Photo: Oscar Snubs
Happy Awards Season 2021! The biggest night in the film industry, the Academy Awards, is not too far off at this point, with preliminary voting already underway, and the official nominations being announced in just one week. The recent Golden Globes (even with all their internal misfires) gave us a general indication of what kinds of films we should expect to be recognized, with the likes of ‘Nomadland‘, ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’, ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’, ‘Minari’, and ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ appearing to be early favorites for the major awards. However, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been known to differ from the Globes and other Awards shows semi-frequently, often outright snubbing plenty of worthy contenders. Here are some of the worst snubs in Oscar history.
Let’s begin with the acting categories, which most people might be familiar with. The Awards for Best Lead Actor/Actress and Supporting Actor/Actress are often controversial every year, as there are usually 1 or 2 big snubs for deserving celebrities. It’s not always the biggest star who wins these categories, which usually means that a lot of huge names get overlooked, in both the nominations, and the awards themselves. However, this does not excuse some of the shocking snubs that have occurred within the acting categories.
Pre-New Hollywood Age Acting Snubs
In the pre-”New Hollywood” Age, Boris Karloff was failed to be nominated for his performance as the titular monster in 1931’s “Frankenstein,” Gloria Swanson lost in 1950 for her legendary role in “Sunset Boulevard,” Anthony Perkins was left off the ballot for his performance in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller classic “Psycho,” Anne Bancroft did not win for her classic role in “The Graduate,” and Orson Welles, Marilyn Monroe, Peter O’Toole, and Judy Garland never won Acting Oscars for any of their iconic performances before their deaths.
Post-New Hollywood Age
Since the “New Hollywood” Age, we’ve seen the likes of Al Pacino (“Dog Day Afternoon”), Jack Nicholson (“The Shining”), Harrison Ford (the “Star Wars” and “Blade Runner” franchises), Matthew Broderick (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”), Glenn Close (“Fatal Attraction”), Johnny Depp (“Edward Scissorhands” and his various collaborations with Tim Burton), Jake Gyllenhaal (“Zodiac,” “Nightcrawler,” and his work with Denis Villeneuve), Michael Keaton (“Beetlejuice”), the entire cast of “Fight Club” (Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, Jared Leto, and Meatloaf), Andy Serkis (for his motion-capture work), Michael B. Jordan (for his work with Ryan Coogler), Awkwafina (“The Farewell”), Christian Bale (his stuff with Nolan, Spielberg, and “American Psycho”), Toni Collette (“Hereditary”), Leonardo DiCaprio (pretty much anything he’s ever been in, besides “The Revenant,” which he finally won for), and Adam Sandler (“Punch-Drunk Love” and “Uncut Gems”) all lose or escape nomination for their performances, some of which are now revered as some of the greatest of all time. Some of these actors have fortunately won in other years, but others are still waiting on their chance, which they may never see.
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The High Crimes of the Best Director Oscar
This is just baffling to me. The Best Director Oscar is an incredibly coveted award at the Awards every year, with so many magnificent filmmakers vying for the prize, year-in and year-out. Yet, so many of the most well-respected directors of their times have never won the award, and the names included in this category are absolutely staggering.
Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet, Jean-Luc Godard, Stanley Kubrick, Ingmar Bergman, Robert Altman, Federico Fellini, Howard Hawks, and Sergio Leone all passed away without ever receiving the Golden Statue for their directing work, and living legends like Spike Lee, Christopher Nolan, Terry Gilliam, David Fincher, George Lucas, Sofia Coppola, Quentin Tarantino, Ryan Coogler, Terrence Malick, George Miller, Spike Jonze, Ridley Scott, Mary Harron, David Lynch, Michael Mann, Ari Aster, Denis Villeneuve, Wes and Paul Thomas Anderson, the Safdie Brothers, Claire Denis, Tim Burton, and Ava DuVernay have also all been deprived any formal recognition, with DuVernay, Burton, the Safdies, Denis, and Gilliam having never even received a nomination.
But you know who has won this award? Sam Mendes, for the chillingly creepy Kevin Spacey vehicle “American Beauty” in 1999; Roman Polanski, who won for “The Pianist” in 2003, while he was still a fugitive from the US government for raping a minor; Woody Allen, another accused sex offender, who defeated George Lucas’s “Star Wars” in 1977 for “Annie Hall”; and notorious racists Mel Gibson (for “Braveheart” in 1995) and Clint Eastwood, who won twice, for “Unforgiven” in 1992, and “Million Dollar Baby” in 2003. It’s downright despicable that so many talented artists have never been recognized, meanwhile, films and people like these have.
Great Films Ignored for Best Picture
This one might be the most shocking.
The Best Picture category is essentially the single-most coveted award at any show, and there have certainly been plenty of amazing winners over the years (“Shakespeare In Love,” “Crash,” and “Green Book” notwithstanding). Yet, there have also been some earth-shattering omissions in this category. Foreign language films in particular did not see a win until Bong Joon-Ho’s “Parasite” at this past year’s show, meaning that monumental movies like “8 ½” and “Breathless” never saw appropriate recognition. The horror genre has only won once, with “The Silence of the Lambs,” meaning films like “Hereditary,” “The Exorcist,” “The Babadook,” and “Rosemary’s Baby” feigned victory. Stanley Kubrick’s greatest works (“2001: A Space Odyssey,” “A Clockwork Orange,” and “The Shining”) were all ignored by the Academy, despite being often referred to as some of the most important pieces of art ever to grace the medium.
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Christopher Nolan was left off for “Memento,” “The Prestige,” and “The Dark Knight,” the latter of which caused such an uproar (along with the snub of Pixar’s “Wall-E” that same year), to the point where Academy would later have to expand the number of nominations. And of course, the films of Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock never won Best Picture, essentially starting the Oscar trend of amazing talents being ignored by the Academy until well after their deaths.
The Academy has an opportunity this year to do right by a lot of people. Sacha Baron Cohen and the late Chadwick Boseman appear poised to take home one trophy apiece (it just depends on what films they receive them for), Carey Mulligan appears to be a lock for “Promising Young Woman,” David Fincher is up for Best Director for “Mank,” same with Spike Lee for “Da 5 Bloods,” and there are also plenty of diverse newcomers to the show, like Chloe Zhao, Daniel Kaluuya, Emerald Fennell, Dominique Fishback, Riz Ahmed, LaKeith Stanfield, Steven Yeun, Zendaya, as well as Shaka and Regina King, who are all more than deserving of some form of recognition. But ultimately, this will fall on the responsibility of the Academy, and if history is any indication, there will likely be at least a few upset by what they present us with.
By Patrick Nash
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