Hey friends! With the Academy Awards ceremony creeping up on us, we can rest assured that not everyone will be pleased with how things may turn out. In keeping up with MovieChopShop’s apparent tradition of Oscar cynicism, let’s take a look back at some of the best Best Picture nominees that walked home without the gold they deserved.
10. GoodFellas (1990)
Lost To: Dances With Wolves (dir: Kevin Costner)
There is no mob movie in the world that that breezes by with the manic, fascinated energy of Martin Scorsese’s crowning achievement, GoodFellas. The movie is quintessential Scorsese, as he works within the genre that most associate directly with him. It tells the story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta, who went on to make Operation Dumbo Drop) and his 30 years in the mob, before he turned on everyone he loved and admired and joined the Witness Protection Program to save his own ass. It always seems like a battle between this one and one of the first two Godfather films for the victorious title of Best Mob Movie Ever, but what other film goes so far as to completely glorify life in the mafia through Hill’s lovingly gah-gah narration while at once harshly condemning it? At the end of the day, The Godfather isn’t even really “about” the mafia. GoodFellas doesn’t know how to be about anything else.
9. Nashville (1975)
Lost To: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (dir: Milos Forman)
There must have been something quintessentially American about the country music scene of the 1970s and Robert Altman knew exactly how to manipulate all of its elements to conjure up one of the most vivid and comprehensive portraits of a sociopolitical climate that’s ever been committed to celluloid. Nashville is a movie that may just be too big for me to say anything of value about in the limited space that I have here. It’s an ensemble piece (the kind of thing Altman is famous for) centering around several big-name country musicians gathering together for a musical festival in support of a campaigning politician. Altman weaves through storyline upon storyline, painting a riveting mosaic of American life. The massive cast includes Henry Gibson, Ned Beatty, Shelley Duvall, Karen Black, Keith Carradine, Michael Murphy, and Ronee Blakely and Lily Tomlin, who both received well-deserved Best Supporting Actress nominations. It all builds to a jarring climax that plays out in a way that only Robert Altman could do.
8. Network (1976)
Lost To: Rocky (dir: John G. Avildsen)
In Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole, Kirk Douglas plays a journalist manipulating the events of a news story about a man trapped in a mine. It’s imperative that he keep him alive, however, because if he dies, it’ll kill his story. In Network, director Sidney Lumet takes Wilder’s glorious cynicism about a hundred steps further. Peter Finch, who won the first and, as of this writing, only posthumous Oscar for his performance, plays network television news anchor Howard Beale who, after being fired for the show’s sagging ratings, announces on the air that he’s going to “blow my brains out right here on this program a week from today.” Events escalate to outlandish extremes and it’s not long before Beale has his own show, a ratings giant built around him ranting daily at a live audience who enthusiastically shout back his catchphrase, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” The whole nation tunes in to watch him slowly descend into madness. Illustrating a contrary view to Wilder’s Ace, Lumet’s Network is the prime example of the American public’s thirst for the worst and the shameless exploitation of human suffering by the money-hungry men behind the curtain. It’s truly one of the greatest and most scathing cinema satires of all time.
7. The Last Picture Show (1971)
Lost To: The French Connection (dir: William Friedkin)
Peter Bogdonavich’s The Last Picture Show is the perfect film to mark the transition of classic American cinema into modern film. It follows the coming of age of a group of kids, rounding out their high school careers and setting off into the real world. What, surface-wise, starts out as a simple film about small-town America becomes a somber and emotionally complex examination of depression, sexual awakening, and other social mores of adulthood. The black and white photography and the importance of the town’s local movie theater help illustrate it to be as much a film about the changing sensibilities of the cinema as it is of the characters it depicts.
6. Citizen Kane (1941)
Lost To: How Green Was My Valley (dir: John Ford)
I almost considered leaving Citizen Kane off of this list, because it just seemed too obvious. But who am I kidding? Kane is a gorgeous motion picture and a cinephile’s dream come true. Orson Welles’s classically unglamorous portrait of fictional newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane was the root of much controversy when its similarities to the life of non-fictional newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst were held to public scrutiny. And who doesn’t love a good controversy? Appropriately juxtaposed with that, Kane is, if nothing else, a great big movie. Through the scope of its story, the larger-than-life performances, and the huge empty sets, Welles creates a dark caricature of the American Dream and a flawless examination of the corrupting influences of power. It’s a stirring cinematic spectacle unlike anything else that’s been made since. The jarring camerawork has been monstrously influential and iconographic, yet it’s surprisingly subtle when compared to other Welles films like Mr. Arkadin and his pitch-perfect adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial. Citizen Kane is one hell of a picture that has more than earned its reputation.
There you go, folks! Check back tomorrow for numbers five through one and be sure to join us for our live, interactive blogging during the Oscars, tomorrow night at 7:30pm EST!!
Find the top five right here!