Everyone hears about them. Everyone watches the movies. And everyone can find at least one decision the Academy makes that causes them to yell at their screen or monitor, “Are you kidding me? That movie sucked!”
It’s clear that America can’t agree on the right decisions, but we can at least find common ground by agreeing on the wrong decisions. Join us as we correct the last twenty years of Oscar history and open the envelope to present,
THE WE OUT HERE AWARD FOR WORST DECISION BY A GOVERNING BODY IN AN AWARDS CEREMONY
The nominees are:
The 67th Academy Awards (1995)
Forrest Gump wins Best Picture over Pulp Fiction
Let’s be honest with ourselves and finally admit that Forrest Gump is not a great movie. Your Nana can disagree, but we know the truth: It’s an emotionally manipulative wreck of a movie. We can’t claim that this is the first movie to guilt its way onto the Oscar stage, but it earns most of our hate by having taken the statue away from the far more deserving Pulp Fiction.
Only one of these movies gets studied in college film courses. Only one of these movies manipulates narrative in a way that mainstream Hollywood had never seen before. And only one of these movies features Sam Jackson spitting Bible verses at the poor bastards he was sent to kill, leading a whole generation of film students to the loving arms of Jesus.
The 72nd Academy Awards (1999)
Roberto Benigni wins Best Actor over Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen, and Edward Norton
Tom Hanks, previously a winner for Forrest Gump and Philadelphia, showed us the quiet side of war with his gruff sergeant in Saving Private Ryan. The performance was all the more moving as it was placed in the middle of a shockingly violent movie and provided a way to personalize World War II for a generation that had only read about it.
Ian McKellen showed us the last days of famed director James Whale in Gods and Monsters. In a heartbreaking portrayal of a man whose mind and soul pined for the energy and sexuality of his youth, McKellen showed us a performance so subtle it could only be captured by film, and yet so theatrical that no movie could contain it.
Edward Norton, before he wrote the rules of Fight Club, continued to improve on the promise he had shown as a young actor in Primal Fear. As a neo-Nazi in American History X learning to move beyond the prejudice of his past, he takes us on an incredible journey. An actor that can show his character savagely kill a man in the first five minutes of a movie only to bring us to his side by the end deserves a special kind of recognition.
In 1999, that recognition went to Roberto Benigni for his Ministry of Silly Walks concentration camp movie. No, thank you.
The 75th Academy Awards (2003)
Convicted Rapist wins Best Director before Martin Scorsese
In 2006, when Oscar host John Stewart joked about Three 6 Mafia’s Oscar win for best original song, ‘For those keeping track at home, that’s Three 6 Mafia: One, Martin Scorsese: Zero,’ he nailed a sentiment shared by most of the audience: That Scorsese’s lack of Oscar recognition had become a painful joke.
Here was a man who had given us Taxi Driver; Raging Bull; The Last Temptation of Christ; Goodfellas; and in 2003, he presented us with Gangs of New York, which memorably re-launched the career of Leonardo DiCaprio from the realms of teenage idol into the upper tier of fine actors, where he has stayed ever since (thanks largely to his further work with Scorsese). Scorsese gained yet another nomination for Best Director and, seeing an opportunity to finally right the wrongs of the past two decades, Academy voters made the only reasonable decision they could.
They gave the award to convicted rapist Roman Polanski.
While Polanski’s film The Pianist was a moving, emotional drama about the power of art cutting through the darkness of the (you guessed it!) Holocaust, his win represented the strong urge of Academy voters to kick a man while he was down, and exemplified a kind of tone deafness that conservatives have accused Hollywood of harboring for years. Sure, Scorsese had made a heck of a movie…but if only he were a little more rapey.
The 78th Academy Awards (2006)
Crash wins Best Picture over Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Brokeback Mountain, and Munich
Take. Your. Pick.
Munich raised eyebrows for its unwillingness to take a stance on the act of retaliation that was the birth of terrorism. Capote and Brokeback Mountain showed a perspective on homosexual relationships that, while perfectly ordinary in southern California, shocked a conservative audience into a conversation they had never wanted to have. Good Night and Good Luck was a challenge, and a damn good challenge, to a news-media that had grown complacent in its role as watchdog of an over-reaching government.
Crash told us that maybe racism was bad, you guys, and stop being so mean.
One of the most steadfast laws of the natural world (right next to gravity, actually) is the fact that, when presented with a list of choices, Academy Voters will always make the safest choice. And what is safer than voting for a movie that makes white people feel guilty about being born into the middle class?
The 80th Academy Awards (2008)
Diablo Cody wins Best Original Screenplay
Listen, guys, it’s not that Juno was a bad movie. It was a cute story, with a cute girl, doing cute things that led to a cute baby. But the story and the characters in Juno aren’t what you’ll hear people complaining about. What makes people involuntarily vomit when they watch this movie is the horribly unnatural, stilted, and phony dialogue.
“This is one doodle that can’t be undid, Homeskillet”? “Honest to blog”? That definitely deserves the same recognition given to films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Network, and Pulp Fiction.
Maybe the Academy was trying to make up for having finally given Martin Scorsese his Oscar the year before.
The 74th (2002), 78th (2006), 79th (2007), 81st (2009),and 83rd (2011) Academy Awards
Christopher Nolan’s brilliance ignored
In 2001, Christopher Nolan gave the world Memento, followed by Insomnia in 2002. In 2005, Batman Begins. The Prestige was bestowed on us in 2006, and in 2008 cinematic greatness was redefined with The Dark Knight. In 2010, the cure to cancer magically took the form of the movie Inception. In 2001 the Academy, looking for a buddy for perennial whipping boy Martin Scorsese, gave a polite nomination to Nolan and his brother Jonathan’s screenplay for Memento (which, apparently not being of the same caliber as Juno, lost) and then immediately set about ignoring him. In twelve years, counting Nolan’s lesser known 1998 debut Following, the Academy has managed to completely shun the most original, exciting director to hit the American film scene since Scorsese himself.
We can all admit that the only reason the Academy was smart enough to award The Dark Knight the award for Best Supporting Actor in 2009 was because the Academy was terrified that the ghost of Heath Ledger would haunt them in full Joker makeup if they didn’t. We can all expect to sit through at least another decade of groundbreaking movies from Mr. Nolan, and another decade of ignorance on the part of Academy Voters.
We Out Here counts on our readers to point out any other instances of ignorance we may have missed. Cast your vote in the comments below for the nominee you feel most deserves the Worst Decision Award.
If you didn’t see your favorite mistake in our list, tell us about it! And make sure to tune in to the Academy Awards this Sunday to get a head start on what we’ll be complaining about on Monday morning.