Film

10 Oscar Winners (and the Films They Should Have Won For)

Sometimes, the Academy Awards a consolation prize of sorts for getting it wrong in a previous year. Here are 10 examples of this phenomenon.

When she took the stage last Sunday evening to pick up her first ever Oscar trophy, Julianne Moore was beaming. It was a face that felt the entirety of the event, matched with a meaning for those who've followed her career since she was a Frannie and Sabrina Hughes on the CBS soap opera As the World Turns. After five nominations and several more defining roles, Moore had finally earned the highest honor in her craft. Everyone was happy. Most wondered why it took so damn long.

The answer is easy: the Academy has a short attention span and an even worse case of false perspective. Viewing every year as apocryphal and every win as historic, AMPAS puts on its particular set of blinders and baffles the fans who find so much wrong with their annual clueless decision making. Indeed, part of the "fun" this time of year is looking at the various snubs and celebrations and wonder how anyone could come up with these particular winners (Gwynenth Paltrow? Helen Hunt?). Sure, there are some wrongs they never righted (Alfred Hitchcock had to settle for an honorary Oscar? Seriously?) but, for the most part, once they muck up, they eventually get around to giving the rudely ignored their honors.

With this particular list, we highlight ten stars who ended up finally getting their AMPAS due, though for the completely wrong reason (read: film). While we could have mentioned that Ms. Moore should have won for the 1995 film Safe, yet we were stunned to learn she wasn't even nominated for that amazing movie. Ditto to this year's Best Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette, who should already have gold for True Romance; she also wasn't given a nod for that stunning early role. Instead, we'll take the multiple nominees among the many winners and attempt to give them their true moment in the sun, if only metaphorically.

 
Kate Winslet (winner for The Reader)
Should Have Won For... Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
It's hard to believe it took Ms. Winslet so long to finally win an Oscar... and this film, a bad combination of Holocaust themes and pedophilic leanings, is the one they gave it to her for? Remember, our Kate played a former concentration camp guard who seduces a teenage boy so they can have sex together. He then reads to her, her illiteracy becoming a plot point once she's put on trial for her crimes. Clearly, the Academy was bestowing a "lifetime achievement-lite" trophy on her, but in our minds, Winslet should have walked away with the award for her deft portrayal of Jim Carrey's romantic interest in Michel Gondry's revisionist romantic dramedy.

 
Elizabeth Taylor (winner for Butterfield 8)
Should Have Won For... Suddenly Last Summer
Before she took home her first of two Oscars for her portrayal of the seminal prostitute with a heart of gold, the former child star turned adult stunner had three previous performances nominated. While her work in Raintree County was nominal, Taylor was on fire in both Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer. In at least two of those cases, she was better than the eventual winners (Susan Hayward in I Want to Live! and Simone Signoret in Room at the Top). Recognizing their mistake, the Academy finally found a way to give her a statue. While she's fine in Butterfield, Summer was sensational.

 
Whoopi Goldberg (winner for Ghost)
Should Have Won For... The Color Purple
Ghost? Seriously? Obviously still smarting from the cultural and industry-wide rebuke for failing to find anything about Steven Spielberg's brilliant adaptation of Alice Walker's novel worthy of winning (it was nominated for 11 Oscars and earned none), the Academy came back five years later and "righted their wrong" by giving Goldberg what amounts to a consolation trophy for its own not having enough backbone back in 1985. Go back and watch both films and see which one deserved all the accolades and all the attention. Yes, the comedienne-turned-actress is good in both, but in Walker's work, Goldberg finds her heart and soul. Ghost is just a goof.

 
Al Pacino (winner for Scent of a Woman)
Should Have Won For... Dog Day Afternoon
If you want to call The Godfather films ensembles, that's fine. Nevertheless, Pacino should have picked up more than one award for his work as the frustrated, fierce Michael Corleone. If you want to take the mobster out of the motion picture, we can't come up with a better example of the man's artistic ability than his tour de force as down on his luck robber Sonny Wortzik. With his earthy urban determination and sexual secret, the character completely owns every minute of Sidney Lumet's '70s masterpiece, turning the clusterfuck of a failed bank job into an examination of "Me Decade" malaise. In fact, Pacino's entire output from 1971 to 1983 should be fodder for multiple Oscar wins.

 
Paul Newman (winner for The Color of Money)
Should Have Won For... Cool Hand Luke
The next two actors on the list are tied together by a rather unique situation. In the year he won, Rod Steiger bested Newman for a performance that, while brave and bravura, really didn't show off his true performance possibilities. That came two years before. For this reason, Newman was denied a trophy for his terrific work as a heroic chain gang member who challenges authority to his personal detriment. During the '60s, the actor was desperate to reconfigure his "pretty boy" image and play more rough and authentic roles. Luke stood out, and he would have walked away with a trophy if it wasn't for the aesthetic debt service owed Steiger.

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