Oscar season is fast approaching, and before long, the nominees for Best Picture will be announced. Last year’s nominees were particularly strong (with the exception of the vastly overrated Juno), and No Country for Old Men was certainly deserving of Best Picture. However, the best movies of the year don’t always win, and there have been more than a few snubs in Oscars history. While a truly bad film is almost never nominated for Best Picture, there have been some movies that won the award despite comparing poorly with their competition. Here’s a look at the five least-deserving Best Picture winners:
My Fair Lady (1964)
Nothing against musicals, but this story of an uptight phonetics professor teaching Eliza Doolittle (played by Audrey Hepburn) how to speak proper English is awfully bland. Many of Hepburn’s vocals were dubbed, and it’s difficult to stay interested in a movie that largely centers on speech. My Fair Lady is still a pretty good movie, but there’s no way it should have won over Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, a film more relevant and poignant today than it was in 1964.
Forrest Gump (1994)
I like Forrest Gump, but it plays like more of a collage of American and pop culture history than it does as a coherent film in which a protagonist must overcome conflict. Forrest remains the same throughout the movie, living out a fable littered with classic songs meant to curry favor with our sense of nostalgia. Forrest Gump isn’t a bad movie, but Quiz Show and especially The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction were superior films. Seriously: Forrest Gump over Shawshank and Pulp Fiction?
Titanic is a pretty polarizing film – you either appeciate the scale upon which Cameron presents his love story or you’re nauseated by the sappiness that saturates a movie where two people who would never even speak to each other fall in love in just a matter of days. What Cameron did in recreating the mammoth ship is surely impressive, and DiCaprio and Winslet can both act their asses off, but the convenience of Jack and Rose’s love is too prominent to overlook. Titanic is a sappy love story, although a well-made one. As Good As It Gets, Good Will Hunting, and especially L.A. Confidential were better choices in 1997.
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Shakespeare in Love is a really, really good movie. That said, the opening war scene in Saving Private Ryan was perhaps in and of itself reason enough for Speilberg’s epic war movie to be nominated, and the underlying story of sacrifice and bravery throughout the movie makes it one of – if not the – best war movies ever. The thing is, Saving Private Ryan wasn’t even the best movie of 1998. That honor would go to Life is Beautiful, the rare perfect movie that can compel audiences to experience nearly every emotion possible. If you don’t cry – either out of sadness, happiness, or a combination of both – at the end of Life is Beautiful, you don’t have a soul.
2005 wasn’t a particularly strong year for Best Picture nominees, and I won’t argue that the other films nominated (Munich, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, and Brokeback Mountain [insert childish homophobic joke here]) are classics. That said, Crash was an unrealistic, melodramatic depiction of racism in this country. Of course racism exists, but it’s not as
black and white cut and dry as Crash would have you believe. The film suffers from finding itself quite clever, linking together its characters (a technique that was executed properly and brilliantly in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia) in an unbelievable, far-fetched manner. Plus, presenting the scenes in slow motion coupled with an overly dramatic score doesn’t make the movie good. It makes it pretentious, and the social message about racism is delivered with the subtlety of a jackhammer.