Oscar: Epic Failures

When we talk about Oscars, it’s almost as a symbol of excellence, and the American public and the worldwide public accept that symbol––Harvey Weinstein

No other award in the entertainment industry is as prestigious as the Oscar. Winning an Academy Award can make a recipient’s career; in fact, just being nominated is a huge boost to the nominee. The energy of the event captivates the general public as well as the performers themselves. There is a certain appeal the awards show offers to the fans. Wanting your favorite entertainer or movie to do well is ingrained in people. In spite of this natural inclination, the Oscars should be devoutly ignored because of the lack of courage on the part of the voters.

There are many instances of missed opportunities by the Oscars to select winners based on merit. The cases I believe are the most egregious oversights by the voters are listed below. These examples show the cowardice of the academy and should serve to embarrass the voters and—perhaps—give cause to pause and think about next years vote.

Example one––

In the history of the Oscars there is no bigger miscarriage of justice than its snub of Citizen Kane. Orson Welles’ masterpiece has stood the test of time; the film is consistently voted as the best American movie of all time and has even gotten praise from international film organizations because of its innovative cinematography, music, transitioning, and narrative structure. Yet, the voters at the time didn’t have the grit to stand up to the pressure applied by William Randolph Hearst and his media empire.

In recent years we see similar situations occurring. In 2004, the Oscars snubbed Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ due to political correctness. Regardless of the film’s message, the voters should look at the skill, talent, and creativity of the work. If the academy had nerve they would have voted without fear or reservations about the outcome.

Example two––

In many cases the academy will vote for a “safe choice” or select an emotionally (some would say politically) motivated winner despite better options. In 2000, the Oscars passed on Michael Clarke Duncan for his portrayal of John Coffey in The Green Mile to give the award to a “safe choice”. The winner was Michael Caine (a very well respected actor) for his role of Dr. William Larch in Cider House Rules.

Contrast the two roles both men played and compare them to their past work. This reveals a striking difference that the academy failed to recognize. Mr. Caine’s character wasn’t that much of a stretch for him to play; moreover, any actor of similar caliber could have played the part with similar effect. However prior to his part in The Green Mile, Michael Clarke Duncan usually played thugs or the “heavy”. In this film the viewers see a stunning departure in the work people are use to seeing from Mr. Duncan; his work was so believable and had such an impact that it is hard to imagine anyone else playing the role of John Coffey. The aspect of comparing past works, range of difficulty, and challenge of the project is what should be considered for an Oscar, not choosing a “safe choice” for the purpose of expediency.

Another case in point is the Oscar win by Tom Hanks for his portrayal of AIDS victim Andrew Beckett in Philadelphia. It really is unbecoming that Hanks won the award based on emotional factors and not talent. In this example the academy was making an emotional selection, instead of selecting a winner based on excellence. Despite the interesting narrative and a top-notch cast, Mr. Hanks didn’t bring anything to the role that any first-rate actor couldn’t have duplicated.

It is a shame that during the 1993 Academy Awards Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson and Anthony Hopkins were overlooked for their work that was much more talent dependent than Hanks’ role. If we compare Mr. Hanks’ efforts in Philadelphia to the 1994 blockbuster Forrest Gump, we see that this Oscar victory was deserved; unlike the role of Andrew Beckett, it is hard to conceptualize anyone else playing the title character of Forrest Gump in such an incredible fashion.

There are several other examples of undeserved wins that could be explored. For example, the Oscar Halle Berry won for Monster Ball could have gone to any actress selected for the role, or the oversight the academy made by not ever awarding an Oscar for Best Director to Stanley Kubric, while selecting actor-turned-director Kevin Costner for Dances With Wolves. These are just a few instances that show a lack of foresight and critical thinking by the voters. I have nothing against those who undeservedly win; each has a tremendous amount of talent and with the right role will secure an award anyway.

The movie going public and industry insiders should be concerned when oversights, snubs, or undeserving victories occur because they serve to undermine the credibility of the academy. I believe that the winners should be selected because they bring something to the project that no one else can; furthermore, I think the entertainment fans believe this too.

Hollywood and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would be better off if they stopped the portentous practice of handing out awards based on something other than talent. This is a pusillanimous act that diminishes those who won the award by merit. Nothing short of excellence should be expected and demanded.





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