8 Overrated Oscar Nominees and Winners You’ve Probably Already Forgotten
Let’s get a few things straightened out before we dive into this list and you all pick up the pitchforks.
First, while the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is widely considered the most powerful award-giving body in Hollywood, their recognition is not necessarily a barometer of quality. And this list might just prove that.
Second, you need to know how the AMPAS votes. In 2009, the Academy switched from popular voting to instant runoff voting, ensuring nominees with the broadest support win and polarizing ones end up getting snubbed. This is why “Oscar baits” occur because crowd-pleasing movies will find themselves a good enough spot in ballots to win.
When was the last time an Oscar winner, particularly a Best Picture winner, was a divisive one? Remember when Argo won in 2013? No one really hates it and there are definitely some people who love it, but has it caused incensed debates among critics and casual movie fans? Probably the last time that happened was in 2006, when Brokeback Mountain lost to Crash.
The AMPAS voting system is not perfect. Last year, #OscarsSoWhite trended as part of the backlash against the Academy’s predominantly white male membership. A few months later, in an effort at diversity, they issued 683 invitations to new members, 46 percent to women and 41 percent to people of color. Before that, membership was 75 percent male and 92 percent white.
It may have helped, since three of the Best Supporting Actress nominees are black and there are two men of color in the Best Supporting Actor category. Meanwhile, La La Land is the buzziest nominee so far and poised to win Best Picture along with Best Actor and Actress statues for Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, respectively. It has a record number of 14 nominations, a feat which only Titanic and All About Eve have achieved.
You know what other movies racked up record nominations? The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (13), The King's Speech (12), and The Revenant (12). No one hates them, but no one really loves them either. They’re safe, crowd-pleasing films practically pushing the Academy’s buttons. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying these movies and the ones listed below. I personally enjoy a ton of “garbage” films, but it’s important to understand award shows can be such bullshit. I won’t judge you for partaking in the madness, since I still find myself waking up at the crack of dawn to yell about awards shows on Twitter.
The Artist (2011)
This romantic comedy movie musical (gee, sounds familiar) scored 10 nominations, taking home five including Best Picture and Best Actor for Jean Dujardin. If this doesn’t ring any bells, it’s French, black and white, and it has a cute dog. The Artist is an example of why La La Land shouldn't be considered an industry game-changer and even its director Damien Chazelle acknowledges his career post-Whiplash made La La Land possible. Having Hollywood darlings Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as your leads helps too.
In case anyone’s forgotten, Ben Affleck is a pretty decent director! He was both behind and in front of the camera for this film, which won three out of its seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Is it the type of movie that film classes will pick apart 10 years from now, though? Is it on the same level as Pulp Fiction (which didn’t win Best Picture, by the way, but more on that later)? Are there corners of the Internet full of nerds devoted to Argo? Probably not.
This movie was the first musical to win Best Picture since Oliver! in 1968. It had 12 other nominations and five more wins. The recognition was rather unprecedented for a movie musical and it would’ve been a real shocker if Moulin Rouge! wasn’t nominated the year before. Chicago is wonderfully acted and produced, but the other nominees, which included The Pianist and The Hours, would’ve made more substantial wins.
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
This drama about a romance between the very real William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) and the very fictitious Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) won seven out of its 13 nominations, which included Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress for Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth. Shakespeare in Love is a pleasant and entertaining fantasy, but the only provocative thing about it, aside from the forgivable historical inaccuracies, is how Dench (bless her, though) won an Oscar with a screen time of perhaps less than 20 minutes.
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
There was a lot of yelling in this movie and the Academy loves it when actors yell in movies (see: all of Jennifer Lawrence’s nominated performances). But the Academy really loves it when actors yell while playing actors who yell. If you haven’t noticed the pattern yet, the movies mentioned thus far are films about the arts and entertainment. And if there’s anything the Academy really loves, it’s movies about themselves. There are a lot of good movies about entertainment, but Birdman might not be one of them. It could just as well be two hours of the words “please give me awards” flashing. And that happened when it won four Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.
Forrest Gump (1994)
Like Shakespeare in Love, Forrest Gump is a fun, lovely drama that takes us back in time with several iconic historical figures and moments and a fictitious lead character who leaves an impact on them. It’s melodramatic and emotionally manipulative and does that kind of movie deserve Best Picture when Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption were right there?
Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side (2009)
Speaking of melodrama and emotional manipulation, if there’s another thing that can really tug at the Academy’s heartstrings, it’s laying on the white guilt thick. Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, a well-to-do Tennessee woman who takes on the white savior role in The Blind Side as she takes in a young black man into her home. We’ve seen these roles before and while bagging an Oscar is the best form of revenge as the public learning of your then husband’s affairs, that statue could probably have gone to Carey Mulligan for her breakout role in An Education.
Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman (1992)
Believe it or not, Al Pacino has only one Oscar and it’s not for The Godfather or Dog Day Afternoon, but Scent of a Woman? I believe that’s all there is to say about that.