The Top 5 Worst Snubs In Oscar History

From this year's most overlooked and beyond, the Academy has a more than questionable track record.

The Motion Picture Academy did its yearly duty in the dead of morning today, announcing the nominees for this year’s 86th Annual Academy Awards. Many of the year's shoe-ins proved to be just that (12 Years a Slave managed to nab a number of predicted awards); some last minute contenders proved to have legs (Spike Jonez’s Her came out of the woodwork in December to overwhelming praise); and a couple films managed to blindside entirely (What is Philomena, and how exactly does one contract it?)

Each year, the only thing more hotly debated than the winners are the snubs come nomination time. And with a good number of brutal snubs this year alone (RIP Inside Llewyn Davis, gone but never forgotten), we’ve decided to compile some of the Academy’s more egregious blows, from this year to years and decades prior. Even if the Academy doesn't love them (really love them), nothing's saying we shouldn't.

5. Oprah, Best Supporting Actress, The Butler (2013):

For most actors, the biggest task is figuring out how to inhabit and embrace every nuance and fully embody a given character. For Winfrey, the biggest task is leaving her real-life persona behind. Larger than life and one of the most notable faces on the planet, Oprah made us forget that we were watching Oprah Winfrey on screen in her performance in The Butler. It feels strangely reductive to award somebody for how good they turned out to be (with the implication being that the award is, essentially, for surpassing low expectations), but Oprah's performance proved to be remarkably restrained for a woman whose made her name screaming on television after giving advice. She managed to shed her notable name for a moment and mine powerful emotions in her role as the supportive but exhausted wife to the Forrest Whitaker’s titular Butler.

4. Michael B. Jordan, Best Actor, Fruitvale Station (2013):

Fruitvale Station cycled through the hype machine early (the stages are: hype! acclaim! backlash! reassessment! complete indifference!), but the fact remains that the film is it a realist take on African-American struggle in modern day America. In fact, it's based on a true story. Detractors called it 'awards bait,' but no one could deny that Jordan’s performance as the to-be-slain Oscar Grant showed remarkable restraint and nuance. His silent and stern performance proved to be immeasurably complex, and worthy of singling out. Though he was deemed a can't-miss nominee earlier in the year, his character's first name proved not to be prophetic.

3. Mulholland Drive,Best Picture (2001)

David Lynch’s magnum opus is about a lot of things, all of which have been hotly debated since the film’s release in 2001. But the most glaring mystery is how the film managed to get overlooked for a Best Picture nomination, despite being one of the best-reviewed films of the year. Lynch managed to score a Best Director nomination, marking one of the few times that a director would be noted while their film went unmentioned. Come 2010, the film found a second 'slife on a host of decade-end, best-of lists, making Sight & Sound’s list of the greatest films of all time—one of only two from the 21st century to be included. Not a bad consolation prize. Still, the irony of a film about Hollywood's dark side getting slighted at their most important night doesn't sting any less in the years since.

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Best Picture (1968)

Of all the egregious oversights associated with the Oscars and Stanley Kubrick (no Best Director nomination! no Best Picture awards! no career spanning honorary Oscar), none prove more baffling than the omission of Kubrick’s seminal masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey. While the film’s initial release was greeted with more confusion than acclaim, there was a definite sense that we were watching a seismic cinematic shift take place, and that 2001 was marking a massive leap forward in visual effects, regardless of a then-misplaced sense of narrative messiness. In the years since, where films like Avatar and this year’s Gravity have nabbed coveted Best Picture spots based on effects alone, 2001’s snub feels all the more offensive (not to mention that it’s also, you know, arguably the greatest science fiction film of all time). 

1. Alfred Hitchcock, For Literally Anything

The Master of Suspense has become one of the foremost figures in cinema, but if you look at the Oscar’s track record, you would probably think differently. The filmmaker was nominated for Best Director five times, but never once won a single award. Not only that, but some of his most well established films—which have gone on to be considered classics in the upper echelon of American cinema’s best—didn’t even score nominations. Vertigo, which this past year usurped Citizen Kane's title as the Greatest Film of All Time, didn't get anything other than a couple technical awards. For a director as obsessed with the macabre as Hitchcock, this is arguably the most sickening display in Hitchcock's mythology, and makes his short but sour Honorary Oscar acceptace speech—a quick "thank you" and off he went—all the more biting. 






Rod Bastanmehr is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @rodb.

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