Green Book took the Best Film Oscar earlier this week. Spike Lee seemed to be channelling the popular opinion when he said: “The ref made a bad call.” Well, the refs at the Academy have been making such bad calls for many years now. Right from 1941, in fact, when How Green Was My Valley beat Citizen Kane. All those who’ve seen all the films nominated this year, will tell you that the Best Film should have gone to Lee’s film BlacKkKlansman or Roma (Netflix), which won Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron. Perfect time to go back and look at the other times when Oscars got it wrong in the last 50 years. You can check out most of these films online.
2010: The King’s Speech over The Social Network (Netflix)
The average age of the Oscar voter has been a perennial problem for films which are a little geeky. That’s why David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire translation of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook account didn’t receive as many likes and hearts from the Academy as the Colin Firth stammer comedy.
2008: Slumdog Millionaire over The Dark Knight (Amazon Prime Video)
Well, it wasn’t even nominated. No one still knows why. Was it because it was a comic book adaptation? The Academy did kind of admit to their mistake by upping the number of Best Picture nominations to 10 next year. They even nominated Black Panther this time. And as much as we were proud Indians cheering for Rahman and company for the Danny Boyle film, it was no match to the Christopher Nolan masterpiece.
2004: Crash (Amazon Prime Video) over Brokeback Mountain
Often called the worst Best Film in Oscar history, you had to see Jack Nicholson’s face when he announced “Crash”. Ang Lee had won the Best Director trophy just a few moments back and it was a given he would return on stage for Best Film. But the Academy, many of whose members reportedly refused to watch a film celebrating homosexuality, thought otherwise.
1998: Shakespeare in Love (YouTube Movies) over Saving Private Ryan (Amazon Prime)
Nothing wrong with the John Madden costume romance which had a few lovely performances, but Steven Spielberg’s war epic, with that incredible opening sequence, deserved the golden statuette much more. Supposedly, Terence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, which was also in the running, took away some of the war movie votes from Saving Private Ryan.
1995: Braveheart (Hotstar Premium) over Apollo 13 (YouTube Movies)
Ron Howard’s gripping film about the failed NASA moon mission was the favourite to win the top trophy of the night but the Academy loves war and period movies and Mel Gibson’s tale of the Scottish patriot brought the two together in a motion picture which has aged very badly since.
1994: Forrest Gump (Amazon Prime Video) over Pulp Fiction (Hooq) and The Shawshank Redemption
Tom Hanks’ performance, which also won an Oscar, turned the film by Robert Zemeckis, who also won an Oscar, into an unbeatable favourite. But both Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption have had a far greater impact on audiences over these last 25 years and deserved the trophy more than Forrest Gump.
1990: Dances with Wolves over Goodfellas (Apple iTunes)
Of all the films Martin Scorsese has made, this one perhaps had the best chance of winning the top prize in cinema but Marty and his films have never got a good deal with the Academy voters. On the other hand, Westerns are a favourite with the members and so Kevin Costner’s revitalisation of the genre won as many as seven Oscars.
1981: Chariots of Fire over Raiders of the Lost Ark (Netflix and Amazon Prime Video)
All that one remembers of the British athletics drama is the rousing score by Vangelis while the first Indiana Jones film still remains an adventure favourite for many. Again Spielberg got the raw deal here while many argue that the Warren Beatty film Reds had a higher chance of winning the Best Film given he won Best Director.
1979: Kramer Vs Kramer (Hooq) over Apocalypse Now
This was a surprise winner any way you look at it. The performances were terrific yes but in terms of scale and impact, Kramer Vs Kramer couldn’t hold a candle to the Francis Ford Coppola Vietnam epic. Maybe the Academy felt they have honoured Coppola enough by awarding many trophies to The Godfather films.
1976: Rocky over Taxi Driver (YouTube Movies) and All the President’s Men (YouTube Movies)
Rocky’s feel good experience might have tipped the scales in favour of the Sylvester Stallone film which still tops the pop culture charts. But Scorsese’s scorching tale of rebellion with De Niro’s masterful performance and “the most devastating detective story of the century” in the Watergate expose were easily better films.