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Hey there Gasmi, recently Spike Lee gave the following quote regarding the Oscars in the Hollywood Reporter.
“In 1989, ‘Do the Right Thing’ was not even nominated,” he said. “What film won best picture in 1989? ‘Driving Miss Mother F*cking Daisy!’ That’s why [Oscars] don’t matter. Because 20 years later, who’s watching ‘Driving Miss Daisy’?… There are many times in history where the best work does not get awarded. And I’m not even talking about my own work. So that’s why [the Oscars] don’t matter.”
First of all before we go on, we need to point out that Spike Lee is full of beans, because it’s painfully obvious that Oscars really do matter, if to no one else then to Spike Lee, or he wouldn’t still be flogging Driving Miss Daisy almost a quarter century after they passed out the statues.
Aww, somebody needs a hug, or a good swift kick
That being said, Spike is right on the nose when he says the Academy has boned Fido repeatedly over the years when picking who gets what statue. This isn’t a huge shocker when you remember that this is the same city that has green lit Heaven’s Gate, Howard the Duck, Showgirls, and the entire run of Police Academy movies.
So today we are going to look at the times the Academy shot themselves in the foot, by looking by examples from the Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture categories.
Please note that we won’t be looking at the Best Actress catagory, because really the only year I have a problem with is when Hillary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry beat out Annette Benning in American Beauty. I think my lack of passion in this category is either because I’m a sexist pig, or that women’s accomplishments aren’t anywhere near as important as men’s. [Awkward pause] Okay, I just re-read that last sentence and I think we can definitely go with the first one. Yay for self-discovery! I think?
Now the good news for all you fans of brevity out there the Academy has screwed up handing out awards so many times you can actually group them into separate categories. For our purposes today we just be talking about six of them: The Mighty Prostate, The Long Running Screw-Job, The Honey-Do, The Coyote Love, and finally, The Hollywood Gives Itself A Handy. Okay, are you totally confused? Perfect, that’s the only time my arguments make sense.
The Mighty Prostate
We start our tour of Oscar mistakes with The Mighty Prostate. Have you ever heard the expression “you can never be too young, too thin, or too pretty?” Well it has nothing to do with winning a Best Actor Oscar. You see even though there isn’t an age minimum for the award, if you aren’t at least 35 or named Adrien Brody, the only reason they are inviting you to the ceremony is for a reaction shot when the guy with elastic waistband pants who gets up twice at week a three in the morning to go tinkle waddles down the aisle to pick up his statue. Here’s an example of the Mighty Prostate in action.
Best Actor, 1974
the nominees are:
Art Carney-Harry and Tonto
Albert Finney-Murder on the Orient Express
Al Pacino-Godfather Part II
And the winner is…Art Carney, Harry and Tonto
Grandpa Simpson won an Oscar?
Sure, Al Pacino gave a career performance in The Godfather Part II, but Art Carney had to stand next to Jackie Gleason while he farted his way through five years of The Honeymooners, and he was eligible for Social Security during the filming of the movie; Pacino never stood a chance on this one. Another reason the Mighty Prostate exists is because the logic in Hollywood is that the guy getting screwed is young, and will have plenty of good performance later on for the Academy to set things right. Granted, they will probably be screwing another young guy while they do it, but you can’t make an omelet without driving your car down the road for 10 miles with the blinker on.
Pay attention, because this Oscar will come back to bite us all on the rump in a matter of paragraphs.
The Long Running Screw-Job
This is a separate category from The Mighty Prostate even though it can be seen as a continuation of The Mighty Prostrate process. Some actors just get rogered year after year, no matter how great they are in their particular performance. The poster boy for The Long Running Screw-Job is the immortal Paul Newman.
In 1958, Paul Newman was nominated for Brick Pollit in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and he didn’t win. Between 1958 and 1982 Newman would be nominated another five times, and never get a little dickless gold man to use as a doorstop in his study.
Just for poops and giggles lets list those movies: Eddie Felson in The Hustler in 1961, Hud Bannon in Hud in 1963, Luke Jackson in Cool Hand Luke in 1967, Michael Colin Gallagher in Absence of Malice in 1981, and Frank Galvin in The Verdict in 1982, and he didn’t win doodly squat in a 25 year run despite turning in seminal performance after seminal performance.
So the big question is why? Well Paul Newman didn’t turn 40 until 1965, so as we know know, those first three nominations really didn’t count. As for the other three times out of the gate, in 1963 Sidney Poitier was a humble black man who helped some poor nuns build a chapel, and Paul Newman played a manipulative borderline rapist. Okay, he wasn’t going to win that one. In 1967 Hollywood was all about In the Heat of the Night, and not only did Paul Newman get snubbed, but Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman took it in the keester as well. In 1981 Henry Fonda not only beat out Newman, but also Warren Beatty, Burt Lancaster, and Dudley Moore, by winning an On Death’s Door Oscar for On Golden Pond. As for the 82 Oscar, we will get to that one later, but in that long dry spell from 1968 to 1980 Newman was in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, and Slapshot, and didn’t even get nominated.
The only explanation I can come up for this
is that Jews just can’t catch a break in Hollywood is that Newman was so good, the Academy always felt they could make things right eventually.
The other example for The Long Running Screw-Job, was with Martin Scorsese. It wasn’t as long, or as bad as Paul Newman’s, but it had two interesting highlights. In 1980 Martin Scorsese was nominated for Best Director for Raging Bull, but lost to Robert Redford for Ordinary People, and in 1991 Martin Scorese directed Goodfellas, but the award went to Kevin Costner for Dances With Wolves. Am I the only one who has noticed that in both cases much more attractive actors got the Oscars even though Raging Bull and Goodfellas are two of the top American movies of the 20th century? I really have no idea how Martin Scorsese got through the 91 Oscars without it turning into the prom scene from Carrie.
The Honey-Do Oscar
It’s bad enough that people get screwed by The Mighty Prostate and The Long Running Screw-Job Oscars during the years that they are awarded, but they turn into the screw-jobs that keep screwing, because they lead to our next category of Oscar FUBARness, The Honey-Do Oscar. You could also call this one The Makeup or The Do Over Oscar, but I like to picture the average voter in the Academy who has a postit on his frig with this written on it; “NEED, milk, coffee, and to make sure so-and-so gets an Oscar so I don’t look like an idjit for ignoring him for the past 20 years.
The thing about the Honey-Do is that Hollywood’s heart is in the right place. They want the person in question to finally get the valadation of their peers. And also the validation from a bunch of other people who weren’t allowed to make eye contact with them at the kraft services table. A noble goal, too bad the Academy doesn’t own a way-back machine, because the Honey-Do causes at least as many problems as it solves. Lets look at these two year’s Best Actors fields and you’ll see what I mean,
Best Actor, 1986
The Nominees are
Dexter Gordon-Round Midnight
Bob Hoskins-Mona Lisa
William Hurt-Children of a Lesser God
Paul Newman-The Color of Money
And the winner is…Paul Newman, The Color of Money. Now on the one hand, finally! But on the other hand, while Paul Newman was good, hell, real good in The Color of Money, He was way better playing the same character in The Hustler over 20 years before. And this is just my opinion, but Bob Hoskins had the role of a lifetime in Mona Lisa, and maybe if it hadn’t taken 28 years for the Academy to figure out Paul Newman could act, there might have been a free Oscar for a guy who Hollywood is probably never going to go out of their way to give a Honey-Do to.
All things considered, this is a pretty mild example of the Honey-Do in action. Let’s take a look at a year where Hollywood really pooped the bed.
Best Actor, 1992
The nominees are
Robert Downey, Jr.-Chaplin
Al Pacino-Scent of a Woman
Stephen Rea-The Crying Game
Denzel Washington-Malcolm X
And the winner is…Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman
Oh filth flam foodle! This still pisses me off 20 years down the road. A lot of times with The Honey-Do, the winner will get bumped up one, maybe two spots, but you really have to look to find many other years where the weakest performance in the field gets the gold.
Let’s do our roll call of screwed on this one: Robert Downey, Jr? Screwed. Clint Eastwood? Screwed? Stephen Rea 12 hours on a plane to get screwed, and Denzel Washington got “Type Catherine the Great and Horses into Google” screwed.
Oh, and it gets worse, because not only did Al Pacino get an Oscar for Scent of a Woman, but ever since then the man has been in full hoo-haw mode, and we are at 2o years and counting.
The Coyote Love Oscar
When the Academy of motion pictures gives someone an Oscar the whole process is similar to falling in love. From that first wonderful moment when you lay eyes on them, to the point you proudly declare your love to the world, it’s a process that is magical. Most of the time. I mean there are love stories that dance across green dappled fields that end in long loving relationships, and then there are other love stories. Love stories that start in bars at about 11:30 after your third tequilla shooter, and end with a trip to the free clinic. The next Oscar race we’ll look at falls squarely in the second braket
Best Actor, 1998
and the nominees are
Roberto Bengini-Life Is Beautiful
Tom Hanks-Saving Private Ryan
Ian McKellen-Gods and Monsters
Edward Norton-American History X
And the winner is…Roberto Bengini, Life Is Beautiful
Now there are a lot of times when I think about botched Oscars and I get cranky, but whenever I think about Roberto Bengini carting home an Oscar that just about everyone else in the field was more deserving of, cough Edward Norton cough, I have to keep myself from giggling. Go to YouTube and watch the clip of Roberto Bengini trying to walk across peoples’ heads on his way to the stage, and you can see people applauding in the background with a growing look of disbelief on their faces as if to say, “did we really just give this joker an Oscar for making a comedy in a concentration camp?” Even today I keep waiting for Robert Reheme, the President of the Academy at the time to run on stage and wrestle the award out of Roberto’s hands. It never gets old.
So how did Roberto Bengini get his maudlin little mitts on the statue in the first place? Well, cue the ominous music, because he had help from little Harvey Weinstein. Life is Beautiful was being distributed by Miramax that year, and the Weinstein brothers spent like a gajillion dollars on their Oscar campaigns for Shakespeare in Love and Life Is Beautiful. It was money well spent, because at the end of the night, Dreamworks who was distributing Saving Private Ryan had who farted looks that would be on the faces for the next three months. Although for the people who voted for Roberto their looks lasted slightly longer
Hollywood Gives Itself a Handy
Some people think the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences gives out Oscars to honor excellence in film making. These people also think that Santa is finally going to show up with a pony this Christmas. Sure, the Academy likes to give people attaboys for good work, but there is another reason for handing out Oscars that people seem to forget. It makes the Academy feel good about itself. There’s nothing the matter with a positive self-image, but let’s take a look at a couple of years where the Academy spent so much time blowing smoke up it’s own poop chute that it got in the way of logical thinking.
Best Picture, 2005
and the nominees are
Good Night and Good Luck
And the winner is…Crash.
Okay first off, Crash isn’t terrible, and any movie that looks at race relations in LA would be worthy of admiration. You know, if it came out in 1993. This Oscar just made the Academy look bad, because Brokeback Mountain is so much better, and this award was just sad proof that Hollywood can be just as uncomfortable with homosexuality as Des Moines. (Not that Des Monies is particularly homophobic, I just picked a random Midwestern city as an example)
Now, The Hollywood Gives Itself a Handy Oscar, doesn’t just deal with social issues. Most of the time it rears it’s ugly head when Hollywood wants us to think it’s classy. There was a serious outbreak of this in the early 80′s
Best Picture, 1981
and the nominees are
Chariots of Fire
On Golden Pond
Raiders of the Lost Ark
And the winner is…Chariots of Fire
This is bad. Have you ever seen Chariots of Fire? It’s guys running on the beach, synthesizers, and the big question in the movie is will some guy run on a Sunday. Sure, lets give this bad boy an Oscar, I mean how well has Raiders of the Lost Ark held up over the years.
So how did this happen? Well, Hollywood has a weakness, and I mean besides for hookers, blow, and promoting their nephews to Vice-presidents in charge of production. Hollywood loves British movies. They are foreign without the subtitles [Insert cheap joke about nobody in Hollywood liking to read here], and British people have that accent that sounds so classy that it doesn’t matter what they say. If you doubt that last fact, watch the last Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and then picture Caroline Manzo from Real Housewives of New Jersey saying everything that Lisa Vanderpump said. Suddenly Lisa isn’t looking quiet so elegant I bet. That accent makes a huge difference
So the Academy had a brain cramp in 1981, you’re probably thinking they got their act together the next year right? Oh you poor silly naive bastard
1982, The Full Limey
1982 Best Actor
Paul Newman-The Verdict
Peter O’toole-My Favorite Year
1982 Best Director
Sidney Lumet-The Verdict
Wolfgang Petersen-Das Boot
Steven Speilberg-ET, the Extra-Terrestrial
Best Picture, 1982
ET, the Extra-Terrestrial
and the winners are…here’s a hint what they all have in common, it rhymes with mother-f@#king Handy.
Because honestly, how many people saw this movie?
Man oh man, every few years the Academy bones An award, but I really challenge you to find a year where they boned it this often or this hard. Well Ben Kingsley did wear a bed sheet had a spray on tan, so maybe…no, Gandhi was one of the most respected figures of the 20th century, but that doesn’t mean you start snubbing Tootsie, ET, and Steven Speilberg.
Well, there you have it, a quick look back at some moments the Academy would probably like to forget. It’s not the best list, the most complete list, and it certainly isn’t the fairest list, but hopefully the Academy will make it through the next Oscars without adding to it.