The outrageous Best Picture calls where the Oscars got it really, really wrong

The outrageous Best Picture calls where the Oscars got it really, really wrong
Oscars 2021: Best moments from this year's Academy Awards

It’s the glitziest night of the year, with the biggest stars in the world of film assembling on the red carpet for a big old knees-up – but how much kudos does the Oscars actually hold in 2022?

The people involved tend to think it's the most important thing in the world (which is the only explanation behind Amy Schumer’s baffling decision to push for Ukrainian president Zelensky to get an invite this year). But the Academy themselves have made plenty of blunders in the past, ranging from all the way back in the 1940s to just a few years ago.

Some of the calls have been so bad, in fact, that it’s called some to question the authority of the biggest event in film.

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For every bold correct call (Moonlight and Parasite are two that spring to mind over recent times), there’s always a stinker to balance it out a little.

As a side note, until the Academy retrospectively awards Paddington 2 some kind of lifetime achievement prize for getting many of us through the pandemic, we’ll have nothing to do with them – anyone with us?

These are the outrageous Best Picture calls that go some way to proving the Oscars (mostly?) gets it wrong.

Green Book (2019)

Green Book - Official Trailer [HD]

The biggest upset in recent times – if you don’t count the catastrophic mess-up that saw LaLa Land briefly and accidentally named Best Picture over Moonlight – came when the saccharine, flawed Green Book was named winner over the much-fancied and superior titles Roma and The Favourite.

The movie tells the story of Black American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), who is taken by his racist Italian American driver Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) on a journey through the South.

Its win was just a bad call all-round, with the film receiving very mixed reviews and a mediocre box office reception, as well as a controversial development. The film was accused of perpetuating a problematic white gaze, focusing around Lip’s experiences rather than Shirley’s, while also being hit with accusations of misrepresentation by the family of the subject Dr Donald Shirley. All in all, the academy should have steered clear.

The King's Speech (2011)

The King's Speech

The King’s Speech, for all its cosy, Sunday-night with a cup of cocoa atmosphere, pales in comparison to The Social Network’s prescient look at the creation of a social media behemoth. It was written by Aaron Sorkin at his very sharpest and saw Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield both give career-best performances as the men behind Facebook. It was even chosen by Quentin Tarantino as his film of the decade, saying that it “crushes all the competition”.

Factor in the other films in the category that year - Black Swan, True Grit, 127 Hours and The Fighter – and The King’s Speech, for all of Colin Firth’s stuttering charm, is a pretty baffling winner.

Crash (2006)

CRASH - Trailer - (2004)

Sometimes, all you have to do is look at the other films nominated in a given year to realise how bad the call was. When Paul Haggis’s race relations thriller Crash won in 2006, it was against Brokeback Mountain, Capote and Munich – three films that would have warranted a win in any year. More than that, a win for the Brokeback Mountain could have marked an era-defining moment in LGBT+ cinema, and it warranted the top prize on the strength of the performances of leads Jack Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger alone.

Crash, while slightly ludacris (pun very much intended), was accomplished enough, but pales in comparison to what it was up against.

Dances With Wolves (1990)

Dances With Wolves (1990) - Kevin Costner Western Movie

What have the Oscars got against Michael Scorsese? None of his films had ever won Best Picture until The Departed was given the gong in 2007 when he was also awarded the Best Director prize, also for the first time ever! The truth is, he should have won Best Picture for Goodfellas back in 1990.

Maybe Goodfellas was too violent to claim the main prize that year, with the academy generally going for the more uplifting end of the spectrum when it comes to picking a winner. But there’s no doubt Kevin Costner’s movie – which focuses on the life of Lt. John Dunbar who is exiled to a remote western Civil War outpost and befriends wolves and native Americans – isn’t remembered nearly as fondly as Scorsese’s gangster epic for a reason.

Rocky (1977)

Rocky (1976) - Trailer (HD)

Look, we all like the Rocky movies. The montage of Sly Stallone and Dolph Lundgren working out from Rocky IV might be the greatest, most preposterous seven minutes in 80s cinema, after all.

But it was all a lot more serious – and much less fun – back in 1977. The original movie which started it all is a kitchen-sink drama set on the mean streets of Philadelphia, and while it’s a very able character piece with strong turns from Stallone and Talia Shire, its opposition that year in the form of Taxi Driver, All the President’s Men and Network could all have claimed the award in their own right, and probably should have done.

Forrest Gump (1995)

Forrest Gump -

The Shawshank Redemption was in contention for best picture at the same time as Forrest Gump. Normally, that would be the end of the discussion on this one.

However, the Academy could perhaps have been forgiven for such an oversight, especially as Shawshank was a flop which only worked its way up the ‘best films of all time’ lists after becoming a word-of-mouth hit in the years that followed. It doesn’t change the fact that Pulp Fiction – one of the most influential movies of the 90s – was released in the same year too, and the Tarantino classic or Shawkhank should have won over the saccharine Forrest Gump, complete with its shoddy CGI and (very) on the nose performance from Tom Hanks.

How Green Was My Valley (1942)

How Green Was My Valley | #TBT Trailer | 20th Century

The average punter will have heard of Citizen Kane, and know the reverence film fans have for it. The chances are they probably won’t know about the John Ford film How Green Was My Valley, which beat it to the top prize back in 1942. The film tells the story of a Welsh mining community in the 19th century, and while it remains a classic of its kind, its mark on the history of film doesn’t hold a flame to the Orson Welles masterpiece, which is frequently heralded as the best movie ever made.

It wasn’t just Citizen Kane that it beat at the time, either, with The Maltese Falcon and Hitchcock's Suspicion also missing out in an oversight which proves the Academy have been doing this kind of thing since the very earliest days of the Oscars.

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