La La Land Joins List of Oscar Robberies
The historic blunder during the Best Picture announcement may be unprecedented, but it is hardly the first time the Academy has botched the award.
As many of you probably know, this year’s Oscars offered quite the intrigue with its mishandling of the Best Picture award. While this mistake was appalling — particularly for an event with the pageantry of the Oscar’s — it was not even the most shocking part of the night for the two of us.
We believe that La La Land was flat-out robbed. La La Land was not only left hanging on stage, although credit to the producers and Jordan Horwitz for handling the situation well, they were slighted of the award which they absolutely deserved.
Going along with our Oscar’s preview article, found here, neither of us believed that Moonlight was a Best-Picture-caliber movie. It certainly touches on many important aspects of society that largely go unnoticed, topics that should be discussed more frequently on a mainstream stage without question. But from an objective basis, that is not what makes a great movie.
The acting in Moonlight was top-notch, but the plot left a lot to be desired. The sheer number of societal issues brought up in the film caused each one to receive less detail than they deserved. There was little depth into why Chiron was bullied so much as a child or in high school, no explanation for the verbal beatings he received from his mother as a boy, and the best plotline of the film was only prevalent in the first third, that being Chiron’s relationship with a paternal drug dealer, played excellently by Mahershala Ali.
Finally, the ending was one of the most underwhelming endings of any movie this year, giving no indication of some sort of landing point to Chiron’s arc of personal development. Do not get us wrong, Moonlight was very good, and absolutely deserving of an Oscar nomination. But at the end of the day, it simply was not as complete of a film as La La Land, and perhaps not even as much as some of the other nominees.
Having gotten all of that done with, this is hardly the first time the Academy has surprised with its Best Picture winner. Here is a breakdown of the biggest Academy mistakes in its storied history.
1941- Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon aren’t as good as….. How Green Was My Valley?
Do you know what How Green Was My Valley is? Neither do we. No one has ever heard of this movie since the ‘40s. Yet the Academy bestowed Best Picture upon this film over two of the most iconic movies in Hollywood history. The Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart, brought film noir to Hollywood in magnificent fashion. The movie elevated complex detective and crime thrillers to mainstream Hollywood, fostering a whole new style of cinematography in the process. The second part about this historical mistake is that the Academy ignored one of the films that critics widely refer to as one of, if not the, greatest movies of all time: Citizen Kane. Orson Welles’ masterpiece ended up only winning one Oscar that year for Original Screenplay, which is outrageous considering its critical success and nine nominations. All in all, 1941 was one of the worst years for the Academy in deciding Best picture.
1958- Gigi beats out greatest film of all time, Vertigo.
Google “greatest films of all-time.” Literally the first title you will see is Vertigo; an alluring detective thriller hailed as arguably the finest film ever directed by the great Alfred Hitchcock. The British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound poll considers it to be the greatest film of all time; and if you search around for other similar lists, you will find that this is not merely a coincidence. Regardless of whether this level of praise for Vertigo is deserving, the fact that it was not even nominated for Best Picture by the Academy in 1958 makes you question their authority.
1973- The Sting wins over genre-inspiring American Graffiti.
This mistake by the Academy is not as egregious as the other ones, but a mistake in our minds nonetheless. As much as we love movies about con men, heists, and hustle, The Sting does not come to our minds when we think about these types of movies. However, when it comes to movies that examine what makes up the American culture, American Graffiti is the grandfather of them all. No movie has ever captured Americana like this, and the cult classic spawned a long line of movies that follow in its footsteps of turning the magnifying glass inward and analyzing our nation’s identity. American Graffiti was the true Best Picture of 1973.
1990- Goodfellas loses, despite being the expected choice, to Dances with Wolves.
Dances with Wolves was the second best movie in 1990, which provides somewhat of a reprieve for the Academy in most circumstances. Except for the fact that Martin Scorsese's mafia epic Goodfellas is vastly superior. Its excellent plot, complex characters and personalities, intricate scenes and directorial feats, as well as an incredible story told with perfect precision put it ahead of the competition. While Goodfellas may not hold the iconic level of mafia movie that The Godfather might, its incredible storytelling and display of cinematic mastery makes it far more deserving of Best Picture than the other nominees in this year. The Academy missed the mark again.
1998- Average romance movie Shakespeare in Love wins over Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line.
This is a similar scenario to 1941. Shakespeare in Love has fallen by the wayside in the eyes of movie fans and critics. While Gwyneth Paltrow delivers well in this movie, it does not hold a candle to the World War II stories shown in both Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line. Boasting phenomenal casts, both movies tackle the gritty and dark crevices of humanity, crevices few movies can shine a light on. Saving Private Ryan is clearly the best movie from 1998, offering an introspective into the brotherhood-like bond formed by war in a way that would make Ernest Hemingway proud.
Moving beyond specific Best Picture mistakes, the Academy has made plenty of other egregious errors. For instance, The Dark Knight, arguably the most successful film of the 2000’s in terms of critical acclaim and box office success, was not even nominated for Best Picture in 2008, while decent but ultimately forgettable films like Milk and The Reader were recognized. The Academy took a lot of heat for this decision and essentially acknowledged their mistake, expanding the field to a maximum of ten pictures.
Credit the Academy for recognizing that they screwed up in that case, but is it possible that they can rectify other movie injustices? Consider this particular list of the greatest directors of all-time. In short, the top ten includes the likes of Alfred Hitchcock (#1), Stanley Kubrick (#2), Orson Welles (#6), and Martin Scorsese (#10). Take a guess how many Oscars four of the most highly regarded directors in film history have between them — one. The lone honor went to Scorsese for The Departed in 2006, which in of itself was forty years overdue! Scorsese cannot complain too much, though. Despite making some of the most highly-regarded films such as Vertigo, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Citizen Kane, none of the directors for those films earned Oscar’s for Best Picture nor Best Director.
Lastly, let us use this same analysis for the greatest films of all time. In the aforementioned British Film Institute poll of the 50 greatest films of all time, only two have ever won Best Picture: The Godfather and... The Godfather Part II. To be fair, however, nearly half of those films are foreign. So let’s use another measure: IMDB’s Top Rated Movies. This list features far more “mainstream” films, which allows for a better understanding of what the typical movie-goer prefers. And of the top 100 films, only ten have ever won Best Picture. Clearly there is something amiss because the Academy’s failure to acknowledge many of the most memorable films is troubling.
In short, the Academy consistently fails to recognize truly great films. So if you are like us and feel that La La Land was robbed in more ways than one at this year’s Oscars, take solace in the fact that the Academy has gotten it wrong plenty of times before — and it has not taken away from those deserving films’ greatness.