director’s style to fit it in to the movie. Sometimes these sequences are the most talked about moments in a movie. Considering Vic Armstrong has acted as Indiana Jones, Superman and three different incarnations of James Bond, and recently gave the new Spider-Man the ability to swing around on webs (yes, that was a real person) you’d think we could give them a shout out.
And they’re not alone in the snubs. Art Direction gets its time in the spotlight but some sections of the art crew, namely the title designer, get left in the dust. One quick search through youtube will reveal just how much we like watching and re-watching a good set of opening titles like Catch Me if You Can and the highly anticipated opening to the latest 007 adventure. Some become ingrained in popular culture and stand as short films themselves, like the much-celebrated opening sequence to Watchmen. The biggest one to be snubbed is Kyle Cooper’s intro to Se7en, a short piece of film that took a full year to create. Almost twenty years later it is still being discussed, analyzed and copied. To the Academy Awards it’s nothing.
#6 – Using it as a Political Soapbox
So you’ve been honored by your peers and get to accept a prestigious award in front of billions of people. You want to remain composed, dignified but not cold, and make your thanks feel heartfelt. But then you get up on the stage and James Franco or however hands you the statue and you’ve molested Halle Berry, you’ve made a gesture to indicate how heavy the award is and a thought crosses your mind.
“This is my chance to change the world…”
Squash that thought, because you’re going to look like a wally. It’s an awards night for movies, not a rallying point for the people of the world. Sometimes it’s expected, like Michael Moore speaking on behalf of every against George Bush, Jr. while the other poor nominees for Best Documentary stood awkwardly behind him. They may not have agreed with him or want to be associated with him, but that won’t stop him from dragging them on stage with him to fidget uncomfortably while he accepts his award. Other times we get Vanessa Redgrave, feeling the pressure of protestors objecting to her documentary, voicing her feelings about ‘Zionist hoodlums’ during a thank-you speech for a completely different movie.
The Award for Most Pointless Political Statement goes to Marlon Brando who, on winning Best Actor for The Godfather, decided that this was the moment to make a stand for an issue that couldn’t be more removed from the moment. In his place he sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather to read a statement Brando had prepared for her. She brushed aside the award being proffered by Roger Moore and read aloud that Marlon Brando was rejecting the award to protest the depiction of Native American’s in cinema. A pointless, empty gesture that is somewhat ironic considering The Godfather was criticized for the depiction of Italian-Americans. I preferred George C. Scott’s refusal of his Best Actor award, stating that he wanted “nothing to do with all that hoopla”.
#5 – Motion Capture Actors Not Classified as Actors
The distinction between an animated character and a real character has already been very clear. No matter how well animated a character is they’re still not a ‘performer’. Motion capture technology as muddied the definition a bit but giving actors the ability to don the skin of a computer generated character on screen. The technology has advanced to the stage that there is no real difference between using motion capture and wearing an elaborate costume.
Take the most obvious and noted example – Andy Serkis playing Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Absolutely phenomenal, and as anyone who has watched the behind the scenes documentaries would be aware of how much of the character is the performer. Serkis acted alongside the other actors on set and in something resembling a costume. The animators would apply his movements and facial expressions to the character, even changing the original design of the character to better capture the performance. This is a man acting a role through computer effects the same way one would act through a prosthetic nose.
In addition to Gollum, for which Serkis deserved an Oscar, he also got snubbed for his role as Ceaser in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and as this technology becomes more frequently utilized the more talented performers are to go unrecognized for their work.
#4 – The Foreign Language Discrepancy
Putting aside for a moment that it’s somewhat insulting that all foreign language films are cobbled together in a separate category for not having the good grace to speak English like a normal person – hey, it’s a different market – there’s a real discrepancy when it comes to the Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture categories. Namely some foreign language films are deemed worthy of the Best Picture Category ahead of their peers.
In the 85 year history of the Academy Awards there have been nine foreign language films nominated in the Best Picture category rather than the Foreign Language Film category. Why? What sets these apart? They’ve all been serious contenders, and the implication seems to be that if a funny language-speaking movie is good enough they’ll be elevated up to the English speaking level. That some movies have been given this honor adds further insult the foreign language films that were deemed unworthy and deepens the implication that Best Foreign Language Film is the little bus category.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon gets moved to the big league, yet the entire catalog of Akira Kurosawa and Cantonese Ang Lee films are relegated to the mid-show category. Life is Beautiful gets a spotlight moment while Downfall is left out. Cries and Whispers is worthy of attention but the critical smash Girl With the Dragon Tattoo isn’t.
“Sorry, Akira who?”
Further investigation reveals even more problems. For example ‘Foreign Language’ turns out to be a rather confusing premise for the Academy. Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo-Jima was declared ineligible for the Best Foreign Language nominations because it was an American production. The Godfather was nominated in spite of large sections of the film being filmed in Italian, whilst foreign language films with sections in English being ineligible for Best Picture.
What constitutes eligibility for Best Picture runs into more discrepancies when you begin looking at animated films as well. End of the day it seems that box-office is the biggest deciding factor.
#3 – Flash in the Pan Directors Outweigh Actual Talent
As we’ll also look at with item #2 on this list, the Academy voters seem just as easily swayed by marketing as the rest of us. A director who makes plenty of bank for the studios is more likely to win out over genuinely talented men and women. It’s more obvious in hindsight but it’s surprisingly how many truly ground-breaking directors have been looked over time and time again in favor of a movie being a box-office smash.
Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, Sidney Lumet, Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin have all gone to their graves without being recognized for their work with a Best Director Oscar. These are all men who are regarded (and were during their lives) as the most creative and technologically brilliant people in the field of movie directing. When you promote yourself as being the ‘Most Important Award in Cinema’ each and every year you’ve got no excuse for ignoring the directors of A Clockwork Orange, Seven Samurai, 12 Angry Men, Psycho and City Lights.
Quite often the Academy will give out what I call a ‘hindsight’ award, hoisting a Best Director award on a director for a film to make up for all the ones that got ignored. Few would rank The Departed as Scorsese’s finest moment, but the Academy may have felt silly about him not getting one for Goodfellas, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver. Speaking of which…
#2 – Bland Drama Will Win the Day
The Academy Awards have a long standing history of handing out awards by the bucket to the drama genre while comedy, sci-fi, fantasy and horror languish. Likewise anything edgy, ground-breaking or controversial will be passed over for the forced emotion of forgettable drama. Scorsese may have been there to see The Departed take home Best Picture, but not before seeing Taxi Driver lose to Rocky, Raging Bull lose to Ordinary People and Goodfellas get snubbed in favor of Dances With Wolves. Dances With fucking Wolves!
This is very, very far from being a stand alone incident. The Academy will always play it safe. That’s why the fantastic Pulp Fiction and tad rapey The Shawshank Redemption were deemed inferior to the heavily sugar coated and exceptionally racist Forrest Gump, and movie that the character creator outright hated for playing it safe. The critical and commercial smash hit Brokeback Mountain looked to be a solid bet until the confused ode to racism Crash took the plate. Apocalypse Now is still scoring time in multiplexes and is one of the most studied films of all time, but it lost to divorce drama Kramer vs Kramer.
“That one with all the minorities? Nobody’ll remember that!”
Genre busting Memento and social critique Do the Right Thing weren’t even worth a nomination, which seems like madness in hindsight.
Even the so-called ‘best film of all time’ and easily the most revolutionly, Citizen Kane, was left unsaddled by an Oscar in favor of bland drama How Green Was My Valley.
Maybe the most obvious misfire is Shakespeare in Love winning out over Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, Life is Beautiful and Elizabeth. That brings us to our final point.
#1 – Gwyneth Paltrow Won an Oscar
Seriously, what the hell. Gwyneth Paltrow is a terrible person (click here to find out why). The only award she should win is for being utterly pointless. One may argue that the award should go to the best performance regardless of the person behind it, but those people obviously haven’t seen Shakespeare in Love, a wretched piece of trash that is best left in a scrapyard where it will be melted down for scrap. Paltrow was fucking terrible in it, the only performance that was worse was her blubbering during her idiotic speech.
The night that the Academy sent that horrid woman take the award home instead of Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth is without a doubt the most idiotic thing that has ever happened. It broke my spirit.