Awards shows by nature draw controversy, but few seem to court it as much as the Oscars do. From upsets to snubs, the staff at AiPT! discuss some of the most debated choices in Academy Awards history.
Moonlight ended up taking home the Oscar in controversial and comical fashion. Was Moonlight the Best Picture of 2016 or should La La Land have kept the Oscar?
David Brooke: For meaningfulness I have to give it to Moonlight. That movie felt more important in a variety of ways. I liked La La Land, but the self serving Hollywood movie playing up the life of an artist has been done a thousand times. Hell, The Artist was similar only with movies, right?Michael Rosch: I like Moonlight just fine. Barry Jenkins’ film was groundbreaking in its own way; it’s just too small of a movie to stand the test of time, and I don’t see it inspiring a massive wave of bigger budgeted mainstream queer cinema. Whereas La La Land has a bigger chance of inspiring a musical renaissance and I think could one day sit next to the classics that inspired it as a worthy entry in the genre. It excels in its direction, cinematography, music, editing, etc. It feels like an old Hollywood classic, and I think its stars will both be remembered as among the great movie stars of this era. The “white people Jazz” label just seems like unfortunate timing; Damien Chazelle’s previous film was Whiplash, an even whiter jazz movie & no one ever calls that out in the same way, just criticize it for getting drumming all wrong.
Nathaniel Muir: I agree with Michael. Moonlight was a very good film that few of us will remember in a few years. Unfortunately, its greatest claim to fame will end up being a part of the biggest Oscar SNAFU ever. Still, it’s better than La La Land.
Back in 1994, another controversy occurred when Forrest Gump beat out Pulp Fiction for Best Picture. Both films remain popular to this day, but the debate rages on. Was Forrest Gump or Pulp Fiction the Best Picture of 1994?David: Pulp Fiction should have had this! I have a hunch that Forest Gump won simply because of the soundtrack. You take away all those iconic songs and the movie is less interesting.
Michael: Pulp Fiction is not only the best film of 1994; it’s the best film of that decade. Forest Gump was treacly, melodramatic Oscar bait. I remember seeing Gump in the theater. I liked it while I was watching it, but I have a distinct memory of leaving the theater suddenly realizing it was emotionally manipulative and kind of empty. Fiction, on the other hand, made an instant star of its young director as well as Sam Jackson and Uma Thurman. It revitalized Travolta’s career. I hadn’t seen anything like it before, while its stylistic influence is still noticeable in films today.
Nathaniel: Not only was Forrest Gump not the Best Picture of 1994, in a year that saw Quiz Show and The Shawshank Redemption nominated you could make a strong argument that it was barely one of the best movies of the year. (I know it was a documentary, but the much better Hoop Dreams also came out that year.) What separates Pulp Fiction is that it is a once in a generation film whose effects are still being felt today.
Davis Pitmann: I enjoyed Pulp Fiction much more than Forrest Gump. Don’t get me wrong, Hanks’s performance is great and it is a well made film in most areas… but Pulp Fiction was just a superior film.
What was the biggest Oscar snub ever?
David: I’m going to say Stanley Kubrick. He’s a director I’ve always marvelled at and it’s a shame he never won. I suspect if he didn’t die and kept making movies the Oscars would have gotten around to giving him one. A political move most likely, but deserved in some respect.
Michael: Kubrick’s a great pick, but I’m going to say the many Best Picture snubs of films by Alfred Hitchcock. The only Hitchcock movie that won was Rebecca, a film I still haven’t even seen and that rarely gets brought up in conversation. Hitchcock has made many of the best films of all time but none of his best films won Best Picture. Not Rear Window, not Vertigo, not North By Northwest, not Psycho, not Notorious, not Strangers in a Train. On and on. It’s insane a filmmaker whose made so many classics was so ignored by the Academy.Nathaniel: Goodfellas and it’s not even close. Scorsese’s classic is the greatest American movie ever made. It has the best use of of song ever (Eric Clapton’s “Layla”), and the entire cast gives standout performances. If mainstream success is your barometer, it is one of the most quotable movies of all time and is constantly shown on television. Scorsese had made many films, but none will be remembered as fondly as Goodfellas. So what did win Best Picture in 1991? Kevin Costner’s all time classic, Dances With Wolves.
In recent years, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio finally won their first Oscars. Who will (or should) be the next big Oscar breakthrough?
David: I’m going with Timothée Chalamet who is only 22 years old. He was amazing in Call Me by Your Name (and was nominated for it) and appears to be primed for an Oscar nomination in Beautiful Boy out later this year. He has the classic good looks of DeCaprio and the intensity of a young Dustin Hoffman.
Michael: I took this more to mean someone long overdue for a win, so I’d go with Wes Anderson. He’s been one of the most exciting filmmakers these past few decades and has been nominated a number of times for Best Director but has never won. This year’s Isle of Dogs is a strong entry in his oeuvre, so though not his best movie, it also doesn’t feel like lesser Anderson either.Nathaniel: I’m going to combine Dave and Michael’s answers and go with a young person who is already overdue for a win. Ryan Coogler received no love for Creed. (Gotta give Sly his Oscar since he’s never…oh wait.) Not one single nomination. Black Panther has shown that Coogler has some serious talent. Hopefully, the Academy sees it, too.