WGTC Weekly Throwdown: The Most Undeserving Best Picture Winners

%name WGTC Weekly Throwdown: The Most Undeserving Best Picture Winners

Arguments – they’re part of life. We’re all competitive beasts, never wanting to admit fault or defeat, and will go to great lengths when defending our honor when challenged or threatened. Arguments have started wars, shattered relationships, broken families, declared victors, but have also awarded respect. A win will always be a win, but longstanding respect and admitted defeat are far greater trophies than another tally mark on a record sheet somewhere. That’s where our story begins for this group of alcohol swigging, loud mouthed master-debaters (had to make that joke once, c’mon!), connected by our love of whiskey, which is only overpowered by our love for all things pop culture – cinema, music, television, gaming, you name it. Inebriation and verbal assaulting, how could this go wrong?!

Needless to say, all we do now is argue about pop culture and hot topics of the day. Despite sounding like the grunts and groans of a pack of psychopaths, we decided to translate our debates into a readable affair. This means that every few weeks or so, we will be posting our thoughts on upcoming releases and pop culture in general. Since agreeing is for peace-loving hippies, our arguments will be broken up into two sides, and the winner is decided by the readers. Yes, our fates are in your hands!

Before we begin though, allow us to introduce ourselves.

Christian: A nearly retired cop with nothing left to lose, Christian turned to bath salts and cat urine to deal with losing three wives and up to seven stepchildren (they were gingers though, does that even count?). Although it is true that he is extremely opinionated, Christian only pushes his opinions on those he loves most (especially you, dear reader). Famous for his last stand at the Alamo and ability to produce children with a single look, this is a man who should by no means be considered harmless. Aside from devilish good looks and cologne that doesn’t come in an aluminum can, his knowledge of everything pop-culture will leave wives crying for divorce and daughters breaking the locks their fathers rightfully installed on their chastity belts. Debating isn’t exactly his strong suit, but he did once defeat a whole debate team using only the power of a flamethrower, so maybe that counts.

Gem: Gem has lived the secluded life of an academic, dedicated to a better understanding of critical analysis. Emerging from five years struggling to insert page numbers into Word, Gem indulged in the world of film to satiate her creative side – from which burst the need to obliterate those who do not agree with her inane, profane ranting. Her most critically acclaimed debate was executed at this year’s Comic Con when she swayed a crowd of riotous nerds into agreeing that yes, a coat rack could defeat Wolverine. The opposition doesn’t stand a chance.

Nato: Traveling back in time from a dystopian universe where pop culture debates are a game of life and death, Nato (formerly Natobombious Kick-Assious) continues to extend his unbeaten streak against the competition he now sees in three (barely) functioning alcoholics who devour useless entertainment factoids like the bottles of Jack taped to their hands. Matt can make a case for anything, but enjoys the new challenge of debate through writing, disabling his hypnotically enchanting “hair-flip” closing visual, typically bringing competition to their knees with one swiftly punctuated “swoosh.” Who needs a closing argument when you have great hair? You’re about to witness the great lengths he’s willing to go and mighty stretches he’s willing to make, abandoning all notions of self-respect just to deliver the most convincing arguments conceivable. A pop-culture chameleon, Nato can do it all. We promise we’ll do our best to contain him, but it might be too late already…

Alex: Formed from the recovered DNA of Stephen A. Douglas, Ben Franklin, and Socrates, Alex is an unstoppable force in an argument. Basically every epic speech in every courtroom movie/TV show ever was copied verbatim from arguments Alex has made. If the world listened to his points on abortion, gay marriage, or America’s healthcare system, all people would finally be in agreement. But why waste his talents on such minutia? It’s the world of the media that sparks the fiercest debates, and thus his fiercest opinions. But just because he’s such an eloquent debater in person doesn’t mean that doesn’t translate into his writing. Some argue the pen is mightier than the sword. Well Alex doesn’t write with a pen, he uses a sword to slice paper into the words that crush those who disagree. Whoever opposes him ought to fear for not only their dignity, but their safety as well.

Today’s Argument: Which Best Picture Winner Deserves Their Award The Least?

Ah, the Oscars, a time to celebrate all the best and brightest spots in a year of cinema – or a giant awards ceremony put on by wealthy Hollywood blow-hards to pat themselves on the back while the rest of the world just watches. You can enjoy it or be bitterly jaded about the whole thing, take your pick on how you watch the Oscars, but some years have been a little more disappointing than others. Out of all the winners, there are just some who unjustly were given the prized cinematic recognition of Best Picture which left the four of us scratching our heads. Join us as we debate which Best Picture winners we think robbed other more worthy films of the shiny statue, of course backing our debates with nothing but the most respectable facts – or moronic rantings if you will.

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Nato – 2002: Chicago

%name WGTC Weekly Throwdown: The Most Undeserving Best Picture Winners

The year was 2002. The host was Steve Martin. The most nominated film (13 times) was Rob Marshall’s big-screen musical adaptation of Chicago, including a nod for Best Picture. Its competition? Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, Polanski’s The Pianist, Jackson’s LOTR: The Two Towers, and Stephen Daldry’s The Hours. The problem? Chicago won Best Picture.

Now before I start ranting, let me admit Chicago was an enjoyable movie. I mean you had a ton of actors/actresses who weren’t trained musicians/dancers absolutely lighting up the stage with brilliant musical numbers, a pretty enjoyable story, and a fun energy. As far a musical films go, Chicago deserves some credit. But Best Picture credit? I’m sorry, I can’t justify that honor.

I’ll start by taking The Hours out of this argument because I’ll admit, while undoubtedly emotional and finely acted, it just wasn’t my mug of beer (sorry, don’t drink tea.) So there you go Chicago, you at least didn’t deserve last place, and of course by last place I mean still one of the top five films of 2002.

Next up is The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, that hobbit filled epic adventure which is easily one of the greatest trilogy continuers of all time. Not only did director Peter Jackson outdo himself by capturing even more breathtaking landscapes, but he brought us our first taste of large-scale orc battling, and set audiences up perfectly for Return Of The King, doing so through engagingly gripping storytelling which transcends that of typically muddled fantasy-action stories. Peter Jackson dove head-first into this incredibly creative task, and surpassed expectations book fans thought unachievable. I would have loved to see this win over Chicago.

Now we look at The Pianist, a depressing yet moving story about an accomplished musician fleeing for his life in Nazi-occupied Poland. Wladyslaw Szpilman’s true story was acted beautifully by Adrien Brody, which won him a Best Actor Oscar, directed magnificently, which won Polanski the Best Director Oscar, and was a brilliant adaptation of the similarly titled source material, which won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. Three Oscars isn’t bad, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a little disheartening when the movie which actually did win Best Picture (Chicago) couldn’t exactly match The Pianist‘s cinematic quality.

But the most deserving film passed over for Chicago‘s song and dance?  Martin Scorsese’s Gangs Of New York - hands down. I know if you look at Rotten Tomatoes you’ll argue it’s got the lowest rating out of all the nominees, pointing at the “messy” nature of this enormous film, but for my money there wasn’t a better movie in 2002. From Daniel Day-Lewis’ energetic and mesmerizing performance as gang-leader Bill The Butcher to Scorsese’s jaw-droppingly realistic set recreation of the Five Points, Gang Of New York wasn’t just a film – it was a beautiful glimpse back to a time when organized crime ran rampant and immigrants did what they had to for survival. Did Scorsese Hollywood-ize it with violent battles and entertaining factors films need in order to win over mass audiences? Of courses, he had to, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that excellent casting (Leo DiCaprio, John C. Reilly, Cameron Diaz, Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson), inspired directing, and marvelous execution made more than a strong enough case for Gangs of New York winning best picture.

So congratulations Chicago, you can always claim 2002 was your year, and you sure did a number at the Oscars – but did you really deserve that Best Picture statue sitting on your mantel? This writer doesn’t think so.

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Alex – 1989: Driving Miss Daisy

%name WGTC Weekly Throwdown: The Most Undeserving Best Picture Winners

So we all know that the best part of the Oscars is getting to whine about which film was snubbed out of a nomination for Best Picture and it’s even better when some totally undeserving film wins because then we have a reason to swear vengeance against the Academy for an entire year.

Let me first clarify that I have no problem with Driving Miss Daisy. It’s an excellent film, but at best it was only the third best film of 1989. Third you say? How can that be? It won the Oscar after all! Well there’s two ways it can be - Field Of Dreams and Dead Poet’s Society. Both films were far more deserving of a win than Miss Daisy.

“If you build it they will come.” That’s only one of the most iconic lines in cinematic history. The “they” obviously referred to hugely devoted fans, critical acclaim, and respect as one of the greatest sports movies of all time. Basically everything except a tiny golden statue.

Field Of Dreams is basically the standard I use to see if a girl is awesome. If she doesn’t like Field of Dreams, then there’s obviously something wrong with her, and there’s no reason to have a second date (sorry Caitlin, at least now you know the truth.)

Equally as deserving of the win is Dead Poet’s Society. It is literally one of the greatest movies of all time. It’s the sort of timeless tale that I intend to show my kids, my grand-kids, my great-grand-kids, and the next 5 generations of Lowe offspring. (Come on modern medicine.)

Confession – I’m not a Walt Whitman fan. Sure, he’s a good enough writer, I’ve just never been that into his stuff. However, everytime I watch Dead Poet’s Society I’ll spend the next three weeks reading Whitman non-stop.

It’s one of Robin Williams most beautifully powerful performances. That fact that he wasn’t honoured for his performance leaves me with very little faith in the academy.

Sorry Daisy, you were great, but Field Of Dreams and Dead Poet’s Society were simply on another level.

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Gem – 1994: Forrest Gump

%name WGTC Weekly Throwdown: The Most Undeserving Best Picture Winners

1994 was a stellar Oscar year to say the least. All of the Best Picture nominees have since continued to gather critical and public praise, standing the harsh test of time dished out by Mother Hollywood. Pulp Fiction; the cult classic which crosses the threshold between geek appreciation and critic’s darling, Quiz Show; a subtle slow burning drama with a game-shows-are-fixed story way ahead of its time, Four Weddings And A Funeral; one of the most successful comedic introductions to a foreign cinema, and The Shawshank Redemption, Frank Darabont’s life-changing tale of the everyman vs. the man.

So why did Forrest Gump win, and why is it so undeserving? The moment Gump won a simple message was sent by the Academy to Hollywood, one which has resonated throughout the history of the Oscars. If your running time is 30 minutes too long, if your story follows a person’s struggle with overcoming adversity, if an actor uglies themselves up, and if there’s a tear-jerking death: you will retreat home at the end of Oscar night with a shopping trolley full of awards.  That’s not to say that the Academy doesn’t recognise brilliance outside of its traditions. For example, in 1986 a landmark nomination for Sigourney Weaver’s performance as Ellen Ripley in the sci-fi masterpiece, Aliens, was considered daring. Rarely do these nominees go on to win, however, and Forrest Gump fulfils the Academy’s prerequisite list of award-worthy attributes with devastating accuracy.

What it fails to do is emerge from its category as undoubtedly better than its competitors. How can any one person who knows a smidgen about cinema say straight faced that Forrest Gump is a better example of an “outstanding achievement” in cinema than Pulp Fiction? Gump’s director Robert Zemeckis could have taken an innovative approach to tackling a typical biopic, and yet at few points does the film stretch its boundaries. It plods forward like a cow to slaughter; knowing it’ll end up a burger or stuffed by the front door to scare the Avon lady. It’s slow, steady and predictable.

There were two obvious competitors for Forrest GumpPulp Fiction, the strongest contender for originality, yanked its narrative structure from the norm, punched it in the face a few times then reassembled it while also trying to frost a cake. It triumphs. The non-chronological narrative serves not as distraction but as a part of the plot itself, while weaving multiple story strands across time, recasting Hollywood’s has-beens (Travolta, Willis) and generating counter culture dialogue. You cannot doubt that it changed cinema in 1994.

And of course, The Shawshank Redemption. What’s interesting to note now is the boom of post-1994 popularity the film has garnered. It failed to rake it in at the box office and went on to become a classic on home video, so it’s no surprise that it didn’t bring home the Best Picture award. Why is that? Surely it adheres to the same rigid unspoken rules by which Gump won. Following the tale of Andy Dufresne as he is wrongly incarcerated for his wife and her lover’s death, Shawshank knows when to urge melodrama and when to tell its story without costume. It succeeds in marrying the two via the performances of Tim Robbins as Dufresne, Morgan Freeman as his best friend Red, and Bob Gunton in his most memorable role as the Warden.  Like Pulp Fiction, it has changed film; quotable dialogue, a triumphant tale without twee ceremony, and the endlessly-spoofed crane shot of Robbins in the rain, arms outstretched to the sky.

It’s a wonder if the Academy took into consideration Gump’s most popular quotation: “Life is a like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” Because with Forrest Gump, you knew exactly what you were getting, and that is not the mettle of which Oscar winners are made.

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Christian – 1990: Dances With Wolves

%name WGTC Weekly Throwdown: The Most Undeserving Best Picture Winners

It’s the beginning of a new decade. The cinematic ventures of the 1980s are coming to an end to make way for a decade of films that would go on to define a generation. Even in the first year of the new decade, highly influential films were already being released to critical acclaim and much fanfare. How would the first Academy Awards ceremony reward the efforts of the films that started the 90s with a bang?

Well, in all honesty, they didn’t. One film in particular swept most of the categories: Dances With Wolves. In all fairness, it’s a good movie; never great, but there have been worse versions of the same story. Not only did the film walk away with a statue for Best Picture though, but it also won awards for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and other such categories.

For a movie like Dances With Wolves to have won that many awards, it must have been a bad year for films, right? Let’s see what else was nominated for Best Picture: Ghost, The Godfather Part IIIAwakenings, and a tiny little film called Goodfellas. Wait, what? That sentimental, overly dramatic piece of mediocrity won over Goodfellas, an established masterpiece helmed by one of the most respected filmmakers of our time?

That’s right, Goodfellas lost the award for Best Picture (and Best Director) to Kevin freaking Costner. There is absolutely no reason for this to ever happen, because Goodfellas is an all-around better film. To be bold, it’s one of the best films ever released, and only inches behind The Godfather as the greatest mob movie of all time. This is the film that inspired The Sopranos, one of the finest television shows to ever grace the small screen.

So why did a white bread film with the obvious heart-warming ending and focus on injustice being rectified take the cake? How did the snappy dialogue of Goodfellas lose to the Lakota translations of Dances With Wolves for Best Screenplay? Because the Academy is out of date and predictable? Or because…nope, that’s definitely the reason.

Everything about Goodfellas is miles above Costner’s work, from direction to casting, dialogue, setting, pacing, plotting, and the amount of Joe Pesci contained in each. Scorsese eventually got what was coming to him, winning multiple Academy Awards in the future and snagging Best Picture for the deserving 2006 masterpiece The Departed. But the fact that Goodfellas, the man’s crowning achievement amongst works that have defined the gangster genre, couldn’t beat out Costner’s wet dream of Native American sympathy is just a reflection on the Academy’s failure to adapt.

Perhaps it was too profane? Or maybe the subject matter wasn’t particularly appealing to the Academy? Or maybe it’s because Goodfellas only brought in a fraction of what Dances With Wolves made at the box office? Whatever the reason is, it’s a crying shame that the better film lost to the obvious choice simply because it didn’t conform enough to the Academy’s expectations.

Either way, when Lincoln inevitably wins Best Picture (pure Academy bait, am I right?), remember that Goodfellas couldn’t pull off more than one win, and shed a tear for the shame.

Enjoy what you read? Check out last week’s article where we debate the unsexiest love-making scenes in cinema!

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