Here is the final list of the top 5 Oscar oversights throughout history. Stay tuned on Sunday, February 24th at 7 PM EST for the 85th Academy Award Ceremony! Read 10 – 6 here.
Woody Harrelson is an eccentric actor who has played a variety of roles over the years, from a one handed bowler to the king of the nudie magazine. Harrelson’s roles are often comic and a bit bizarre. However, in 1996 Harrelson was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Larry Flynt. His role as Flynt was vastly different from his earlier roles and certainly put the spotlight on Harrelson’s talent. Harrelson’s acting choices vary over the years make him an exciting actor who surprises the audience with each role. Though he had some stiff competition against Geoffrey Rush and Ralph Fiennes, I think that Harrelson’s role as Flynt was a clear winner that year. To date Harrelson has been nominated twice, but has yet to win an Oscar.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was nominated for four awards in 1961, but did not win in any category. Moreover, Anthony Perkins was not even nominated for Best Actor for his performance as Norman Bates. Psycho and Hitchcock are considered the mother and father of the modern horror film. Psycho may seem tame by today’s standards, but at the time the shower scene was ground-breaking. Hitchcock was a true innovator and began using the camera for point of view shots, forcing the audience to act as a voyeur and even identify with the murderer’s point of view. Hitchcock liked to explore the human psychological condition, making suspense and fear a trademark in his films; Hitchcock himself said, “always make the audience suffer as long as possible.” Hitchcock is one director who has never won an Oscar for Directing—this is certainly a major slight. He did however take home a Best Picture Oscar for Rebecca in 1940. Nonetheless, Hitchcock’s great movies like Vertigo, Rear Window, North by Northwest, and Psycho all went unrecognized in the Oscars.
Orson Welles meteoric rise in the film industry produced a number of visually stunning and ground breaking films. Though the famous Oscar snub for Citizen Kane is widely talked about, Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons is another slight for the director and actor. The Magnificent Ambersons was Welles’ second film and received four nominations, but not a single Oscar. Welles lost control over the editing of this film and more than an hour of footage was cut and destroyed—this alone is a great tragedy. Welles’ loss of control over his film mirrors Erich Von Stroheim’s famously butchered Greed (the film was cut from 8 hours to about 2 and a half hours). Like Stroheim, all that remains of Welles’ film is the skeleton of his creation. Regardless of the heavily edited version of the film, Welles was robbed of Oscars for Directing. Unfortunately this was just one of many scorns that Welles would have to endure for the rest of his acting and directing career, including films like Lady from Shanghai, The Third Man, and Touch of Evil.
“All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up” is one of the most recognizable lines in film history. In 1950 Gloria Swanson made her return to Hollywood in the role of the faded silent film star Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder’s film noir Sunset Boulevard. Gloria Swanson’s own past mirrored the story of the film. Swanson, once a famous and well paid actress of the silent era, failed to make the transition to talking pictures. Though Swanson shared similarities with Norma, Swanson made a successful career for herself after the sound transition in radio, television, and theater. Movies such as Singing in the Rain and the recent silent-era callback The Artist document this struggle many faced with the coming of sound in motion pictures. When Billy Wilder was casting the film, many famous silent stars passed on the role due to the portrayal of Norma as a delusional spider woman—but Gloria Swanson took the part. This film noir was truly one of Wilder’s many great works and Swanson’s role stands out. However, in 1951 Gloria Swanson did not take home Best Actress at the Oscars. She was up against stiff competition—Bette Davis was also nominated for her role in All About Eve. Nonetheless, Gloria Swanson was robbed of her Oscars and unfortunately Sunset Boulevard only took home two Oscars for Writing and Art Direction.
The Searchers is regarded as one of the most important Westerns in film history and perhaps one of the best westerns produced by John Ford. Ford was a seasoned Hollywood director who had already won Oscars for Best Directing for four other films (The Informer, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley, and The Quiet Man). John Ford, who famously proclaimed, “My name is John Ford and I make westerns,” never one received an Oscar for any of his famous westerns. The Searchers is a western that goes beyond traditional genre conventions and explores the fine line between civilization and savagery. Racism is also a large theme in the film that engulfs the western hero, Ethan Edwards, making the film a dark and complex revisionist western. Shot in Monument Valley, it is a visually stunning film. Furthermore, Ethan Edwards is by far the best performance of John Wayne’s career. Wayne only won one Oscar in his career for True Grit in 1970. Ethan is the role in which Wayne should have won his Oscar. The film is widely considered a masterpiece and an important part of film history; however, at the 1976 Oscars The Searchers was not nominated for a single award. For these reasons alone The Searchers is at the top of my list for the greatest oversight in Oscar history.
1934 – King Kong
1983 — Blade Runner
2010 — Winter’s Bone