Let’s be honest. The Oscars get the actual best movie of the season right perhaps once every 10 years. Plenty of very good movies win, no question. But the hall-of-fame picture rarely comes out victorious in a given year. Not to take anything away from the winners throughout the years. I also prescribe to honesty. If your movie wasn’t the best, you should not win the trophy. Sorry. These are my Top 10 Non-Best Picture Winners of all time. As always, not the best overall movies. This is all about snubs.
10. “Boyhood” losing to “Birdman” (2014):
This is a tough one for me. The top two 2014 Oscar front-runners are both classics. “Birdman” is flashier and easier to accept by intellectuals. A one-shot-esque style of shooting is sexy as hell. Yet, for me, the movies that truly resonate are about being human. Flawed in whatever aspect, living life is awesome. Nothing encapsulates that sentiment better than Richard Linklater’s 12 year labor of love than “Boyhood”. When the argument started between the two potential winners many said the concept of “Boyhood” was great but had nothing special. Is there a ruler long enough to showcase how wrong that thinking is? Why do we take pictures and post them on social media or even make scrapbooks? Who gives a shit? We care because singular moments with loved ones over the years are important to us. That is what “Boyhood” encapsulates in a beautiful way.
9. “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” losing to “A Beautiful Mind” (2001):
Yes, the Academy Awards have a history of not respecting fantasy and sci-fi. They want period pieces and emotional dramas. 90 percent of the time those are the best movies, no argument. But when a true classic comes around based on wizards, elves, orcs, and hobbits, recognize how good it is despite the genre. Thankfully they made three movies so the franchise eventually got its due diligence with “Return of the King” winning 11 oscars. That does not change the fact that the first installment was a game changer and has the penultimate phrase that is all-time in movie history; “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”. Don’t get me wrong, “A Beautiful Mind” is a solid film. One could argue Russell Crowe deserved the Oscar. You’re wrong, but there is an argument. When it comes to historical significance, who remembers “A Beautiful Mind”? The original “The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”was a cultural phenomenon and got snubbed.
8. “Dunkirk” losing to “The Shape of Water” (2018):
By 2017 director Christopher Nolan had become a behemoth at the box office and considered one of the best filmmakers ever in film circles. While he’s made amazing work, there are definitely a ton of stinkers on his resume even if people think they’re good because the Nolan name is there. But I call a spade a spade, “Dunkirk” is phenomenal. It is like if the opening ‘D-Day’ invasion in “Saving Private Ryan” was the entire movie. The scattered timelines and war scenes are hard to take in. If the studios wanted to win the Oscar, “Dunkirk” would have come out in November/December. They went for the money and released it in the summer. And yes they made a boat load. Guillermo Del Toro is an excellent filmmaker and “The Shape of Water” is a solid movie. But it is not great. The wrong movie won this year.
7. “The Exorcist” losing to “The Sting” (1974):
Another situation in which the winner is great, but not the icon. “The Sting” starring legends Paul Newman and Robert Redford was a fun heist movie. “The Exorcist” was a game changer that many people could not stomach in a highly religious society. The idea of the devil or a demon coming into the real world had people crapping their pants. Parents were checking their kids with a bible to ensure they were not possessed. No denying “The Sting” is a classic as well as a load of fun, but compared to “The Exorcist” it holds no weight historically.
6. “My Left Foot” losing to “Driving Miss Daisy” (1990):
How did one of the most inspirational true stories starring one of the best actors in history lose to a racist (watch it and tell me i’m wrong) movies ever made? Having already done a handful of parts around the world, Daniel Day-Lewis went full on method acting in the role of Christy Brown, a famous artist with cerebral palsy making beautiful work while having to use his foot with a paint brush in “My Left Foot”. Compare that to a dialed in performance by Morgan Freeman and a script that claims to not be racist and the true best movie of the year is night and day.
5. “Star Wars: A New Hope” losing to “Annie Hall” (1977):
The box office results never impact my feelings when it comes to whether or not a film is good. That being said (yes, I am being contradictory), how the hell did “Annie Hall”, the least money making best picture winner ever beat “Star Wars”? I get the fashion icon in Diane Keaton during the late 70’s and the snark Woody Allen B.S. But as a best picture winner, “Annie Hall” over the biggest franchise ever? Really? Woody has some great one-liners, no doubt. Can you name one? Yeah, didn’t think so. Now, name five characters in “Star Wars”. Easy wasn’t it. How the biggest iconic franchise in cinematic history lost to an egotistical rich man in New Work is beyond me.
4. “There Will Be Blood” losing to “No Country, For Old Men” (2007):
Yet another tough call and debatable. The Coen Brothers are master filmmakers and “No Country, For Old Men” is one of their best. For me, Daniel Day-Lewis earns his second spot of ‘coin-tosses’ on this list, pun intended, with the mammoth oil-industry Western that is “There Will Be Blood”. The filming is so sneakily well-crafted visually that it takes multiple viewings to absorb. At the core is the story of an oil baron fighting a bullshit artist preacher. Day-Lewis’s performance is also bathed in a father hating his son whilst also loving him, deaf or not. “There Will Be Blood” is an all timer. I’m sorry to the Coen Brothers, but “I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!”
3. “Saving Private Ryan” losing to “Shakespeare in Love” (1998):
This is an honest question. Who the hell remembers seeing “Shakespeare in Love”? I do as a film nerd, but what normal person remembers just one segment of that movie? Somehow Harvey Weinstein paid enough money under the table to get a stupid fake comedy about Shakespeare to beat one of the most epic war films in American history. Film geeks will bitch and moan all day about Spielberg’s preachy style, but there is no denying that “Saving Private Ryan” is a classic. Almost nobody cares about “Shakespeare in Love”.
2. “Raging Bull” losing to “Ordinary People” (1981):
Martin Scorsese was not loved when he broke into Hollywood in the 70’s. A coke head as well as a fan of the ladies, Marty was not the clean looking stuff movie producers wanted. On the flip side, Robert Redford was the ideal face of a prototypical movie personality. His 1980 film “Ordinary People”, albeit P.C. at heart, was a solid portrayal of a teen going through mental health problems. It is nothing compared to the monster that is “Raging Bull”. Technically a sports film, the Robert DeNiro boxing epic is one of the best examples of a crazy person let loose. The choice to shoot in black & white was perfect as well as the placement of the cameras getting closer into the ring after each of the three main highlighted brawls. Nobody remembers “Ordinary People”. Seen or not, almost everyone knows what “Raging Bull” is.
1. “Citizen Kane” losing to “How Green Was My Valley” (1941):
There are few straight-up genius’s that can be recognized at a young age. At 27, Orson Wells entered that group when he wrote/produced/directed/and starred in “Citizen Kane”, a movie considered the G.O.A.T. in film circles for more than 70 years. Yet, when it came out, critics did not know how to swallow this young filmmakers vision of a potential tyrant whose last words were “Rosebud”. The Academy went with the John Ford directed paint-by-numbers “How Green Was My Valley” instead. The story of a Welsh mining village town, “Valley” is respectable as a basic fluff piece. It is also not even in the same stratosphere as “Citizen Kane”, a film way ahead of its time.