Friday, November 30, 2012

The five worst Oscar-winning movies

We've entered the season where would-be Academy Award nominees crowd into theaters, trying to please voters whose memories don't go back farther than six weeks. In honor of this mad rush, I'll devote one State of the Art blog entry to the Oscars every week, up to the nominations on January 10 (except for Christmas week, when I'll be wassailing at home).

I'll start with the five least-justified choices for best picture. Technically, I can't include "Mrs. Miniver," which was so sappy I left midway through to avoid killing more brain cells. I saw "Cimarron" and "Cavalcade" too long ago to make a clear judgment now, but I still have more than 80 to choose from. Here are the duds, in ever-increasing order of awfulness, followed by the nominees that should have beaten them:

5) "The Departed" (2006) -- The prize was a sop to Martin Scorsese, who has made a dozen movies better than this nonsensical mishmash about a cop and a crook who infiltrate each other's organizations. An affront not only to fans of the Hong Kong original ("Infernal Affairs") but to anyone with a brain, right down to the tacked-on happy ending. Should have won: "Little Miss Sunshine" or "The Queen."

4) "Ordinary People" (1980 -- Well-intentioned, competently made soap opera about a family that comes apart when a prized son dies. But when I rewatched it a few years ago, it seemed arid, obvious and gently preachy, like most movies directed by Robert Redford. The acting holds up well, but this didn't deserve the big enchilada. Should have won: "Raging Bull" or "The Elephant Man."

3) "Oliver!" (1968) -- The apex of the grandiose, over-the-top musicals of the 1960s ("My Fair Lady," "Dr. Dolittle," etc.) and the one that killed this sub-genre, except for Monty Python spoofs. (See the "Every Sperm is Sacred" number in "The Meaning of Life.") The exclamation point in the title indicates that everything must be BIG, including the hammy acting. Should have won: "Romeo and Juliet" or "The Lion in Winter."   

2) "Around the World in 80 Days" (1956) -- The movie seemed to last 80 days, as it crammed celebrity cameos into flaccid sequences detailing the journey of Phileas Fogg (a miscast David Niven) around the globe. In a decade famous for movie bloat, producer Mike Todd was rewarded for setting the bar higher.Should have won: "Friendly Persuasion." or "The King and I."

1) "Crash" (2006)  -- A strident, inconclusive harangue about racism, crippled by absurd coincidences (apparently only two cops patrol all of Los Angeles), ludicrous situations and painfully shallow characters: (My favorite: The omni-bigoted white millionaire played by Sandra Bullock, who underwent such a miraculous transformation that she hugged her Mexican maid and blurted, "Maria, you are my best friend!")Should have won: Any other nominee in the category: "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote," "Good Night, and Good Luck" or "Munich." Or almost any other 2004 release, possibly excepting "Van Helsing" and "Exorcist: The Beginning."


Anonymous said...

Let it go, dude. People are unjustly starving and dying all over the world.

Robert Hunt said...

"Saving Private Ryan" should never have lost to "Shakespeare In Love".

Likewise, "Forrest Gump" should have finished 4th behind "The Shawshank Redemption", "Pulp Fiction" and "Quiz Show".

Anonymous said...

The Academy membership is highly homogenous.

They're frequently more concerned with perceptions and ticket sales than art.

Thus these rotten winners of the Oscar.

Oh, 2:40: Take your faux-adult harangue elsewhere, please.