PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

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.

Next Page

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.