The 89th Academy Awards have come and conquered, of course with a stellar line of mistakes and mishaps thrown in for good measure. With the huge brouhaha over Moonlight and La La Land and the announcement that went wrong, terribly wrong, Academy Awards lived up to its full potential of providing us with dollops of entertainment and yes, needless to say, the disappointments.
However, one might say that the entire case is subjective in content as people differ and so do their choices in films. Hence, this comes straight from my perspective, one which people are free to assess to glory but I believe, for every film buff in this world, these are few of the greatest injustices that Academy Awards could have meted out.
The Oscars, have always been Hollywood’s “sweetheart deal” with the jury acting out of biases more often than not.
It is a highly commercialized affair, nowadays, with all the sparkle and glitter that Hollywood, in particular, has always strutted off with pride. In this frenzy of fanfare and spotlights, the Academy Awards has sold itself off and the process had been set in motion way back in the past.
Awarding statuettes for exemplary performance in the arena of performing arts is an endeavour worth admiring but in many cases, Oscar has got it all twisted up in a knot like a pretzel. In that spirit, here are few such instances of injustices on the part of the jury.
The one whom we lovingly refer to as “the master of suspense”, Alfred Hitchcock never won a single Academy Award. Astonishingly, of 52 movies being to his credit, only five bagged the Oscars. Rebecca won the title of the Best Film but the award went to the producer, David O Selznick. Hitchcock movies are famed for their awe-inspiring scores – the brainchild of Hitchcock’s and Bernard Hermann’s master collaborations.
Yet, the jury for some unknown ( stupid, if you may permit) reason awarded the Academy Award for Best Score only to Spellbound and that too in the 1945’s. The argument that ran for such a travesty of justice was that some of his films then were considered to be populist thrillers and hence failed to draw appreciation. Also, one needs to keep in mind that Alfred Hitchcock’s luck did not hold good for him as the five times he lost out on the Oscar for the Best Director, he had to face serious competition. For example, Spellbound (1945) lost out to Billy Winder for “The Lost Weekend” and in 1954 he lost out to Elia Kazan for “On the Waterfront”.
The man who stole hearts with his lopsided smile and effortlessly charming manners, Cary Grant also goes down in history for never having an Oscar in his lifetime. One of the most important actors in the history of cinema, Cary Grant’s year seemed to be 1940 when his performance in “The Philadelphia Story” was highly applauded and considered to be at par with that of the protagonist’s, James Stewart. In fact, Grant was the only one of the four leads not to be nominated for the Oscars.
Notwithstanding his model studies in ambiguity in Suspicion (1941) and Notorious (1946), the Oscar refused to land in his hands, probably because of the fact that since he had always been associated with classic screwball comedies, the jury failed to look past that image he had created unknowingly. Cary Grant had to do with an honorary Oscar in 1970.
Judy Garland’s cutting-edge performance as the starlet, Esther Blodgett not claiming the accolade of The Best Actress has to be one of the most unforgiving decisions made on the part of the Academy. Her performance in the dreadful, haunting ending of “A Star is born” also amounted to naught as perhaps, Hollywood was too shy to see the spotlight turning inwards onto it and hence, we have Grace Kelly as the Best Actress in the aforementioned film and not Garland.
Cameron’s spell was effective to the point where Titanic had been nominated for 14 Oscars, winning 11 out of the 14. True, young Leonardo was an eye-candy. True, we had moments of juvenile ecstasy on beholding Jack and Rose embroiled in a steamy affair. True, we have had Celine Dion’s “Every Night in My Dreams” as our ringtone at some point of time.
However, coming out with prizes for Best Director, Best Score, Best Song and Best Film when we had La Confidential amongst the nominations, it becomes difficult to stomach the verdict irrespective of how many hours we have spent crying our guts out over the last scene of Titanic.
The worst case, in my opinion, is Brokeback Mountain losing out to Crash in 2005. Presenter Jack Nicholson was pretty stunned as well, when he announced that Crash had got away with the Best Picture at the expense of the critically acclaimed, Brokeback Mountain. Ang Lee’s heart-wrenching presentation of the love story of two cowboys from Wyoming rightly deserved the Oscar when it had almost lifted every other major best picture award going. In fact, the list of rightly deserved could go on forever.
The jury has on more than one occasion proved itself to be blinded by its foolish precepts, precepts that need polishing now, just as it did before. Celebrating the genius of artists should be an affair that should be dealt with in a very sensitive, sensible way. Also, mass opinion features as one of the most important aspects in the selection procedure but that too can be wielded in both ways.
Sometimes, the jury has taken decisions that are worth praising where the mass failed to appropriate the situation correctly and vice-versa. However, there is a reason why we are “the mass” and you are “the jury”. It is high time that the Academy rehashes its standards, failing which we will have to face more of “Titanic”-s sauntering away with prizes while “Brokeback Mountain”-s go routinely unnoticed.