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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
The Best and the Shittiest of the Oscars 
Sunday, February 25th, 2007 | 11:17 am [film, oscars, review]
Steve

The Best and the Shittiest of the Oscars

 

The 79th annual Academy Awards are tonight, and even though most people are smart/cynical enough to know that they are meaningless and full of shit, I still find myself paying attention every year.  Since this is the first year I’ve had a blog to write for at Oscar time, I thought I would push even more unsolicited opinions on you, my tiny and no doubt highly indifferent audience, by sharing my picks for the best and worst awards Oscar has ever handed out in its nearly eight decade history.  Since the number of nominees per category has been standardized at a maximum of five since 1944, I’ll name five nominees for the Best and Worst winners in the major categories (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, and Screenplay), then anoint a Best Best and Worst Best for each.  Since I am most definitely a “good news first” sort of fella, I’ll begin with the Best of the Best.

 

Best Best Supporting Actor

The nominees are:

  • Edmund Gwenn, Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
  • Robert De Niro, The Godfather, Part II (1974)
  • Denzel Washington, Glory (1989)
  • Gene Hackman, Unforgiven (1992)
  • Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive (1993)

And the winner is: Gene Hackman.  This first one was the toughest to pick Best nominees for, because historically the Supporting Actor/Actress categories are a dumping ground; films that deserve some recognition but get the shaft in other categories often get thrown a bone here.  The five men listed above who took home their Oscars in the Best Supporting Actor category were all outstanding and deserved their wins, but Hackman’s performance as fearless and cruel Sheriff “Little” Bill Daggett is not only clearly the best of the five for me, but some of the best work of Hackman’s legendary career.  When he accepted his Oscar, Hackman announced his retirement from acting, which lasted approximately eleven seconds.

 

Best Best Supporting Actress

The nominees are:

  • Celeste Holm, Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
  • Eva Marie Saint, On the Waterfront (1954)
  • Meryl Streep, Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
  • Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted (1999)
  • Cate Blanchett, The Aviator (2004)

And the winner is: Cate Blanchett.  Another strong group of five from a generally mediocre list of winners.  The Supporting categories are the easiest by far to come up with Shittiest Best nominees for.  It’s hard to pick just five nominees, to be honest.  As for the Best Best Supporting Actress, it was a tougher call than the Supporting Actors up there, but I thought Cate Blanchett was genius as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator, with a performance that a lesser actress might have turned into an impersonation; Cate’s Kate is close to the real thing in looks and voice, but not so much that she becomes a caricature.  She’s a character, and one of the best reasons to see the movie.

 

Best Best Screenplay

The nominees are:

  • Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles, Citizen Kane (1941)
  • Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch, Casablanca (1943)
  • Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, and D. M. Marshman, Jr., Sunset Boulevard (1950)
  • Robert Towne, Chinatown (1974)
  • Frank Pierson, Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

And the winners are: Julius Epstein, Philip Epstein and Howard Koch.  And fuck, was this a tough one.  There are so many other honorable mentions I could make that didn’t quite crack the top five: Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary for Pulp Fiction, Steve Zaillian for Schindler’s List, Woody Allen for Annie Hall, Paddy Chayefsky for Network, Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo for both The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II, Ernest Tidyman for The French Connection, Budd Schulberg for On the Waterfront, and on and on.  Due to my immense and overriding laziness, I combined all the various writing categories recognized throughout the history of the Oscars (Best Screenplay, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Story) for this one, so there were plenty of worthy winners to nominate for best of the Best.  I finally chose the Epsteins and Koch because as great as the other four are, none of them are Casablanca.  Brackett, Wilder and Marshman get second place for Sunset Boulevard, if you give a rat’s ass.

 

Best Best Actress

The nominees are:

  • Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday (1953)
  • Katharine Hepburn, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
  • Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
  • Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Frances McDormand, Fargo (1996)

And the winner is: Louise Fletcher.  As good as the other four women are (especially Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday – goddamn I love that movie), Fletcher’s turn as R.P. McMurphy’s nemesis Nurse Ratched in Cuckoo’s Nest is so good, so fearless and ferocious that she more than holds her own against the definitive performance of Jack Nicholson’s career.  Louise was so good as Ratched that she never got close to another Oscar, and less than twenty years later she was playing Kai Winn on Deep Space Nine.  No shame in it.  Unless you played fucking Nurse Ratched in fucking One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest!  Nicholson never guest-starred on Babylon 5 is all I’m saying.

 

Best Best Actor

The nominees are:

  • Gary Cooper, High Noon (1952)
  • Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront (1954)
  • Gene Hackman, The French Connection (1971)
  • F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus (1984)
  • Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

And the winner is: F. Murray Abraham – shut up!  F. Murray – shut the fuck up!  I know Brando was good, I saw the fuckin’ movie!  I know Anthony Hopkins was brilliant as Hannibal Lecter, that’s why I picked him for the top five.  And I know he was voted the all-time greatest film villain or whatever, and I do not care.  Hopkins and Brando don’t even get second place from me, Hackman does.  This was the closest category, I’d say.  Whenever you’ve got Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy and he doesn’t win the fuckin’ thing, that says something about the level of competition.  What makes F. Murray Abraham so great is the subtlety of his Salieri, and the conviction – a lot of the performance is narration, as an elderly Salieri tells the story of Mozart to a priest, which Abraham doesn’t treat as something he has to get through to move the plot along, but uses to reveal character.  His work in Amadeus is overshadowed by that of other more high profile actors, and it’s true that F. Murray hasn’t done much since (another Star Trek connection – he played the villain in Star Trek: Insurrection, a film that seems a lot better after you’ve seen Star Trek: Nemesis), but his performance as Salieri kicked Oscar’s ass and it kicked my ass, and that’s the bottom line.

 

Best Best Director

The nominees are:

  • Lewis Milestone, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
  • Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront (1954)
  • William Friedkin, The French Connection (1971)
  • Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven (1992)
  • Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain (2005)

And the winner is: Lewis Milestone.  If you need to ask why, you’ve never seen All Quiet on the Western Front.  The other four are all geniuses, and the films they won their Oscars for are all brilliant films, but Lewis Milestone, while working at the dawn of talkies, made a masterpiece that is as moving and tragic as the day it was released, and created poetic and innovative scenes of war that are still unrivaled.  Kazan and Friedkin were both master cinematic storytellers, Eastwood might be the most accomplished American director of the last twenty years, and Ang Lee is somewhere in the middle of one of the most eclectic and outstanding filmmaking careers going, but the importance of Milestone, especially his work in All Quiet, can’t be overstated.  He was the shit.

 

Best Best Picture

The nominees are:

  • All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
  • Casablanca (1943)
  • On the Waterfront (1954)
  • The French Connection (1971)
  • Unforgiven (1992)

And the winner is: All Quiet on the Western Front, which I know comes as a complete shock after the last category.  This is another tough one – for as many times as the Academy has royally fucked up (see below), it’s also managed to reward some truly deserving films.  The honorable mention list includes great stuff like The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II, Gone With the Wind, Gentleman’s Agreement, All About Eve, The Apartment, In the Heat of the Night, Midnight Cowboy, Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, Amadeus, Platoon, The Silence of the Lambs, Schindler’s List, and Million Dollar Baby.  Good shit, I tells ya.  Which just underlines the greatness of All Quiet on the Western Front, a brilliantly acted and directed masterpiece among masterpieces.

 

And now for the bad side of the coin.  Now for the times when the Academy has made a wrong turn, screwed the pooch, misstepped, fucked up, “decided poorly,” as the kids say.  It’s happened plenty of times.  Happened last year, in fact, when Crash took Best Picture instead of Brokeback Mountain.  But that one wasn’t so bad – Crash is a really good movie.  I’m not talking about those little fuck-ups; I’m talking about the ones that should never have even been nominated that wound up taking home the world’s most recognizable dildo.  Take my hand now as I lead you, whimpering and crying, down the long, crowded corridors of the Oscar Hall of Shame.

 

Shittiest Best Supporting Actor

The nominees are:

  • George Burns, The Sunshine Boys (1975)
  • Don Ameche, Cocoon (1985)
  • Sean Connery, The Untouchables (1987)
  • Jack Palance, City Slickers (1991)
  • Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire (1996)

And the winner is: Sean Connery.  Notice a pattern with this one?  I think the rule is if you have a decent career in Hollywood and you make it above the age of fifty or so without ever winning an Oscar, and you give a stand-out supporting performance in anything, no matter how big a pile of shit, you get a pity nomination.  If it’s a slow year, what the hell, they’ll just give ya the fuckin’ thing.  Sean Connery is a terrific actor who has given some good performances in some damn good movies (Marnie, Robin and Marian and Finding Forrester come to mind; Highlander, The Rock, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen do not), but The Untouchables is a piece of shit and all Connery really does to distinguish himself is show a little personality, making him the only member of the cast to do so.  Sure, he helps to make the movie almost watchable, but did he really deserve the Academy Award?  When he was nominated against Morgan Freeman in Street Smart, maybe the best performance of Freeman’s career?  I don’t fucking think so.  The only one of the bottom five in this category not to be an old white dude getting a consolation prize is Cuba Gooding Jr., who won for an energetic performance in a mediocre movie.  What gives with that?  The only thing the members of the Academy (mostly elderly white men) enjoy anywhere near as much as rewarding one of their own is rewarding a young negro obliging enough to give them a happy little song-and-dance.

 

Shittiest Best Supporting Actress

The nominees are:

  • Olympia Dukakis, Moonstruck (1987)
  • Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost (1990)
  • Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny (1992)
  • Anna Paquin, The Piano (1993)
  • Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind (2001)

And the winner is: Whoopi Goldberg.  The other four are either good actors who won for bad movies, or Anna Paquin, who won because she was like 3 at the time, and got all the dialogue because Holly Hunter’s character was a mute.  Paquin has grown into a good actress, and Jennifer Connelly has been brilliant in any number of great films made before and since A Beautiful Mind, so it’s a mystery why they chose to reward her for competent work in an unimpressive movie.  No, they weren’t the best choices for their awards, but the Academy need not feel shame for handing Oscars to these women.  Truly, no shame can compare to that which was earned at the 63rd Academy Awards when this hateful phrase was forged: Oscar Winner Whoopi Goldberg.

 

Shittiest Best Screenplay

The nominees are:

  • Lewis R. Foster, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  • Ernest Thompson, On Golden Pond (1981)
  • John Patrick Shanley, Moonstruck (1987)
  • Bruce Joel Rubin, Ghost (1990)
  • Akiva Goldsman, A Beautiful Mind (2001)

And the winner is: Akiva Goldsman by a fucking landslide.  Currently the only man to hold the dual honors of Oscar winner and Cocksucker Hall of Famer, Goldsman is the worst screenwriter ever to win an Academy Award.  Making matters even worse, the screenplay for A Beautiful Mind isn’t even that good, and it was nominated that year against Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff’s script for Ghost World, a script and a film that is everything A Beautiful Mind is not: original, creative and genuine.  The other four I’ve nominated all wrote shitty scripts that were made into shitty movies, but fuck the Academy for giving the highest honor it can bestow a writer of films to the guy who wrote Batman & Robin.

 

Shittiest Best Actress

The nominees are:

  • Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins (1964)
  • Barbra Streisand (tie), Funny Girl (1968)
  • Katharine Hepburn, On Golden Pond (1981)
  • Cher, Moonstruck (1987)
  • Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich (2000)

And the winner is: Julia Roberts.  Yes, Academy, I agree, she wasn’t nearly ubiquitous enough, by all means you should have given her the Oscar over the other women nominated that year – all of whom gave far superior performances in far superior films (especially Ellen Burstyn, who was genius in Requiem for a Dream).  Julia Roberts isn’t just an irritating phony, she’s a bad actress who makes bad movies (except for Closer – I’ll give her that one).  Ever see her on Oprah’s show?  The fuckin’ World Series of Smarm.  I was way too hard on Whoopi Goldberg up there.  I see that now.

 

Shittiest Best Actor

The nominees are:

  • Ernest Borgnine, Marty (1955)
  • Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur (1959)
  • Richard Dreyfuss, The Goodbye Girl (1977)
  • Henry Fonda, On Golden Pond (1981)
  • Russell Crowe, Gladiator (2000)

And the winner is: Henry Fonda.  He’s one of the greatest actors ever to grace the screen, he’s starred in such classics as My Darling Clementine, Twelve Angry Men, The Ox-Bow Incident, Fail-Safe, The Wrong Man, The Grapes of Wrath, and on and on and on.  But did anyone who voted for On Golden Pond actually see this fucking movie?  It is, how do you say, not good?  Fonda doesn’t embarrass himself, but he’s just playing old.  Not much of a stretch there, since he died not long after this one.  A far cry from Fonda’s great work, but maybe it was down between him and Dudley Moore for Arthur.  If that was the case, I guess they made the right choice.

 

Shittiest Best Director

The nominees are:

  • George Roy Hill, The Sting (1973)
  • John G. Avildsen, Rocky (1976)
  • Kevin Costner, Dances With Wolves (1990)
  • Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind (2001)
  • Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

And the winner is: Kevin Costner, though I really wanted to give it to Opie.  What put Costner over the top as the worst Best Director ever is the fact that he was nominated against Martin Scorsese for Goodfellas and still somehow managed to win.  What kind of a sick fucking world do we live in?

 

Shittiest Best Picture

The nominees are:

  • The Sound of Music (1965)
  • The Sting (1973)
  • Dances With Wolves (1990)
  • Gladiator (2000)
  • A Beautiful Mind (2001)
And the winner is: Dances With Wolves.  All five of these are shitty movies that didn’t deserve to even be nominated for Best Picture, must less win the fuckin’ thing, but Dances With Wolves is the worst of the lot.  Long, boring, simplistic, and preachy as hell, this is a bad film that plays on the guilty consciences of those old white guys in the Academy.  “Hmm,” they thought upon seeing it, “perhaps we – and I literally mean we – were too hard on the Indians in the 1800s . . . by crikey, let’s give that picture the Oscar!”  There are just tons of dishonorable mentions for this one:  Titanic, The English Patient, fucking Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Terms of Endearment, Chariots of Fire, Rocky, Oliver!, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Ben-Hur, and I could go on damn near forever.  How could an organization composed of people who spend their lives making and watching movies hand out its highest honor so often to such dull, pretentious, creatively destitute films?  Do you realize Martin Scorsese has been nominated for Best Director and made films nominated for Best Picture five fucking times and hasn’t won one yet?  Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and Goodfellas did not win Best Picture, but Rocky and Ordinary People and Dances With Wolves did.  It’d be enough to make me think life wasn’t fair, if the poverty and injustice and so forth hadn’t done that already.
Comments 
Monday, February 26th, 2007 | 06:03 am (UTC)
I realize it's boring and cliche to say so, but where is Citizen Kane in all the Best Director/Best Picture talk? It's pretty good.
Monday, February 26th, 2007 | 12:54 pm (UTC)
I limited myself to films that had won Oscars in the various categories, and believe it or not, Citizen Kane didn't win Best Picture or Best Director that year. It did win Best Original Screenplay, so that's where its one mention in this monstrous article comes from. Had it won Best Picture or Best Director, or had I penciled in a larger section on "Who the Academy Has Fucked Over," Kane would definitely have been in there. It's one of the greatest films ever made and it lost Best Director and Best Picture that year to How Green Was My Valley. Which is a good flick, but ... come on - Citizen Kane!
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