Oscar season is here again. That is to say – it’s time for the annual event at which the much-renowned Academy (jury) throws up more shockers than both Filmfare and Stardust Awards combined. The golden statuette is as prestigious as ever, even today, but that in no way means that the victors that walk away are always the right choices. More often than not, they’re predictable, awry, politically correct, safe and boring and – dare we say – undeserving. For the last few decades, almost every year, there have been at least three shock wins in the major categories. It’s safe to predict that there will be more than three this time, if the nominations (or lack of some) weren’t proof enough.
Let’s take a look at some of the most undeserving and stunning mistakes (subjectively speaking, in the broad scheme of common sense) made by the Academy over the years. These are decisions that can never be undone – and choices that easily trump the inclusion of Shah Rukh Khan in one popular acting category each year even for films like Chennai Express and Dilwale.
Who Won: How Green Was My Valley
Should Have Won: Citizen Kane
The political forces in power made sure that master filmmaker and director of one of the most iconic films of all time – Orson Welles – never actually bagged this award in his life. Instead, they went for the rather tame, amateur-ish, crowd pleaser by John Ford, thereby setting the stage for one of the most unforgivable Oscar mistakes ever. Whoever thought the Academy could be influenced by powerful businessmen in that era? Oh, wait…
Who Won: Rocky
Should Have Won: Taxi Driver, All The President’s Men
We all love watching the Southpaw train to ‘Gonna Fly Now’ and ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ countless times on television even today, but come on, You Talkin’ To Me?
Who Won: Dances With Wolves
Should Have Won: Goodfellas
Not for the first time, Martin Scorsese’s finest hour was foiled on the big stage. That he finally won for the unoriginal and highly derivative The Departed much later in life only highlights how the Academy’s two worst mistakes – ignoring Taxi Driver in favor of Rocky in 1976 and favoring Kevin Costner’s utterly forgettable Dances With Wolves in 1990 – both involved Scorsese at the receiving end. It’s almost like they could predict he would make an inferior film later on, and they could get it done with by handing him over a ‘Lifetime Achievement’ sort of award. He did make the beautiful Hugo after The Departed, but was again ignored despite changing the face of 3D-filmmaking.
Who Won: Forrest Gump
Should Have Won: The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction
Gump will always find a place in our soppy hearts, but try going a day in the movie business without hearing the titles Shawshank and Pulp Fiction in context of true cinematic classic cult pieces of work still capturing imaginations all over the world. Run away, Forrest, run away!
Who Won: Shakespeare In Love
Should Have Won: Saving Private Ryan
At least Spielberg bagged the Best Director award, lest people think the Oscars were a complete joke. I remember being barraged by this ‘Hindi movie-ish Hollywood film capturing family imaginations’ back in 1998 as a kid, and wondered how a semi-erotic comedy about the world’s most famous playwright could trump one of the most riveting war sagas ever captured on film. Not to mention Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line. We have here a case for yet another “Tu jaanta hai mera baap kaun hai?” campaign – considering it was Harvey Weinstein behind the Gwyneth Paltrow-driven miracle. This was also the year Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth won 2 Technical Oscars, but missed out on the much-favored Best Actress category for Cate Blanchett – who should have won this one hands down, if one were to go simply on form, pedigree, quality and overall class and performance.
Who Won: Crash
Should Have Won: Brokeback Mountain, Munich
Arguably the worst film in the history of movies ever to win the main category, Crash was little more than an average, American, anti-racist statement. It was a multi-narrative drama, which perhaps set the stage for the BETTER multi-narrative Babel not winning it next year over The Departed. Unforgivable.
Who Won: Slumdog Millionaire
Should Have Won: Anyone Else
To put things into perspective, the other nominees were The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk and The Reader. I suppose Danny Boyle’s vivid, thumping ‘exoticization’ of Bombay stood out in the variety stakes, but it was by no means the best film that year – or even in the list. This was also the last year the Best Picture list was limited to 5 nominees. Every year after has had 9 or 10 nominees.
Who Won: The Artist
Should Have Won: Hugo OR Moneyball
A throwback to the silent filmmaking era became a very popular film a few years ago, and deservedly so. But if you’re going to tell me that it was a brilliant piece of cinema that will stand the test of time, you come from the same school of thought that thinks most box office hits should win every award out there. It’s not the same. Moneyball was masterfully written and acted, and Hugo was Master Scorsese’s 3D lesson to all the new, overexcited young filmmakers abusing the medium.
Just so you know, and so that Ben Affleck still feels better about not being nominated for directing Argo despite winning at the Globes, some of the other classics that didn’t win the Oscar: Doctor Zhivago, Fiddler On The Roof, Jaws, Dog Day Afternoon, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, E.T., A Streetcar Named Desire, 12 Angry Men, Anatomy Of A Murder. Hell, Psycho wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture in 1960.