The 10 Greatest Oscar Travesties Since 1941

As an avid film fan, these are my picks for the worst decisions ever made at the Oscars. What did I miss?

1. “How Green Was My Valley” Beating “Citizen Kane” For Best Picture (1941)

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“Don’t believe everything you hear on the radio.” A fitting quote from the movie that “changed all other movies,” considering how Orson Wells’s wonderful “War of the Worlds” radio stunt in 1938 spooked half of America. I don’t know too much about the inaccurate, saccharine “How Green Was my Family Valley,” but one thing I do know, as a proud Welshman, is that this is decidedly not Wales. None of the actors are Welsh, and it certainly wasn’t filmed in Wales! But I digress. The point here is that this beat out “Citizen Kane.” “Citizen Kane!”

2. “Rocky” Winning Best Picture (1976)

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The edgy and down-to-earth Stallone script was a breath of fresh air at the time, and Stallone is to be admired for hanging in there (when producers Irwin Wrinkler and Robert Chartoff offered him $350,000 for the film rights, with only $106 in his bank account, Stallone refused unless he was the star of the movie). Which, fine, but is this a better movie than “Taxi Driver,” or even “All the President’s Men”? (There seems to be a Redford, De Niro theme running through this post).

Scorsese wasn’t even nominated for Best Director.

3. “Kramer Vs. Kramer” Vs. “Apocalypse Now” (1979)

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Oh, how I became a man in the back row of my local movie theater in 1980, wiping away the odd tear on my girlfriend’s blouse. I marveled at Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep’s emotional performances, and yes Hoffman deservedly won the Best Actor Oscar.

But hold on one minute, what other movies were nominated that year? Just a little film called “Apocalypse Now,” probably the most powerful, fucked up experience of the year.

Sure, the tear-jerking bubble gum pop of “Kramer Vs. Kramer” did deserve some acting gongs, but BEST DIRECTOR, in the year that Coppola produced “Apocalypse Now”? As Kurtz himself would say, “The Horror …. the horror.”

4. “Raging Bull” Not Winning Best Picture (1980)

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How could the greatest sporting film in cinema history be beaten by the schmaltzy over-rated soap opera that was Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People”? Granted, De Niro most deservedly won the Best Actor, but Robert Redford as best director? Yikes.

5. “Dances With Wolves” Beating “Goodfellas” (1990)

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We return once more to Martin Scorsese, this time losing out to 181 minutes of Kevin Costner’s self-indulgent, rambling western. DWW deserves points certainly for reversing the traditional role of Cowboy and Indian, as well as the sweeping majesty of cinematographer Dean Semler. But Best Picture and Best Director over “Goodfellas” is too much to take. The electrifying helicopter scene in Goodfellas alone makes it worthy of the award. Scorsese has been robbed a few times, but this travesty should be a capital offense.

6. “Forrest Gump” Beating “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994)

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The DVD that is in 95% of American Homes, and is used by councilors worldwide as therapy for depression, lost out to “Forrest Gump.” Unlike “Gump,” “The Shawshank Redemption” has majestic swagger and resonates with audiences wherever they live. Where “Gump” is superficially appealing, “Shawshank” is the kind of movie that makes grown men all over the world sit that much closer to the TV than their partners, just to make sure they don’t spot the tears pouring down their faces.

7. Saving Private Ryan Losing To Shakespeare in Love For Best Picture (1998)

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Yup, it’s tissue time once more guys. “Saving Private Ryan” opens with a 30 minute cinematic tour de force by Stephen Spielberg that is without a doubt one of the finest half hours I’ve seen committed to film. The anguish, the fear and the downright ugliness of war captured by a master at work.

Perhaps Spielberg should take note of the bard’s own words, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” Suck on that, Academy.

8. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Acceptance Speech (Same Year)

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I think she knew, deep down, that she didn’t deserve it! “Much ado about nothing” as the great man said!

9. Bjork’s Swan Dress (2001)

Moving on from embarrassing Oscar snubs, let’s talk about the fact that this happened in 2001. Personally, I would have preferred it if a dead swan had arrived with Bjork wrapped around her neck. On a sidenote, did you know that it’s only legal in the UK for the Queen of England to eat swans? True story.

10. Hitchcock Not Winning For “Best Director” … Ever

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This may be the biggest travesty on this list.

Think of this guy’s credits: “Rebecca,” “Dial M for Murder,” “Rear Window,” “Vertigo,” “Psycho,” “The Birds” and (my personal favorite, “Marnie”) to name a few.

Hitchcock was given a generic award at the 40th Annual Academy Awards in 1968 for his directorial achievements, and his response and perfect speech has gone down in history as one of the Oscars’ greatest moments. All it took was two words, “Thank You,” and then he trounced offstage like a sulky four year old.


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