Oscar Weekend! Top Snubs by Category

Top Oscar Snubs by Category

Ah the Academy Awards, the annual love-fest when the Hollywood elite get dressed up and give themselves a big pat on the back.  While Hollywood’s love for itself is true, sometimes its collective judgement proves false.  In that spirit, here are Cinema Grand Canyonscope’s top Oscar snubs of all time in the “Big Four” Categories:

Best Picture – “How Green was My Valley” over “Citizen Kane” (1941)

“How Green was My Valley” is generally considered to be ranked somewhere in the top quarter of John Ford’s films.  Certainly the tragic tale of a Welsh coal mining family has much to recommend it, and fabulous performances by Maureen O’Hara and Donald Crisp.

That being said, many film historians consider “Citizen Kane” to be the most important and most influential American film ever made.  The reasons for the snub include William Randolph Hearst’s vicious campaign against the film and Orson Welles’ legendary ability to burn bridges in Hollywood.  Also, perhaps Welles’ masterpiece was too far ahead of its time, and the Academy chose safer, more comfortable ground by selecting a high quality John Ford film for the Best Picture of 1941.

Best Actor – Art Carney for “Harry and Tonto” over Al Pacino for “The Godfather Part II” and Jack Nicholson for “Chinatown” (1974)

How does Jackie Gleason’s goofy sidekick from the “Honeymooners” beat out not one but two unforgettable performances by legendary actors?   Certainly, Carney is terrific in “Harry and Tonto.” But I can only guess that the votes for Nicholson and Pacino were so split that the third best performance got the award by a nose. But Pacino and Nicholson each gave one of the two or three best performances of their careers in 1974, if not the best, and that tells me that the Academy should have honored at least one of them that year.

Best Actress – Judy Holliday for “Born Yesterday” over Bette Davis for “All About Eve” and Gloria Swanson for “Sunset Boulevard” (1950)

Sometimes it’s hard to pick a winner.  The year1950 had an embarrassment of riches in the Best Actress category, and I don’t mean to downplay the quality of Holliday’s performance in “Born Yesterday.”  Still, “All About Eve” may be Bette Davis’ best performance, and Swanson’s Norma Desmond is one of the greatest characters in the history of film.  Did Holliday win because her Billie Dawn was a more familiar, more comfortable Eliza Doolittle inspired character than the other two choices?  Were Norma Desmond and Margo Channing (Davis) too similar?  Or did they hit a little too close to home for some of the aging actresses that voted in 1950?

Best Direction – The Entire Category

The entire category of “Best Direction” has been so mangled over the years that I can’t in good faith choose one snub over any of the others – they’re all bad.  For instance, if you look at my Top Twenty Directors list, you will only find four Oscar winners (John Ford, David Lean, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg). Examples of specific snubs include: “How Green was My Valley” over “Citizen Kane” (1941), “Going My Way” over “Double Indemnity” (1944), “West Side Story” over “La Dolce Vita” (1961), “Tom Jones” over “8 1/1” (1963), “My Fair Lady” over “Dr. Strangelove” (1964), “Oliver!” over “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), “Cabaret” over “The Godfather” (1972), “Terms of Endearment” over “Fanny and Alexander” (1983), “Out of Africa” over “Ran” (1985), and “Dances with Wolves” over “Goodfellas” (1990).

Don’t forget the 84th Annual Academy Awards are at 8:00pm EST on Sunday, February 26, 2012 on ABC!

(c) 2012 D. G. McCabe