10B -The Michigan Daily - Wekend Magazine- Thursday, February 19, 2004
The Michigan Daily - Weekend Mga
By Alex Wolsky
Daily Arts Editor
MIND OF OSCAR
A LOOK AT THE BIGGEST SNUBS IN ACADEMY HISTORY
Oscar is a precarious bedfellow. Over the past 76 years,
the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has
bestowed critical praise on some of the most deserving films
in history. Yet, while the Academy shakes politely with its
right hand, it delivers a painstaking blow to the gut with its
left. Some were petty theft; some, though technically not ille-
gal, should've been grounds for the death penalty. These are
the worst snubs, or "When Oscar Attacks."
CUT TO: James Cagney in "Public Enemy" pummeling a
grapefruit into M'ae Clark's fce.
Snub #1: It's "Citizen Kane," stupid!
One of the most infamous snubs in Oscar history came in
1941, when Orson Welles's magnum opus "Citizen Kane" was
denied Best Picture accolades by John Ford's film adaptation of
"How Green was My Valley." Over 60 years after the fact,
"Valley" has disappeared into the annals of history, while
"Kane" stands as an epic piece of cinematic lore. In fact, many
of Oscar's most painful snubs have come in the Best Picture
category. While not up to the magnitude of "Kane," there have
been notable screw-ups by the Academy. Shield your eyes.
In 1964, "My Fair Lady," the Audrey Hepburn-fueled
musical, beat out "Mary Poppins," "Zorba the Greek,"
and "Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop
Worrying and Love the Bomb" for the Oscar. In '51,
both Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando won Oscars
for their individual performances in "A Streetcar
Named Desire." But, when it came to Best
Picture, "Streetcar" wound up losing to "An
American in Paris."
In fact, many of the best films ever
made were overlooked when it came to
Oscar night. Numerous films in the
American Film Institute's top 100 films of
all time never won a statuette. "Singin' in
the Rain" (AFI #10) lost to "The Greatest
Show on Earth" (unranked); "Some Like it
Hot" (AFI #14) lost to "Ben Hur" (not ranked);
"2001: A Space Odyssey" (AFI #22) lost to
"Oliver!" (unranked); and finally, "Psycho" (AFI
#18) lost to "The Apartment" (unranked). And,
speaking of Hitchcock ...
CUT TO: Cary Grant in "North by Northwest" run-
ning manically through a field, dodging an oncoming
Snub #2: Cover your tracks, Oscar.
Oscar's most notable snubs have come in the forum for
Best Director. In fact, the list of overlooked directors is near-
ly a mile long, but there are some gross mistakes that must be
Three of the most influential directors in modern film his-
tory were never recognized for their work. Neither Martin
Scorsese ("Goodfellas," "Taxi Driver"), Robert Altman
("Gosford Park") nor Stanley Kubrick ever won an Oscar for
Best Director. In fact, Kubrick, despite crafting a handful of
legendary films such as "Full Metal Jacket," "A Clockwork
Orange" and "Dr. Strangelove," was never once nominated
for Best Director. At least Altman (4 nominations) and
Scorsese (3 nominations) could say that they had the chance
ex to win a statuette.
In possibly the greatest directorial error in
Oscar's history, however, Alfred Hitchcock, a
director whose technique redefined how an entire
genre functioned, was never awarded for his
skill behind the camera. In fact, he was nomi-
nated five times and four of his films rank among the AFI's
list. But never fear, the Academy has a way of correcting
itself via the Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was
bestowed upon Hitchcock, to which his only response was a
brief "thank you" (read: middle finger) before walking off
the stage. Talk about cold shoulder!
CUT TO: Ben Affleck in "Good Will Hunting," standing
with mouth agape on Matt Damon 's abandoned porch.
Snub #3: Oh, no he di'int!
Both Best Actor and BestActress have had their share of
troubles over the years, as well. Gloria Swanson's epic depic-
tion of the ultimate diva ("I'm ready for my closeup, Mr.
DeMille") in "Sunset Boulevard" has become one of the most
exceptional performances ever committed to celluloid; how-
ever, Judy Holliday was polishing gold for her performance in
"Born Yesterday" that year instead.
The most blatant example of a Best Actor snub was dealt to
the Godfather himself, Al Pacino. In '73, Al Pacino received
critical praise for his performance in "Serpico," yet Oscar
went home with Jack Lemmon that year for his performance
in, "Save the Tiger." Seeking retribution, critics again predict-
ed victory for Pacino in '74 with his chilling performance in
"The Godfather Part II." However, he lost to Art Carney's por-
trayal of an elderly man's cross-country travels with his cat in
"Harry and Tonto." But the Academy made it up to the Don
by awarding him a statue for his performance in the lacklus-
ter "Scent of a Woman."
Some other notable misfires include Humphrey Bogart get-
ting snubbed for his performance in "Casablanca" in '43 to
Paul Lukas in "Watch on the Rhine." Actor Denzel
Washington has felt the brunt of the Academy's wrath, as
well. After losing for both "Malcolm X" and "The
Hurricane," Washington was finally ware1 Best Actor for
his role in the less-deserving "Training Day."
CUT TO: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nailing a guy to the
wall with his knife in "Predator.
Snub #4: Where's McCain-Feingold when you need it?
While most of the aforementioned snubs are solely
based on opinion, sometimes Oscar can be shadier than
one would expect. In '98, amidsta highly competitive year
for Best Pictuie, Miramax bent the rules in its favor by
sporting a $10 million blitzkriegyampaign for its film
"Shakespeare in Love."
Every year people decry Oscar's blind eye to last-minute,
cash-fueled campaigns for the Academy's love, and every
year it's ignored. Just as in politics, mney prevents a natur-
al voting process. But what contr<4s do studios and distrib-
utors have over the way people pereiv their advertising?
There's virtually no way anybody ca distinguish typical
promotion for a film and inflating a campaign for Oscar
success. "Shakespeare in Love" wound ip beating out crit-
ics darling, "Saving Private Ryan" in '98, much to the cha-
grin of Oscar viewers.
CUT TO: Cher in "Moonstruck".slapping Nicolas Cage
and saying, "Snap out ofiW'
But what does history te, Aout the gears ceremony?
To put it simply: Nothing -1. , don't be surprised if
Peter Jackson isn't polishg Oscar for "The Lord of the
Rings: The Return of the Ing'stthe after-paty And, when
Sofia Coppola's beautifu 4etter to Tokyo, "Lost in
Translation" gets sho don t &etiture by Clint
Eastwood's "Mystic Rivez,' don't Say you weren't warned.
Oscar is, after all, above and beyond all history and specu-
lation, a grouch. Just ask Alfred Hitchcock.
courtesy of warner
Despite worthy contenders,
Jackson will snag Best Directoi
By Adam Rottenberg
Daily Arts Editor
Best Director is a toughly con-
tested competition between promis-
ing newcomers and award-show
veterans. The films range from
emotionally gripping drama, high-
seas adventure, violent tales of the
underworld, journeys to a foreign
land and a final trip to Middle
Earth. With films as diverse as
these, the auteurs each added their
own unique touch to their works.
However, every year there is a fron-
trunner and Peter Jackson appears
poised to finally take home that
golden statuette for his "The Lord
of the Rings: The Return of the
Fernando Meirelles came out of
left field to secure a nomination for
his hardboiled depiction of
Brazilian slums. "City of God" was
the surprise film the morning that
the nominees were announced, com-
peting for four trophies. The movie
is gritty and brutal in its portrayal of
crime and the gangster lifestyle.
Unlike films in the vein of "Pulp
Fiction," Meirelles is unflinching
and shows bloodshed and drug use
amongst even the youngest of chil-
dren. While beautifully shot, "City
of God" actually began appearing in
theaters in 2002 in Brazil. The rook-
ie in the category has plenty of time
to to claim his place within the
annals of Academy history, but 2004
is not yet his year.
Veteran actor and filmmaker Clint
Eastwood returns to the Awards 12
years after taking home the statue
for "Unforgiven." "Mystic River," a
hard-hitting drama based on a best-
selling novel, put Eastwood's direc-
torial skills back on the map.
However, for all of its achievements,
"Mystic River" is an actor's movie.
Deliberate pacing by Eastwood
enabled this Boston-set Greek
tragedy to pull on the heartstrings,
but lesser directors could probably
have succeeded in his place. He has
already taken home a trophy, so
leaving empty-handed on Oscar
night will not hurt his legacy.
Three-time Best Director nomi-
nee Peter Weir receives a fourth
nomination for "Master and
Commander: The Far Side of the
World." This literary adaptation fea-
tures the well-cast Russel Crowe
leading a British battleship against
the French in the Napoleonic Wars.
Beautifully shot and painstakingly
detailed, Weir captures the feeling
of life on the high seas. While
"Master and Commander" is a qual-
ity film, it lacks that special some-
thing which the rest of the pack
seem to possess. Even though it
received 10 nominations, the film is
the underdog in almost every cate-
gory and deservedly so. Best
Director should prove no different,
as Weir will eventually return to the
stage with another quality picture
that should have more hope than this
Sofia Coppola, daughter of
acclaimed director Francis Ford
Coppola, garnered her first nomina-
tion in this category for "Lost in
Translation." The film served as a
sort of coming-out party for the
filmmaker, whose previous work,
"The Virgin Suicides," received a
moderate reception. Her mastery of
evoking feelings of loss and love
resonate in "Lost in Translation,"
which may be because of the semi-
autobiographical slant the story
takes. Her work on this movie is
more likely to be recognized in the
screenwriting category, though she
could serve as a dark horse to
dethrone the "Return of the King"
This year's favorite, as he was
back in 2001, looks to be Peter
Jackson. His work on "The Lord of
the Rings" trilogy is complete, and
the Academy seems ready to finally
reward his work. Vast countrysides,
vile creatures and epic battles popu-
late Jackson's fictional world.
Academy voters generally overlook
fantasy and science fiction works,
but Jackson has created the rare
film that both critics and audiences
praise. His likely win will be well
deserved. The finale may not be the
best in the trilogy, but a Jackson win
would probably be in recognitio
the collective work of all three
Best Director often reflects 1
Picture, and this year is no differ
"The Return of the King" will li
triumph, much to the deligh-
Tolkien fans around the wc
When the acceptance speed.
finally given, three films wil]
crowned victorious through the
of only one. Peter Jackson's co:
bution to fantasy filmmaking sh(
not go unheralded, and Oscar
finally get it right.