Film

The 10 Greatest Oscar Blunders, Part 2

Thought the first ten choices were bad? Just wait until you see the selections that make up the Academy's consistent undermining of art for ancillary issues...

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:

 
Renee Zellweger Wins for Cold Mountain (2004 Best Supporting Actress)
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.

 
An American in Paris Beats Out A Place in the Sun and A Streetcar Named Desire (1952 Best Picture)
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.

 
Shrek Beats Monsters, Inc. (2004 Best Animated Feature)
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.

 
Helen Hunt Wins for As Good As It Gets (1998 Best Actress)
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.

 
My Fair Lady Beats Out Dr. Strangelove and Mary Poppins (1965 Best Picture)
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.

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From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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