Every year the nominations role out, and every year they’re never quite right in the minds of most moviegoers. This year, of course, there was the critically-acclaimed “About Schmidt,” receiving much less than many would have speculated. Of course, the ridiculousness that is the makeup category, as arbitrary as it sounds, somehow excluded the wonderful jobs of both “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and the newest “Star Wars” installment. Some say it’s politics, others refer to it as a popularity contest, but somehow the awards have a checkered past of leaving out the very best that Hollywood actually offered.
As usual, the heavy-hitters of Hollywood have extended their greedy hands into the Oscar pot – especially Miramax, garnering three of the five best picture nominations. Although it may seem as though any number of other deserved films appeared on screen throughout the year, the nominations, as has become commonplace, have again been swept by year-end films; only the lesser categories figure in otherwise. However, most of those that have been nominated cannot be denied their legitimate claim to
the award, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will continue its long-standing tradition of glamour, long nights full of surprises and winners above all.
Opening in 1929, the Academy began by rewarding best pictures in two separate categories, but the silent film “Wings” from 1927 is considered the first to achieve the highest honor. Since then, the ceremony has maintained a prestige above all others, sometimes failing to honor what have since become known as some of the finest films of all time – “Citizen Kane,” “Raging Bull” and “Pulp Fiction” to name a few – but always granting awards in a respectable fashion.
But, as that tradition holds, there have been too many films over the course of the Academy’s history that were completely shut out of categories in which they were many-times-over more deserving. The Oscars have received an ever-present stigma for handing the little golden statuette to a much less deserving film. Therefore, in the grand tradition of criticism, and for all those who have felt cheated in some point in Oscar history, I give to you five of the best films never to have been nominated in the Best Picture category:
Possibly one of the most intriguingly structured films in cinema history, Christopher Nolan’s emergence onto the American screen found itself up for only Best Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay. While the story is as unique as any, the acting, the twists and the tremendously intriguing and ethereal backwards format should have raised the film into the company of the absurdly overrated “A Beautiful Mind.” Also worthy of this position are “Requiem for a Dream” and “Magnolia.”
4) “Leon: The Professional”
French film genius Luc Besson’s finest work, “The Professional” combines a scary but enigmatic Jean Reno and a young but scarily talented Natalie Portman in a powerful love story that includes some of the most poetic action ever filmed. Superb acting and a badass contract killer provide the intrigue, and flawless editing compounded by beautiful, Sergio Leone-styled cinematography frame one of the most underrated accomplishments in the past fifty years. Not to mention the payback that culminates the film is simply amazing, and besides, I love this movie.
3) “The Searchers”
Just one of the films considered part of what has become the canonical text of film studies, “The Searchers” is the Western often considered legendary John Ford’s finest film. At the height of his auteur legacy, Ford crafted this often-reworked epic tale of a search for someone who doesn’t want to be found. Subversive by context and powerful in content, this film is foremost considered the height of American studio Western production, and is even considered the best by some of the most prominent filmmakers from Orson Welles to Steven Spielberg. Disgracefully, Ford’s epic tale including fabulous acting and beatific frontier imagery was not nominated for a single Academy Award. Unbelievably, the incomparable “Touch of Evil” and the visually stunning “Paths of Glory” were two other films completely shut out by the Academy.
2) “2001: A Space Odyssey”
Left out of a category full of films – other than the often-referenced “Funny Girl” – that most people in contemporary society probably have never heard of, the mythical Stanley Kubrick’s artful direction is rife with probably the most philosophical, multi-layered storylines in film history. Not only is the potent theme unforgettable, but also the cinematography and special effects, unbelievable for 1968, have made this an additional part of the film bible. Kubrick himself is just one of the many prolific figures who never received a statuette in the category he most deserved. A master of banality, his images are eternally referenced and forever revered. Also deserving of this spot, “The Third Man” is undoubtedly one of the top films ever.
1) Any Film (other than “Rebecca”) Made by Alfred Hitchcock
Yes, the “Master of Suspense,” the man who made screechy violins and showers terrifying, the director who put the camera where others had never dared go, the person who may be considered the modern Shakespeare as his works are more remade, rehashed and attempted to copy by almost all current filmmakers; Alfred Hitchcock’s films, other than “Rebecca” (due to the pull and power of legendary producer David O. Selznick), have never even been nominated for the Best Picture at the Academy Awards! Not “Psycho,” not “Rear Window,” not “Vertigo,” not “North by Northwest,” and not “Notorious” (to name a few) donned the nomination tag.
Hitchcock’s films forever changed the course of cinema. They included a level of psychoanalysis and new techniques that forged entirely new ground. Hitchcock himself, though nominated numerous times, never received the Best Director award. If ever there were an Academy misstep, the conundrum involved in denying more than one of the greatest films and possibly the greatest director would be it.
Certainly many more films, too many to list, have been excluded in the ceremonies, but this group was undeniably robbed by the Academy. Referring to these films alone, it must be said that while the Academy has certainly done a great service to some of the great films, it has left out more than its share of deserving titles and people.
If you think the best films of this year have been snubbed, don’t fret … they’re in good company