Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Few of Oscar's BIGGEST Flub-A-Dubs From the Past

Okay, these are all my own personal choices, so take that into consideration. (And done mostly from memory because I don't want to turn this into an Officially Oscar type thing. There are plenty of film websites which will be happy to give you chapter and verse on all this.) Everyone's entitled to their own vision of a perfect world. My own world would include awards given to the correct people for brilliant and worthwhile work - awards given without outside interference or pressure. But since people are imperfect, awards will follow suit. So this is neither here nor there - just a little impromptu treatise of mine on past Oscar failures. I've never had a platform on which to pontificate before. Ha! Actually, this blog is my way of making Oscar conversation. I hope you'll join in.

1) One of the biggest and most egregious Oscar errors I can ever remember was the slight dealt to Peter O'Toole when he did NOT win the Oscar for his overwhelmingly right performance as T.E. Lawrence, otherwise known as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. O'Toole was the heart and soul of that epic film directed by David Lean. He was, in a word: superb. (When 'superb' supposedly meant something.) Not to put too fine a point on it: in that film O'Toole AND Lean turned Lawrence - a little known British player in the Arab turmoil as the Ottoman Empire collapsed after WWI - into a god.

But who won Best Actor that year? Gregory Peck for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. A good performance by a wonderful actor whom everyone loved. So it always seems to me to have been a popularity win instead of a win based on the work. Plus, not to mention, that Harper Lee's book is an American beloved. I suppose it was seen as an insult to Lee's book to have anyone but Peck win the award that year. Yes, Peck was good as Atticus Finch, the stalwart, honorable father. (Physically, he was 'stalwart' personified.)The theme of the book 'tolerance of your fellow man' is, of course, a good one. But performance-wise, I vote for O'Toole. (If I had a vote.) LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is a film I can still watch and marvel at how little it has aged. It still shines. It is my favorite British film of all time. I've only seen TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD once or twice over the years. It's a very good film. It just doesn't stack up to LAWRENCE.

Over the years, Peter O'Toole has gone on to be nominated 8 times and has never won. He was overlooked for his brilliance yet again, in THE LION IN WINTER. That year Katherine Hepburn won Best Actress for her performance in the film - who was she playing against? An empty suit? O'Toole's performance is magnificent. Hers, merely very good. They should have both won.

Let me tell you something, giving this guy an honorary Oscar in 2002 just didn't cut it.

2) When, in 1955, Judy Garland was overlooked for Oscar gold for her magnificent turn in A STAR IS BORN - in favor of Grace Kelly's wimpish, ordinary (she wore a sweater, for god's sake!) beleaguered wife of Bing Crosby in THE COUNTRY GIRL, a soap opera (at best), it was the single most incredible outrage ever perpetuated on an American actress in full view of an entire country. Garland did her best and smiled bravely. She had to. But she knew, I knew, we all knew she'd just been mugged.

Grace Kelly was a beautiful woman playing plain. This is not a good enough reason for winning an Oscar. Sorry. Oh wait, maybe she got it for snagging a Prince? Don't know the timeline there. Still not a good enough reason.

I'm not saying Garland was the greatest actress that ever lived. She wasn't. But at the top of her game, in the several films I remember her best in, she carried the damn film on her shoulders. She made those films her own by sheer force of will and talent. In A STAR IS BORN, she is Esther Blodgett and again, carries the film. NOT a great movie, but her memorable performance outweighed some of the more overwrought faults of the film. James Mason, too, was superb. (But it was Marlon Brando for ON THE WATERFRONT that year and rightly so.)

3) The year that Caleb Deschanel was not nominated for his superbly rich, startlingly imaginative camera work for the film, THE BLACK STALLION, is the year I began to stop paying close attention to the Oscars. It was the year I began to grow up. 1980, I think. Now it was about time I decided to grow up, I mean, I was married and the mother of a ten year old girl. But I still believed in magic.

One reason Deschanel might have been overlooked, I later heard, was because he used natural light and somehow, that was considered unworthy of nomination. An absurd statement on its face. Now, this is just what I read later. Possibly, probably, I heard wrong. I can't find any lists online (well, not easily anyway) of who won for Cinematography that year. (Or any year, for that matter.) But it wasn't Deschanel and he wuz robbed. Even the winner that year, if I remember correctly, mentioned Deschanel's name. What a freakin' travesty.

THE BLACK STALLION, supposed to be merely a kid's film, is on my list of Best Films of All Time. Right near the top. One of the main reasons is Caleb Deschanel's beautiful (I need a bigger word than 'beautiful' but can't think of one) cinematography. This is the kind of camerawork that holds you spellbound - that lifts film from mere entertainment, into the realm of art. There are scenes in this film that live on in my memory precisely because of their artistry and beauty. Scenes that even now fill me with awe. I can recall having seen nothing like this in all the years I'd been going to the movies. I cried at the end of this film, not because I was sad, but because I ached for the beauty I'd just seen. I can't even remember who won the actual Oscar that year. Don't care.

4) The year - 1961 I think - that Elmer Bernstein did NOT win an Oscar for his brilliantly evocative soundtrack for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN was a major disappointment because I'd thought he was a shoe-in. I was 18 then and payed serious attention to the Oscars and not just the acting and best picture categories. I knew, even then, that it takes a helluva lot of behind-the-scenes people to make a film. I paid attention.

That year, the music oscar went to, Ernest Gold, who scored the fillm EXODUS. A good score with a powerful main theme, but that was it. How often do you hear it played today? How many hits does it still get on youtube, I wonder. All I know is, I'm still listening to the music from THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and still loving it. I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't love it. You hear that music and you instantly think: western! Elmer Bernstein was a prolific composer of memorable film scores. In my view, he was responsible for some of the finest film music ever created. That his finest score was overlooked for Oscar has always rankled. Obviously, for certain things, I have a long memory.

5) In my view, Raul Julia was totally overlooked as an actor in his lifetime. In 1985's KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, he played opposite the eventual Oscar winner for Best Actor, William Hurt - a great performance. But you know, again I say, was Hurt playing against an empty suit? Raul Julia as Valentin was, in my view, equally as good in a very difficult role. Julia did win a Golden Globe that year, but was totally overlooked by the Academy. Not even a Supporting Actor nomination. Inexplicable.
6) Last but not least, I'll just mention my continuing to simmer outrage over the 2006 Oscar snub of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN for Best Film. Oh wait, it won for Best Director - right? Best director of what? How does a guy win a Best Director Oscar and the Film doesn't win Best Picture? Can't figure that out. Maybe it's a parallel universe kind of thing. What film won that year? The memorable....uh, wait, give me a minute: Oh, yeah, CRASH. A film that will be talked about whenever film mavens get togethter to discuss the greatness of films - NOT!

In truth, BBM didn't have a chance when some of the Academy voters REFUSED to see the film. See, if you watch a film about two men in love and you're a man, you might, I don't know, suddenly turn gay! Right? Ernest Borgnine was one of those who refused to see the film. Tony Curtis was another. No comment.

But you know, it's kind of okay, because EVERYONE in the rest of the world knew BBM wuz robbed and knew why. Dear Heath Ledger was robbed as well, but don't get me started on that one.

Do you have any especially ugly memories of Oscar Flub-A-Dubs?


  1. That Alfred Hitchcock never won an academy award for REAR WINDOW, VERTIGO, THE LADY VANISHES, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, PSYCHO, etc. A travesty.

  2. Oh, forgot that one, Patti. I was simply going off the top of my head and from memory. Hitchcock should have won several Oscars, far as I'm concerned. Hard to believe. :(

  3. I always thought The Shawshank Redemption should have won the Oscar instead of Forrest Gump.


  4. Now that you mention it, mjoy, I tend to agree. Although I loved Tom Hanks in GUMP.

  5. Totally agree, especially about Peter O'Toole. I don't recall what was up against Titanic the year it won best picture but surely any one of them was robbed when a picture with dialogue that bad, a plot that predictable, and that ridiculous chase scene at the end won.

  6. Lisa: Yes, Peter O'Toole. What a disgrace that this most splendid of actors has never 'won' an Oscar. It just shows you the ridiculousness of it all. Ah, TITANIC. The sort of picture you see once and that's it. Not the kind of thing you want to keep on seeing as the years pass. To my mind, Best Picture winners should, theoretically, be pictures you never get tired of watching. Silly me.

  7. Once upon a time used to have a great game forum and there was a group of people who used to play a game where the Oscars were given to the movies, actors, directors and other movie people who deserved them instead of who the Academy gave them to. It was a blast! Very much like this post of yours, Yvette.

    In that game I remember learning of an amazing movie that was snubbed at the Oscars. It was I Know Where I'm Going! with Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey. It was directed by Michael Powell whose movie work is exemplary on all levels. You ought to find it on DVD. (Criterion Collection, I believe) It's remarkable.

  8. John: I've seen I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! Many years ago, I watched this on television. Channel 13 (the pbs channel in NYC) before cable of course. I was a fan of Wendy Hiller. Don't remember much about the film, I'll have to watch it again one of these days. Criterion carries a lot of these wonderful older, lesser known films.

    Michael Powell...I'm thinking The RED SHOES? THIEF OF BAGHDAD?

  9. Planes,Trains and Automobiles is never given enough credit,if at all. It is the funniest movie ever made yet is never mentioned in any list of comedies.

  10. A very funny film. We always try to watch it around Thanksgiving. :)


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