25. Fifty-Nine Years of Rocky History
I did not want to imply that the Academy was all sunshine and roses before 1988; so a brief history of their ineptitude seems in order. In fact, history is a perfect lead in because, even though this is reason number twenty-five, it underlies the basic principle that caused this list to manifest. The Academy never learns from its mistakes. It never changes.
There is plenty of fodder here for several volumes but let me just skim over a few heavy hitter examples. Many of the best films of all time were not even nominated for best picture: King Kong, Rear Window, Psycho, North By Northwest, The Empire Strikes Back, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, Manhattan, and Singin’ in the Rain to name a few. All the while Rocky, The Sting, Around the World in 80 Days, Chariots of Fire, and Terms of Endearment were winning over superior competition.
What comes across from these films is the Academy’s eagerness to dismiss innovation and genre films in favor of sentiment and nostalgia. This is only a small sample of cases mind you. I’m not even broaching directors (Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Lumet both never won), acting (Paul Lukas over Humphrey Bogart in 1943 and Charlton Heston over Cary Grant in 1959), or other categories (like the Academy’s long standing belief that landscapes = cinematography). But don’t worry, the ineptitudes of the Oscars are just as systemic today as they were in 1956.
24. Hearts of Darkness Gets Unfairly Disqualified
This sneaks in on the back end of the list because it technically didn’t qualify for the Oscars. While the premiere of Hearts of Darkness was at Cannes Film Festival, the US premiere ended up being via a television broadcast which made it fall under the Emmy’s sphere of influence. Still, it was a documentary originally set for the big screen and its later distribution deal should not have affected its Oscar worthiness.
This rings true more so today than it did in the past considering the ever expanding number of films which debut on TV on demand before a limited theatrical runs. Should those films also not qualify for the Oscars? It is the intent of the filmmakers not the negotiations of the producers which should matter. Hearts of Darkness is one of the finest documentaries in history and is arguably better than the film whose making it chronicles. It deserved recognition.
23. Titanic Spoiled the Best Oscars on the List
The 70th Oscars were unbelievably close to being adequate. Every winner had a reasonable case to make except one. Titanic simply wasn’t the Best Picture. James Cameron even works as Best Director because of the technical achievements he was responsible for, but Titanic as Best Picture simply doesn’t compute. The film is admittedly a technical marvel for its time, and if you buy in it can be a magical romantic tale. There are too many Titanic -sized flaws though to distract people from the good. The obscenely bloated, near 200 minute, run-time makes the payoffs feel redundant and unworthy for many. If editors had left even twenty minutes of cliches on the chopping room floor a worthy film might have emerged, but that’s not the case.
L.A. Confidential was far more deserving of the award. In hindsight it seems like a slam dunk because it was universally acclaimed by both critics and audiences unlike the very mixed reception Titanic received. Confidential engrosses itself in film noir by seamlessly deconstructing the genre and paying homage to it at the same time. Stellar performances across the board only serve to enhance the rock solid style and screenplay.
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