5 Phenomenally Awful Oscar Blunders

PHENOM 5

Well it’s that time of year again. The Academy Awards are upon us which means the glitz and glamor of Hollywood will be on display. But it also means that movies will take center stage for one fantastic evening. In honor of the illustrious Oscars I thought I would take a slightly more cynical look at them in this week’s Phenomenal 5. I’m giving you five of the biggest blunders in the history of the awards. Of course we know the Oscars are perfect. This year alone we’ve seen glaring omissions including “Inside Llewyn Davis” and Mads Mikkelsen. So considering that, I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. Still I have no problems identifying these as phenomenally awful Oscar blunders.

#5 – No Best Picture nomination for “The Dark Knight”

dark knight

Look, I know that in the grand scheme of things this is a fairly minor blunder. But my adoration for Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is such that I had to slip it on this list. Call it gratuitous self-indulgence. For my money “The Dark Knight” is the greatest superhero film ever made. But it’s more than that. The movie really showed what the often dismissed genre was capable of. It had an incredible story, fantastic performances, brilliant action and effects. In reality I knew it didn’t stand a chance considering the typical Oscar bait that received nominations that year. But it’s still a shame because I would put “The Dark Knight” up there with any of them.

#4 – The 1953 Best Picture Debacle

GREATEST

The 25th Academy Awards were notable for being the first ceremony broadcasted on television. They were also notable for completely flubbing up the Best Picture category. It all starts with the nominations. Shockingly the great Gene Kelly classic “Singin’ in the Rain” didn’t even receive a Best Picture nomination. In fact it received only two nominations that year and lost them both. But the Academy didn’t stop there. The Best Picture winner was “The Greatest Show on Earth” which beat the highly favored (and considerably better) “High Noon”. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is widely considered the weakest Best Picture winner in Oscar history. And to think it came at the expense of two bona fide classics.

#3 – “How Green Was My Valley” beats “Citizen Kane”

KANE

The best films of 1941 duked it out and a stunning surprise winner was crowned. John Ford’s “How Green Was My Valley” upset the Orson Welles classic “Citizen Kane” to win the Best Picture Oscar. This is definitely not considered a criminal offense because “How Green” is a really good film. But it’s hard to believe that a drama about a Welsh mining town would beat what is widely considered as the greatest movie of all time. “Citizen Kane” was groundbreaking both in form and technique. It’s also a better film that deserved the Oscar. What’s rarely mentioned is that “How Green” also beat the brilliant and much better “Maltese Falcon”. A classic double fail by the Academy.

#2 – Tommy Lee Jones Wins Over Ralph Fiennes.

FUGITIVE

Let me start by saying I really like Tommy Lee Jones and his performance in “The Fugitive” was very good. But for me it paled in comparison to Ralph Fiennes’ work in “Schindler’s List”. In portraying the Nazi Lieutenant Amon Goeth, Fiennes gives us one of the most brutal and detestable screen villains in movie history. But his performance is all the more potent because it is rooted in reality and he completely emerges himself in the role. He made me uncomfortable and unsettled and it is a defining performance. Fiennes was believed to be the sure winner. Instead he was beaten by a much lighter performance that is good but certainly not deserving.

#1 – No Oscars for Cary Grant

CARY GRANT

Let me clarify that – no ACTING Oscars for Cary Grant. Sure the Academy eventually gave him one of those “whoops, we messed up” lifetime achievement Oscars, but when it counted they never gave this deserving actor a statue. All you have to do is look at the magnificent filmography of this phenomenal actor. He excelled in screwball comedies, romantic dramas, daring thrillers. He shined under some of cinema’s best directors including Hawks, Hitchcock, and Donen. I could go on and on listing the different movies that exhibited his brilliance as an actor. The fact that none of those performances earned him an Oscar is simply astonishing.

Those are just some of Oscar’s biggest flubs. Agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts and your picks for this list.

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37 thoughts on “5 Phenomenally Awful Oscar Blunders

  1. I have no background in the 1953 movies, but I completely agree on your top two. They were both large misses, especially Fiennes losing to Jones.

    Great work!

  2. Great picks here Keith! WOW, it’s nuts that Cary Grant never won a single Oscar, that’s mind boggling, is it because he mostly does rom-coms or comedies?? He was great in North by Northwest. It’s too bad The Dark Knight didn’t get any recognition, I mean it’s a stellar film whether it’s a superhero flick or not.

    • Thanks Ruth! The Grant thing is nuts right? He did eventually get that Lifetime Achievement makeup Oscar, but never one for acting.

      The Dark Knight omission is more of a personal quibble. I really wanted it to receive some type of recognition because it is such a great film!

      Think we will get one of these tonight?

  3. All except number two I can agree with. The main criticism I ever hear of Schindler’s List is of the role Fiennes played [That the character was a monster instead of a real person]. He was terrific but Jones was perfectly cast (and was a co-star as opposed to a character part). The greatest blunder of all time however is neglecting to nominate the greatest performance of the 1970s, Robert Shaw’s Quint in Jaws. An affront that still makes my blood boil to this day.

    • Fantastic mention about Shaw. I never get tired of seeing him in that role.

      As for Ralph Fiennes, I’ve heard that criticism and I absolutely disagree with it. The man was human but he was also a monster. That’s why I think what Fiennes brought worked. I thought he was incredibly good. Jones was also good but his performance was light and nearly as demanding. Again, its not a bad performance at all, but comparatively speaking I think Fiennes was head and shoulders higher.

  4. Funny, I’ve never even heard of “How Green” but I’ve watched Citizen Kane and Maltese Falcon. I like your line about Oscar bait, it’s a shame The Dark Knight didn’t get it’s proper recognition – what a great movie!

    • How Green is a good film but time has shown that it hasn’t had near the impact of Maltese Falcon and Citizen Kane.

      The Dark Knight omission was a stinker. For me it broke the barrier between what is called Oscar-worthy movies and superhero films. It deserved recognition.

    • Yes the list of flubs is pretty big. I tried to toss in a variety of them for this list. The Academy has gotten a lot right over the years but they certainly on exempt from the occasional goof up.

  5. I agree with every one of these! The Dark Knight should have cleaned up at the Oscars!

    Also High Noon should have won. Wasn’t there controversy around it because there was a campaign against it saying it was a communist film? John Wayne hated it and the writer was blacklisted during the McCarthy communist hunt

    • You’re exactly right. John Wayne, the quintessential cowboy, didn’t like the film at all and spoke out pretty harshly against it and Gary Cooper. Personally I think it’s one of the silliest arguments I’ve ever heard. Maybe I just don’t know what to look for but communism was the last thing that came to my mind when watching High Noon!

  6. How did Cary Grant miss out on an Oscar? But then again, perhaps it was the Hitchcock curse…it’s incredible that the man who made North By Northwest, Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo etc., etc., etc., never won Best Director!

      • “The Dark Knight”?! Blech! It didn’t deserve any nominations! It’s a fly-by-night feature that will drop into relative obscurity. (I’m a sometimes-crabby old cat lady of 60+ years, most of them devoted to movies.)

        My No. 1 pick would be: No Oscars for Alfred Hitchcock?! He is one of THE directors of all time! It’s mindboggling to me that Hitchcock was completely ignored for a phenomenal amount of classic films; most of them were appreciated at the time, yet he received no bow from the Academy Awards.

      • Couldn’t disagree with you more about The Dark Knight. I thought it was brilliant a true example of a superhero movie that transcended the normal formulas. Wonderful performances, a great story, an top notch direction from Nolan. I love it.

      • I guess our wide ranges of likes and dislikes make the world of film buffs and other moviegoers lively.

  7. Wow! Do I have to agree with 70srichard about the brilliant Robert Shaw! In “Jaws”, he was able to really show people again what a remarkable actor he was. He just seemed to have trouble staying in the moviegoers eyes, not even with his villain in “From Russia With Love” and his flamboyant, crimson-clad pirate in “Swashbuckler”. Then there was “The Sting” and so many more. He could handle so many roles, from absolutely lethal to a dashing, charming rogue. He was gone far too soon; I often daydream of the roles he could have played far better than the actual actors.

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  9. I agree with you about Cary Grant not receiving a competitive Oscars. I mean, the man performs brilliantly well. He’s the best actor Hollywood has ever seen! Though he never won an Oscar, he won the hearts of fans from generations after generations.

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