The Academy Awards take place tonight, and already, folks are revving the engines for the Backlash if Get Out happens to not win the Best Picture category. The Oscars these days are fueled by a cacophony of bullshit coming from many people who haven’t seen the Movies that have mega-gripes with the one or two movies they have seen somehow managing to not win.
We avoided this somewhat last year. Not that anyone saw Moonlight before the Academy Awards, but, it was, at the very least a milestone moment for the Award. It’s also a great film, and winning the Award led to many more eyeballs on the movie. Over the next ten years I guarantee I will watch Hell or High Water more often, however. Does that mean anything? Not really. A film can be amazing but painful to watch. I don’t know if Moonlight necessarily fits that bill, but, I loved Manchester by the Sea and every time I’ve thought to go back and watch it again, well, I never quite got there.
I’ve only seen two of the Best Picture nominees this year: Three Billboards and Get Out. So, I won’t try to articulate any real points about the grouping, although, it feels like a much weaker crop of pictures. Maybe that is just a point of strength for last year. Moonlight, Manchester and Hell or High Water were all better than either Three Billboards or Get Out, and then movies like Fences, Hidden Spaces and Arrival were all strong. I’m biased against this year, though, because the favored film is one that looks like something I will never care about, ever. Seriously, who watches the trailer for Shape of Water and is like, “I’m in”?
My point is this…come 11:34pm on the east coast, Twitter will be lit ablaze with gripes about movies people have never seen.
So, thinking about the concept of griping about the Best Picture Winner and my lack of knowledge about the nominees this year, this column transitioned from preview to historical gripes.
I pulled up the Wikipedia page for Best Picture nominees and winners, and just started working backwards.
The first year that irritated me: 2011. This was the third year for the expanded field of nominees, but, it’s a field that makes you think, “maybe they could have nominated 1 or 2 pictures?” What a terrible field. The Artist won. Moneyball was nominated? Whatever, none of these movies are relevant just a few years later.
For what it’s worth, 2010 and 2009 are also bad. It makes you wonder why they felt the need at that point to expand the field. It worked last year, because it really showcased what power Independent and smaller films could have within the context of all of these competing streaming services. For a while, it seemed like all of the adult stories that weren’t “blockbuster” in nature were migrating to TV.
2005 doesn’t irritate me. I’m fine with Crash. I don’t really love the movie. But, I also never made it through Brokeback Mountain, finding it terribly dull. So, I stop to acknowledge 2005 simply because it’s one of the years many will gripe on.
Look, I’ve never seen a Lord of the Rings movie, but, one of them winning over Mystic River is annoying.
Reaching 1998 and we have one of the all-timers for Best Picture controversy. Shakespeare in Love besting Saving Private Ryan. Here’s the thing…This isn’t actually a controversy because the movies were shit. The late-90s is best remembered for favoring romantic films. Of the three years where they went romance heavy…the 1996 and 1997 are more controversial in my mind. This is especially so 20 years later. No one cares about Saving Private Ryan. Now, Titanic is really an inarguable pick, it pulsated the Country that year, although of course Good Will Hunting was a better movie. 1996 however? The English Patient winning over Fargo is a travesty.
The 1994 films is the top nominated class of all-time. I’m putting aside Four Weddings and a Funeral, which, fine, whatever, a precursor to the Academy’s coming tastes, but, the other four films make this a loaded class. Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction are two of the most re-watchable films of all-time, and Quiz Show is criminally underrated. And, those three films all lost to Forrest Gump.
This one is inexcusable. If you are not a Baby Boomer or a child, do you like Forrest Gump? If you do, I would argue there is something wrong with you. Forrest Gump was quirky and lovable and whatever. If it had come along in some of these other years, it’s a fine Best Picture winner. Not with Shawshank and Pulp Fiction.
Dances with Wolves over Goodfellas in 1990 is laughable to look back on now.
1989 is most notable because, besides picking a not very good movie in Driving Miss Daisy, the Awards failed to nominate Do The Right Thing and Glory.
Look, I don’t know what the film Ordinary People is about. Never seen it. I was born right around this time (we’ve slipped back to 1980 now, not much controversial to me, mainly just a lot of films I have not seen, outside of a few of the winners), and Raging Bull was an all-time classic. I haven’t seen that movie in about 20 years, though, so I can’t really fight this one too much.
1975 and 1976 are years that people get heated about. ’75 saw One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest win over Jaws and Dog Day Afternoon. And, ’76 saw Rocky over All The President’s Men and Taxi Driver. Which, I mean, on paper, folks should definitely fight over these selections.
As much as I love Rocky, read about that here, I don’t think it holds up as the winner over either of the two films I mentioned that it beat out. I would make the strongest argument for Taxi Driver. Also, Network was in that field, and much like 1994, that might be the best overall nominee class.
Jaws and Dog Day Afternoon are classics and both hold up better than Cuckoos Nest. Also, I think Dog Day Afternoon is something that holds up very well and is culturally significant.
So, there ya go, I’m not going back any further. I don’t have the knowledge to make the proper gripes about the first 30ish years of the Academy…although, I will say, 1939 looks STACKED.