Like the proverbial bar bet where everyone believes they’re right, pointing to Oscar and acknowledging the many missteps in reward judgment they’ve made is an exercise in communal commentary. For all the times AMPAS shows drive and determination, they more often than not resort to politics, pandering, and the lure of overpowering publicity. And then there are those cases were personal preference, not universal aesthetics, lead to isolated and individualized criticism. Again recognizing that the voting membership is comprised of all previous nominees, along with occasional invited inductees, the insular nature of the beast is pretty darn obvious. But as was pointed out in a previous article on the subject, some mistakes just seem egregious in nature.
This time around, we will again pick out ten more Academy atrocities, instances were consensus would argue greatly and defiantly with the standing decision made. Certainly there will be some who wince at a few of the selections, and others will wonder where their own personal pet peeve is. Given time, and continued public outcry, the Oscars may finally get their script together. Until then, they will have more than enough miscues to keep their mangled myth alive. Along with last year’s list, let’s mull over these baffling beauties, shall we, beginning with:
Some Oscar picks so sully their award post-victory that they deserve to give it back. In the case of Ms. Zellwegger, a mere return would not be enough. Ever since copping her prize for this piecemeal Civil War era epic, she’s gone from tolerable to unwatchable. She almost singlehandedly sunk George Clooney’s Leatherheads and Ed Harris’ Appaloosa. With her most recent starring vehicle New in Town DOA at the box office, she’s a bigger embarrassment to the category than Marisa Tomei and Mira Sorvino combined.
The love of old school musicals was still heavy in the air when Vincent Minelli unleashed this twee take on the City of Light. Using the music of George and Ira Gershwin was a masterstroke, and star Gene Kelly was as graceful and forceful as ever. But the rest of the movie was maudlin, syrupy and incessantly melodramatic. And when you compare it to the formidable pair of George Stevens’ Place and Elia Kazan’s Streetcar, this is a clear case of fantasy winning out over cinematic artistry.
Here it is - the one and only time Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz will be associated directly with an Oscar winning movie (no, Dreamgirls doesn’t count since it wasn’t even nominated). While some may argue with the downplaying of Dreamworks megahit, it’s clearly doesn’t maintain the same caliber of creativity as Pixar’s creature feature. Today, the ogre’s tale seems forced and rather dated. As with most of the masterworks from the other computer generating geniuses, the beasts look better than ever.
Another unnecessary win, another predicable career downfall. After beating out better competitors to take home Oscar gold, Hunt has gone from almost A-lister to footnote, systematically reduced from romantic co-star (What Women Want, Cast Away) to secondary sidelights in innocuous, unexceptional fare (The Curse of the Jade Scorpion). In a mad dash to save her flagging performance options, she was even reduced to going full frontal in her latest film (The Sessions). At this point, any of 1998’s other actresses (including Titanic‘s Kate Winslet) looks like the wiser choice.
Like An American in Paris, we have another case of overdone glamour besting actual cinematic superiority. Audrey Hepburn looks fetching, but she can’t sing. Rex Harrison’s not much better, and he took home his own Academy Award for mumbling his way through this musical. As with most song fests, the composers literally save the day. Frederick Lowe and Alan Jay Lerner deliver the kind of soundtrack that professional crooners simply die for. And in light of the competition that year, this frilly affront should have stayed a sonic stage experience only.
// Notes from the Road
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