Whether you tune in every year at 6-ish in the morning to catch the show or you are that devil may care sort who prefers checking it up online and then filling up site comment sections with expletives anonymously about the Oscar winners, you do check up on it. If you are the kind who believes the Academy Awards is just a bunch of pompous Hollywood people slapping each other on the backs and shunning the real good films of the world made by more real directors, your rage knows no bounds around this time of the year. You will be like that superhero who will responsibly go on every facebook friend’s status update about their favourite winning or losing and enlighten them about how wrong they are for supporting such scum and you will feel good about saving society once more with your hated but heroic deeds. This list is not out to bash films (at least not all of them). I genuinely liked most of these but thought its competitor that year deserved it far more. This is a well known fact that the Academy voters are mostly heterosexual, male, white and old, there is politics and favouritism involved and the winner is chosen according to the general mood of the year (read predictable). Cinema is the most personal art of all I believe and that is why people can tend to have such varied opinions about a single film.
10. The King’s Speech (2010)
This was a year 10 really good films got nominated. All of them had great performances and people had 3 top contenders as the prospective winners – The King’s Speech, Black Swan and The Social Network. Even good films like Winter’s Bone, True Grit and The Fighter were not being considered as favourites. Everyone knew Nolan would be snubbed again. I hoped The Social Network would win, I even felt I will make do if Black Swan wins but knew in my heart the possibility of The King’s Speech winning was higher. And it did win. Tom Hooper winning Best Director for this was kind of crushing.
9. Forrest Gump (1994)
Every time the Academy gets the chance to reward a really edgy and unique performance they seem to pass it on in favour of a more feel good performance and everyone hates them for it like they did not see it coming. I liked Forrest Gump, even if people like to argue how it hailed the conservative Republican American way of life against the decadent lifestyle of the rising liberals. Forrest Gump is a good film, a very good one indeed. Not a great one though. Shawshank Redemption is a great film, Pulp Fiction is an I-want-to-weep-while-I-watch-it-again great film and then there was also Quiz Show and Four Weddings and A Funeral. I do think it would have been hilarious if Four Weddings and A Funeral won it that year though.
8. Rocky (1976)
It was a very good film. Every time you hear “Eye of the Tiger” you feel a rush of purpose (just like Sheldon Cooper and Raj Koothrapalli did staring intently at their white board to solve that equation when they briefly worked together). This is one of the best inspirational movies out there. But Taxi Driver! I cannot even complete that sentence. Taxi Driver is in my all time top 3 best movies ever made list, and it is a brilliant film no one can deny it. The reason why Rocky won that year was because it was such a feel good pick me up of the better kind. The other contenders were Network, Taxi Driver, and All The President’s Men and Rocky won.
7. The English Patient (1996)
I am with Rajiv Masand here. I get odd reactions for saying I did not like this one and definitely thought it did not deserve the golden man that year. This seems to me like that painting everyone says they love without really understanding it and as for me I do not want to understand it more. There was not much to understand, it was a dying man telling how he loved this woman and there was the desert, a lot of desert. Fargo deserved it much more this year. Overall the nominations this year were not great. Jerry Maguire is all about the American love for sports and money and it has heart, you can watch it again and again, but maybe it is not Oscar worthy. Then again neither was the nomination for Silver Linings Playbook.
6. Braveheart (1995)
As a Film as well as a sorry excuse of a History grad I feel kind of miffed that Braveheart won. I am not personally a fan of Mel Gibson but I am not prejudiced. I judged the movie as it was. Il Postino and Apollo 13 were solid contenders and much better films. Braveheart was full of humongous historical inaccuracies. A film can very well be enjoyed despite this flaw; we all loved Jodhaa Akbar after all because of the chemistry not history. But when you are out to honour it as the best film of the year that should be a big deal and when there were better options this simply does not make sense.
5. West Side Story (1961)
If you have seen Guns of Navarone or Judgement at Nuremberg then West Side Story would not hold a candle. I am not fond of musicals but once in a while I have watched good ones like Sound of Music, Marry Poppins, and Singing In The Rain and really liked those. West Side Story is considered a classic many movie/TV characters love referring to (especially the gay character in the story) but this year had some better deserving films in the competition. The acting was not too thrilling either even if the songs and the choreography were.
4. Dances With Wolves (1990)
Goodfellas made me feel deliciously claustrophobic. Nothing made Eric Clapton’s “Layla” sound so good. This movie was so well made that at points you forget to breathe while watching it. You can study this film, read every image and sound. This is the best gangster movie out there, after or very close to Godfather II in ranking I would say. Dances With Wolves just should not have won. Scorsese got robbed of his win again in 1990 after Raging Bull’s Oscar went to Ordinary People in 1980.
3. How Green Was My Valley (1941)
How Green Was My Valley is a story about the Morgans, the generations of Morgans living in the South Wales Valley working in the coal mines and their lives. This beat what is considered one of the greatest movies ever made and the one of the greatest American films, Citizen Kane. There are many people who hate Citizen Kane and believe it to be over hyped. If it is a personal opinion, it is understandable but, silly reasons as to why it is a bad film makes it clear that they hate it for the sake of hating it. That film remains a masterpiece.
2. Crash (2005)
The hatred this film gets is magnified because it won the Oscar. It is usually the winner in any least deserving Oscar winners lists. It was a nice film with some predictable story lines and interconnected characters which made it feel like a poor man’s Magnolia. Some even believe that this was a weak year for nominees. But there was Munich and Brokeback Mountain that year. Brokeback Mountain is the first film from mainstream Hollywood which tells the story of a gay couple, it breaks the age old concept of the macho heterosexual American cowboys and deserved to win a thousand times over this year. Ledger also lost out on getting an Oscar nod this year for his career defining role. A posthumous win for The Dark Knight was a little too late.
1. Shakespeare In Love (1998)
Dame Judi Dench won the best supporting actress Oscar for this one, the briefest role to get it, and she was the best part about the film. I am not saying it was a horrible film, by all means it was a very watchable romance comedy. This was up against Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, and The Thin Red Line, at least one of these films find a place in everyone’s best movies of all time lists. Their win was not the fairest of the lot either. Bob and Harvey Weinstein sent out lavish gifts to the voters that year practically buying their votes. This practice has been banned since then but the Weinsteins have the reputation for the best campaigners for the Oscars (they were behind The King’s Speech and The English Patient as well). The Truman Show is a brilliant film, predicting the whole invasion of the reality show into private life before the Kardashian craze hit planet Earth, dealing with concepts of utopia and what is really ethical in dealing with another’s life; it released the same year and did not even get a nomination. Now, have to make a list of deserving films which did not even get nominated.