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Listeria: The Ten Least Deserved Oscar Wins of the Last Ten Years

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 25, 2007

Life is more interesting in list form

Well, Oscar is only human. Historically, they’ve been known to make some calculations in judgement–deeming movies like Driving Miss Daisy, Kramer Vs. Kramer and and Chariots of Fire more worthy of top honors movies like Field of Dreams, Apocalypse Now and Raiders of the Lost Ark–which might not have held up all too well over time to scrutiny. Those are some of the big ones, but in recent years, there have been plenty of Oscar wins, some in less well-publicized categories, that can stand up with these historical snubs.
Limit to one per movie, so as certain movies are not able to dominate this list. You know who you are.

10. Nicole Kidman winning Best Actress for The Hours (2002). Also known as “The Nose Oscar.” A fairly solid performance from Kidman, to be fair, but merely one of a troika of solid lead actress performances from The Hours, and one that doesn’t particularly stick out. That is, of course, except for The Nose–Kidman’s normally cute-as-a-button facial appendage, flattened to unrecognizability, posisbly because in real life, apparently legendary writer Virginia Woolf wasn’t quite as much of a hottie as Kidman (Impossible!) While Kidman certainly deserved a pat on the back for her looks sacrifice, I think giving her an Oscar for it was going a little overboard.

Who Should’ve Won That Year: Diane Lane for her powerhouse performance of a housewife gone astray in Unfaithful, or Julianne Moore for Far From Heaven

9. The English Patient winning Best Editing (1996). The movie won a whole host of awards that are somewhat questionable (Juliette Binoche certainly goes down as one of my least favorite actresses of the last 20 years), but this one probably takes the cake. Did anyone actually see this movie and say to themselves “wow, this movie did not go on a second longer than I wanted it to”?

Who Should’ve Won That Year: Fargo moved by pretty briskly.

8. Russell Crowe winning Best Actor for Gladiator (2000). Yeah, Crowe was pretty good in it, but considering that grunting and looking tough consisted of half the performance, and that the non-grunting part of the movies kinda sucked, did anyone really thing this was the performance of the year? And it’s too bad, because Crowe actually has given a couple of Oscar worthy performances (The Insider, Master & Commander, arguably A Beautiful Mind), the last two of which he probably missed out on due to having won already.

Who Should’ve Won That Year: I think Tom Hanks actually deserved to complete the hat trick for his sporting goods-loving loner from Cast Away, probably the performance of his career.

7. Ron Howard winning Best Director for A Beautiful Mind (2001). “Well..There’s this story about a killer robot driving instructor from the future that travels back in time…for some reason. And he must choose wether his best friend lives…or dies.”


“His best friend is a talking pie!”


Who Should Have Won That Year: I think it’s kind of crazy that David Lynch was even nominated for Mulholland Drive, a win would’ve been the coolest thing ever.

6. Phil Collins winning Best Song for “You’ll Be in My Heart” from Tarzan (1999). In recent years, the Best Song Oscar has actually proven itself to arguably be a more hip music award than say, THE GRAMMYS, which have yet to even nominate Three 6 Mafia for much of anything, I believe. Still, this was not always the case, as proven by this 1999 winner, the kind of song that would make any reasonable music listener watching Tarzan want to rip off a vine and strangle the signer with it. Plus, now he can officially announce himself as Academy Award-Winner Phil Collins, an unnecessary hubris-booster brilliantly parodied in at least one episode of South Park.

Who Should’ve Won That Year: In a possible first for the Best Song Oscar, there were actually two worthy nominees in this category in ’99, Aimee Mann’s “Save Me” from Magnolia and Trey Parker and Marc Shaiman’s “Blame Canada” from South Park: Bigger, Louder & Uncut, making this win all the more tragic.

5. Michael Caine winning Best Supporting Actor for The Cider House Rules (1999). The “Glorified Old Guy” Oscar is an Oscar standby if there ever was one, giving statues to actors like Henry Fonda, Don Ameche and George Burns for performances they didn’t necessarily deserve it for, but were given away as part of a Lifetime Achievement and “congratulations for making it this far and still being pretty good” reward. Still, not only did Michael Caine certainly not deserve the award for his performance in The Cider House Rules, one of the worst Best Picture nominees of recent years, but he already won one of these, for a much better performance in a much better movie, ’86’s Hannah and Her Sisters. Ridiculous.

Who Should’ve Won That Year: Haley Joel Osment for giving one of the best (and hardest to follow-up) kid performances in film history for The Sixth Sense.

4. Kolya winning Best Foreign Film (1996). I find it somewhat incredible that I even saw this movie in the first place, but I think I caught it on TV at the height of my Oscar kick and decided to give it a try. What it is, for the 99% of you who haven’t seen and/or chose not to remmeber this movie, is essentially the Czech Republic’s version of Michael J. Fox vehicle Life With Mikey, or Kramer Vs. Kramer with a daughter instead of a son, or, I dunno, EVERY FUCKING DOMESTIC COMEDY EVER MADE. Sometimes I think Oscar voters’ sense of equivalency goes out the window when dealing with movies in another language, as if they couldn’t possibly be held up to the same set of standards as American films, but this movie sucks no matter what language its in.

Who Should’ve Won That Year: Uh, one of the other movies. Ridicule sounds like a good title.

3. Rachel Weisz winning Best Supporting Actress for The Constant Gardner (2005). I consider it one of the great cons in film history that this woman somehow managed to convince people that she was a) beautiful and b) a halfway decent actress. This was all well and good as long as Weisz was starring in movies like The Runaway Jury and Constantine, but then she was cast in this overcooked Fernando Meirelles disappointment, and suddenly it was Oscar Time. She looks funny, she talks funny, she’s thoroughly unconvincing and she’s extremely unexceptional. Her success will befuddle me until the day I die.

Who Should’ve Won That Year: Didn’t see any of the other nominees, but Michelle Williams deserves a Lifetime Oscar due to her work as Jen in Dawson’s Creek, so I’d probably give it to her.

2. Million Dollar Baby winning Best Picture (2004). Half Rocky and half Terms of Endearment, I suppose it was inevitable that this triumphant feel good-turned suicidally depressing downer flick would take home top honors. Awkward, cliched, and totally uninspiring, I don’t think I’ve ever met a single person who was willing to go to bat for Million Dollar Baby. Did you like this movie? Do you know anyone, critics aside, that did like this movie? Another victory for the Silent Majority, I suppose.

Who Should’ve Won That Year: Not the strongest year for Best Pic nominees, but I would’ve been more comfortable with surprise hit Sideways getting the gold.

1. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King winning Best Adapted Screenplay. All right, so I hated this movie. In fact, I hated all three LOTR movies. And visual effects aside, I don’t think this ugly, boring, INTERMINAL goddman movie deserved to win a single one of its ten Oscars. But all of them were forgivable compared to the Best Adapted Screenplay win, an award it took strictly on the basis of its unstoppable momentum. Are you fucking serious? None but the nerdiest of Rings geeks would defend the trilogy’s dialogue as anything but ridiculous, and now we’re handing out OSCARS for it??? Let’s examine the evidence, shall we:

“We shall have peace, when you answer for the burning of the Westfold, and the children that lie dead there! We shall have peace, when the lives of the soldiers whose bodies were hewn even as they dead against the gates of the Hornberg, are avenged! When you hang from a gibbit for the sport of your own crows…! We shall have peace.”

“Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It’ll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they’ll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields… and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?”

“You think you are wise, Mithrandir. Yet for all your subtleties, you have not wisdom. Do you think the eyes of the White Tower are blind? I have seen more than you know. With your left hand you would use me as a shield against Mordor, and with your right you would seek to supplant me. I know who rides with Theoden of Rohan. Oh, yes. Word has reached my ears of this Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and I tell you now, I will not bow to this Ranger from the North, last of a ragged house long bereft of lordship!”

And this is the cream of the crop.

What Should Have Won That Year: The incredibly creative screenplay for American Splendor, or the Scorsese-worthy screenplay for City of God, those might’ve been better choices.

5 Responses to “Listeria: The Ten Least Deserved Oscar Wins of the Last Ten Years”

  1. Joe said

    When Kolya won, they brought the “real” Kolya up onstage and introduced him to the audience. I remember the applause for him sounding really forced.

  2. Tommy Atkins said

    I liked Million Dollar Baby, watched every nominee in every major category that year, and still feel it deserved to win.

  3. pushtouch said

    I like Million Dollar Baby a lot.It was the most deserved win in years.
    I also love The Constant Gardner and Rachel Weisz.She is very beautiful (you are either blind or gay) and she’s no less talented than any of the other nominees that year.The problem with supporting roles is that they rarely stand out among each other so everybody can win.Her win was clean as a wistle.

    I agree with the whole LOTR trilogy thing.The dialogues are mostly terrible.And they we’re angry at the Academy for not nominating them in actors categories,can you believe that!
    Like,Frodo should have been nominated!Unbeliveable.

    I also agree with you that The Cider House Rules is one of the worst Best Picture nominees of recent years.

    I must also add that The Departed winning the best adapted screenplay(I’m not happy with the best picture win also) is worthy of top ten least deserved Oscar wins.I mean,the movie is 80% copy pasted from Inffernal Affairs.
    And the thing that completely ruined the movie was turning Jack Nicholson into a snitch for the F.B.I.Where’s the logic in that one?It’s like recruting Tony Soprano to snitch on the Bada Bing guys.

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