The Great Oscar Robbery
Every once in a while, a film comes around that will change your life; leaving you unable to contain your delight when leaving the theatre. The acting was superb, the script sublime, and the direction was sometimes, groundbreaking. You’ll ride a wave of good feelings all the way into Oscar season, only to be crushed, when the film you love, looses out to another movie that, while maybe just as popular, did not deserve a win, simply because it was up against your new favourite movie. Here we look at a few films which were beaten out for top prizes at the Academy Awards, despite their universal acclaim.
Citizen Kane (1941)
In what’s recalled to be the earliest example of Oscar daylight robbery, the 1941 film, co-written, directed by, and starring Orson Welles, is widely regarded as the greatest film ever made. Even if you haven’t seen it, you’ll be familiar with seven decades’ worth of references, nods and homages to this consistently chart-topping masterpiece.
And yet, in what was attributed to bloc voting against Welles by a film industry magazine at the time, Citizen Kane took home only one of the nine Oscars it was nominated for, while the evening belonged to a poignant tale of…er, Welsh miners. John Ford won Best Director for the film How Green Was My Valley, which also won Best Picture and three others, being nominated for ten overall.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
While not blessed with the universal appeal bestowed upon Kane, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 surely deserves some credit for its ground-breaking cult appeal to sci-fi fans; praise which was grudgingly given by the Academy with the token award for Visual Effects, despite being nominated for three more.
Despite his reputation preceding him, Kubrick was on the shortlist for Best Director only to lose out to Sir Carol Reed for his film adaptation of musical Oliver! – which also won Best Picture; a category that 2001 was not shortlisted in.
Anything except Forrest Gump (1994)
Tom Hanks took home Best Actor for his portrayal of a character which is now firmly a part of Hollywood folklore, while Robert Zemeckis’ direction also earned him the gong. Rightly deserved; However, many film-goers took exception to the film as a whole taking home the Best Picture Oscar given that year’s stiff competition: especially Quentin Tarantino’s second film Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption which have maintained their strangleholds on film critics’ Top 100 Films lists ever since.
In particular, Woody Allen (Best Director Nominee: Bullets Over Broadway) will have felt aggrieved by the way Gump used the top technology available at the time to ‘splice’ Tom Hanks into memorable historic moments caught on film – as he had employed the exact same technique a full decade earlier for Zelig, to a far lesser critical reception.