Oscar Do-Overs

I’m not a film connoisseur.  Then again, I’m also not an expert in football or basketball but it doesn’t take a genius to see that picking Greg Oden over Kevin Durant was a blunder of epic proportions.[1]  Sports drafts are littered with blunders like this: Kwame Brown drafted #1 overall by the Washington Wizards? Ryan Leaf drafted #2 by the Chargers?[2]  Sam Bowie drafted #2 by Portland (the #3 pick was someone named Michael Jordan).[3]  Basically any first or second round pick by the NY Jets during the 80s and 90s….

Similarly, the Academy is guilty of making many ridiculous award choices over its history.  Perhaps the worst award blunders came in the late 70s and early 80s.  Look at this record:

1978: Best Picture: Annie Hall over Star Wars. [Annie Hall is an exquisite movie and would normally be a no-brainer as best picture – unfortunately it’s up against the biggest landmark picture in history …]

1980:  Best Picture: Kramer vs. Kramer over Apocalypse Now [this is not completely implausible but it is probably a mess up].

1981: Best Picture: Ordinary People over Raging Bull [Oops.]

1982: Best Picture: On Golden Pond Chariots of Fire over Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Even 1983 (Ghandi Gandhi [4] over E.T. and Tootsie) seems potentially questionable.  Here I’ll make my recommendations as to how the awards since 1995 might be revised by a benevolent outsider with the ability to re-do history.  I’m going to leave out this year’s nominees since I haven’t seen any of these movies yet …

Best Picture Do-Overs:

2013.  Winner: Argo                                                  Do-Over: Zero Dark Thirty.

2013 was a very strong year.  Nominees also included Django Unchained. This is pretty close. My choice would be Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow out-does her own work in the Hurt Locker and Jessica Chastain turns in a flawless performance).

2012.  Winner: The Artist                                         Do-Over: The Help

Not a particularly strong year.  The Help takes it easily – amazing performances all around including Jessica Chastain again.

2011.   Winner: The King’s Speech                           Do-Over: The King’s Speech.

2010.   Winner: The Hurt Locker                             Do-Over: Avatar

I know what you’re thinking.

“But Avatar has clichéd dialogue and is filled with stock characters…”  Yep.

“But Avatar’s storyline is so predictable …”  Yep.

“But Avatar relies so overtly on special effects …”  Yep.

Avatar. Best Picture. It’s not close. (BTW, If I had to give the award to some other film that year, it would be Inglorious Basterds, not the Hurt Locker.)

2009.  Winner: Slumdog Millionaire                        Do-Over: Slumdog Millionaire

2008.   Winner: No Country for Old Men                Do-Over: Ratatouille

The Academy has committed one of the great sins of omission by passing over Pixar studios again and again over the past 20 years.  One could make a strong case that computer animation is the main change in the industry in this period  – it has essentially made every story accessible to the big screen – and Pixar is one of the leaders in developing the medium.  Pixar marries their incredible technique with some of the best writing and production on screen.  Really, how many “kids movies” use the phrase “demi chef de partie” in their dialogue?

No Country is a good movie but it’s clearly not the Cohen bros. best work.

2007.  Winner: The Departed                                   Do-Over: The Departed.

The Academy knows it messed up big-time with Martin Scorsese.  Giving him the award for The Departed is their way of admitting their boo boo.

2006.   Winner: Crash                                               Do-Over: Brokeback Mountain

That sound you hear is a collective groan coming from the voting members of the Academy…

2005.   Winner: Million Dollar Baby                         Do-Over: Million Dollar Baby

2004.   Winner: LOTR: The Return of the King        Do-Over: Monster

OK, they had to award Peter Jackson for this work – I understand the choice. The irony is that Return of the King is easily the weakest of the three LOTR movies.  By the way, if you are thinking that I’m moving Monster into the top slot based primarily on Charliez Theron’s performance, you are correct sir!

2003.  Winner: Chicago                                             Do-Over: The Pianist

2002.  Winner: A Beautiful Mind                              Do-Over: LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring

This has to be a better allocation doesn’t it?

2001.  Winner: Gladiator                                           Do-Over: Erin Brokovich

2000.   Winner: American Beauty                            Do-Over: American Beauty

I’m resisting the temptation to give the 2000 award to The Insider.

1999.   Winner: Shakespeare In Love                      Do-Over: Shakespeare In Love

1998.   Winner: Titanic                                              Do-Over: Titanic

An incredibly strong year.  Other nominees included Good Will Hunting and The Full Monty.

1997.   Winner: The English Patient                        Do-Over: Fargo.

1996.   Winner: Braveheart                                      Do-Over: Braveheart

I’m tempted to give the award to Apollo-13 but I’ll let it stand.

1995.  Winner: Forest Gump                                    Do-Over: Pulp Fiction

Perhaps the strongest year of those I considered above.  The nominees include (in addition to Forest Gump and Pulp Fiction) The Shawshank Redemption, Quiz Show and Four Weddings and a Funeral.  Forest Gump is excellent but it’s not as good as either Shawshank or Pulp Fiction.  Pulp Fiction has to take the award – another huge landmark in Hollywood.

[1] Greg Oden may be making a comeback with the Heat.  That said, passing on Durant will go down as one of the great head-slapping choices for the Trailblazers.

[2] Many observers at the time were openly wondering whether Ryan Leaf should be taken #1 overall (over some guy named Peyton Manning…).  Double head-slap.

[3] Triple head-slap.

[4] I’m a hideous speller but that in no way justifies this mess-up. Thanks to Uday Rajan (UM Ross Finance) for pointing out my error.

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5 thoughts on “Oscar Do-Overs

  1. You should put a trigger warning on this post!

    It is of course, only ex-post that Durant is preferred over Oden. The Sonics would have drafted Oden over Durant; so would everyone else. If you call that a blunder, then so is any loss in a lottery.

    Besides, the Bowie over Jordan pick was very clearly much much worse for the Blazers.

    Yes, I’m from Portland.

  2. Oden was a man child and the most dominant player in college basketball that year. Injuries killed him. He would have been the #1 pick regardless of who was selecting.

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