I have an Academy Awards fantasy. This Sunday, when the presenter opens the envelope for Best Achievement
in Directing, I envision audible gasps, then stunned silence and,
finally, thunderous applause when un-nominated Kasi Lemmons benefits from a secret write-in campaign
and wins for Talk to Me.
And then, for the hell of it, Sarah Polley
wins an Honorable Mention for Away From Her.
I suspect, however, that one
of the actual nominees will win. (I’m pulling for Jason Reitman
— Juno.) But this does not change the sad
truth that sometimes the best movies and performers do not get nominated,
and sometimes the absolutely wrong performers and movies win.
be pretty tough to figure out the logic. For example, my brother noted
that the longest — read poorly edited — movies often win Best Editing.
(As he elaborated, “All 28 hours of The English Patient beat
Fargo in 1997.) And the acting nominees sometimes reflect the most
Of course, my brother and I are not the only
ones to spew righteous indignation about the state of Academy Awards
affairs. I recently read a pretty good list of the Worst Oscars Ever, some of which I agreed with and some
of which I disagreed with. And this led me to compile my own list of
Academy Awards Travesties — the performers and movies that stole the
awards that should have rightfully gone to more deserving others.
Travesty — Crash (2006)
Sometimes, perhaps even frequently,
the Academy gets it right. A personal high for me was when The Silence of the
beat JFK in 1992.
And whether or not it was really
the best movie of the year, Shakespeare in Love
made me very happy when it knocked out Saving Private Ryan in
But sometimes the Academy gets
it very, very wrong. Dare I mention A Beautiful Mind
over In the Bedroom in 2002, Gladiator over Traffic
in 2001 and Braveheart over Babe in 1996. (And my brother
still wakes up screaming because Dances With Wolves
beat Goodfellas in 1991. What is so compelling about the crappy
epics?) But the most obvious, most egregious and most morally and criminally
wrong was Crash over Brokeback Mountain in 2006. Crash
was entertaining in a manipulative, simplistic, overbearing way. (People
are capable of both good and bad. Who knew?!) And, of course, the women
were quite lovely.
(I also had an adolescent crush
on Matt Dillon back in the day.)
But Brokeback was compelling
enough to turn the “gay cowboy movie” into a mainstream hit. It
featured subtle, engaging performances, a mesmerizing story and breathtaking
cinematography. Fie on you, Academy members, for this travesty.
Best Actress Travesty —
It makes me quite happy that
I don’t have a nominee for this category. Had I been consulted, I might
have handed out a few statuettes to different winners over the years,
but I can’t find any that trigger outrage. And I can name many that
make me very happy: Charlize Theron
for Monster. And, most important, Hilary Swank for Boys Don’t Cry.
That was possibly the best
performance in a movie ever. Ever.
I do, however, wonder why there
are so few travesties here. Thinking about it leads me to a depressing
hypothesis, namely that there are so many fewer meaty roles for women, so the few who get the opportunities almost always shine.
Best Actor Travesty — Denzel
Washington (Training Day,
There are, of course, many
roles for men and many corresponding opportunities for them to overact
or be overrated. I could go on at length about Mel Gibson and
Russell Crowe and Tom Hanks — all of whom bore me to tears
— but I don’t feel like blathering on about the boys. I will simply
take a moment to note that Tom Wilkinson delivered a perfect,
understated performance in the best movie of 2001, In the Bedroom.
And he lost to bombast personified, Denzel Washington.
Best Supporting Actress
Travesty —Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted — 2000)
And speaking of bombast, I’m
going to commit the cardinal lesbian sin of criticizing Angelina Jolie.
She wasn’t bad in Girl, Interrupted, but her character and her
performance were both over the top. Contrast that with Chloë Sevigny, who created a believable, complex
person that same year in Boys Don’t Cry.
I know others would
argue that the biggest Best Supporting Actress Travesty is Whoopi Goldberg beating Lorraine Bracco in 1991, and I suppose that’s a fair
argument. But that doesn’t pain me as much as the triumph of bombast
On the flip side, the Best
Supporting Actress category was the source of my favorite Oscars moment.
I haven’t seen The Piano, so I don’t know if Anna Paquin
deserved the win, but her acceptance speech was priceless.
Best Original Song Travesty
— “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”
(Hustle and Flow, 2006)
This was the other travesty
of 2006. I don’t actually have any feelings about “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” but Dolly Parton‘s “Travelin’ Thru” deserved to
win. And that’s not just because I love Dolly. It’s also because the
song helped create the warmth and heart of Transamerica.
There are many runners-up in
this category, though. Particularly egregious was when the stupid
Tarzan Phil Collins song beat “Blame Canada” from South Park
and “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2.
Best Director Travesty — Kimberly Peirce not being nominated in 2000
I’m not upset that Sam Mendes
won in 2000 — American Beauty
was an excellent movie. But the fact that Kimberly Peirce was not even
nominated for Boys Don’t Cry tells me that the Academy that year
was full of extremely sexist or extremely stupid people.
The Cider House Rules
and The Insider were both perfectly good movies, but neither
was as gripping or as powerful as Boys Don’t Cry — which means
that neither was as well directed.
In the history of the Academy
Awards, I can find one ray of hope in the Best Directing category. I
firmly believe Sofia Coppola
would have won in 2004 had it not been the predetermined year for
Peter Jackson to win for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
I could keep going, but I’ve
gone on far too long already. What Academy Awards — or omissions — trigger
your righteous indignation?