When this year’s 2016 Oscar nominations were announced, cries of “But what about…”, “Why are there no…” and “Really?” weren’t very far behind.
The issue of the lack of black actors in the acting categories will no doubt dominate this year’s ceremony on 28th February, and not unjustly. Sadly though, the underlying problems that continue to plague the Academy Awards when it makes its nominations are not just, for want of a better word, black and white.
With out of touch members, smaller independent films often going unseen, and manipulative campaigning from award-hungry producers and studio executives, it’s not hard to see why change is needed at this most glamorous of world-renowned film awards.
That’s a discussion for another day and whilst the Academy isn’t always in the wrong, it has also been responsible for some monumental snubs over the years. Here are just 10 of them…
Stanley Kubrick Never Winning Best Director
It seems utter lunacy that the man who made arguably the greatest contribution to cinema in the twentieth century never received an Oscar for Best Director. With a back catalogue that includes Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange and The Shining (to name but a few) you aren’t so much as left scratching your head but tearing at it with a garden rake. Then again, considering Stanley Kubrick abhorred the Hollywood system, even moving to the UK in 1961, you’d be hard-pressed to say he was bothered.
City of God (Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film ) – 76th Academy Awards (2004)
One of Brazil’s greatest ever films, this story of two brothers growing up in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro received critical acclaim and was nominated by the Academy for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. Yet, despite all this, the powers that be still considered it not good enough to be considered Best Foreign Language Film or Best Picture. Madness.
Judy Garland (Best Actress) for The Wizard of Oz – 12th Academy Awards (1940)
A double gaff from Academy members here. Firstly, for the heinous decision not to nominate Judy Garland for Best Actress for her wondrous and legendary performance as Dorothy. Secondly, for deciding instead that giving her an Academy Juvenile Award was more than sufficient – seemingly belittling her and other performers under the age of 18 that their work was nothing more than child’s play.
Vertigo – 31st Academy Awards (1959)
Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece is today considered a classic, with the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound magazine even ranking it above Citizen Kane as the best film ever made. A haunting psychological thriller about love, loss and obsession was met with mixed reviews upon its original release and this was reflected in its recognition, or lack of, at the Oscars. With only two nominations, for Best Art Direction and Best Sound Recording, in which it lost both, it was overlooked in every other category. Oh and, just as baffling, Hitchcock never won a golden statue for directing.
Martin Scorsese (Best Director) for Taxi Driver – 49th Academy Awards (1976)
Another one of the most influential filmmakers in history to have been shunned too often by the Academy. Perhaps the most glaring omission for Martin Scorsese was no nomination for directing Taxi Driver – a film about paranoia, disaffection and desire that addressed them with a compelling grit that may never be seen again. Fortunately, Scorsese would finally win for Best Director with The Departed (2006) – a film that, whilst impressive, lacks the raw, hard-hitting intensity of his earlier work.
Do The Right Thing (Best Picture) – 62nd Academy Awards (1990)
Quite simply, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing is one of the most important films of the 1980s. A comedy-drama about racial tension in a Brooklyn neighboured, the film stood out from other more mainstream Hollywood fare by refusing to settle for predictable resolutions and trivial character relationships when telling its story. It was deemed worthy for preservation in the National Film Registry, one of only six films in history to have been so in its first year of release, but not for Best Picture by the Academy. The winner? The increasingly creaky Driving Miss Daisy.
Inside Out (Best Picture) – 88th Academy Awards (2016)
Utterly unique, surprisingly moving and superbly animated, Inside Out is an outstanding piece of work. As touching as it is enthralling and as dazzling as it is heartfelt, it didn’t just mark a return to form for Pixar, it proved to be one of its best ever offerings. Many even believed it had a chance of becoming the first ever animated film to win Best Picture. It wasn’t even nominated and had to settle for a Best Animated Feature nod.
Nicolas Winding Refn (Best Director) for Drive – 84th Academy Awards (2012)
What could have been a generic action film, Drive was instead a stylised genre film that breathed new life into car chase films thanks to Nicolas Winding Refn’s masterful direction. Beautifully shot and with one of the coolest soundtracks you’ll hear, Drive is a piece of retro-noir cinema with a brooding intensity rarely seen in modern film. Unfortunately, the 84th Academy Awards didn’t share these sentiments and Winding Refn, whilst chalking up a Best Director nomination at the BAFTAs along with numerous other accolades, was well and truly robbed.
Fight Club (Best Picture) – 72nd Academy Awards (2000)
A social satire mocking consumerism, with layer upon layer of ambiguous subtexts and points of view, all conveyed through extreme violence, was probably going to be too much of a hard sell and a bit left field for the Academy. Sure enough, the notion of fighting serving as an extreme metaphor for young people’s disillusion with the complacent values of modern society was lost on voters and Fight Club received only one nomination…for Best Sound Editing. It lost to The Matrix.
Ava DuVernay (Best Director) and David Oyelowo (Best Actor) for Selma – 87th Academy Awards (2015)
Ava DuVernay’s excellent work on Selma was the perfect opportunity for the first female African-American to be nominated for Best Director. Likewise, David Oyelowo’s gripping performance as Martin Luther King, Jr. led seemingly everyone to acknowledge he was a shoo-in for a Best Actor nod. Alas, they were both shamefully overlooked and made us realise just how far we remain from the ideology and beliefs Dr. King stood for.
What are your biggest Oscar snubs? Let us know below.