Almost every year there is an upset at the Academy Awards and 2014 is expected to be no different.
Woody Allen will not win best original screenplay for Blue Jasmine – his best film in many years – following fresh allegations he abused his adopted daughter Dylan in the 1990s. Consequently, Australian Best Actress nominee Cate Blanchett’s hopes are also thought to be tarnished.
And what would the critics make of 12 Years A Slave beating Gravity or American Hustle for Best Picture? All are fine films but what was the best film of the year?
One week out from the 2014 Oscars, we ask, what are the Best Picture winners that won controversially and changed cinema history forever?
1. Forrest Gump (Best Picture 1994)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright and Gary Sinise
Oscar competitors: Pulp Fiction, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Quiz Show and Shawshank Redemption
Why it was a controversial winner? This was complete Hollywood schmaltz but it was a blockbuster at the box office. Sitting through super long (142 minutes) film that tried to catalogue every major historical moment between 1944 and 1982 was excruciating. Add to that Tom Hanks’ melodramatic performance and this was tough to take. Once you’re through with all that you can turn your attention to the fact that it beat Pulp Fiction – a seminal film that changed modern cinema forever.
Timeout London said: “America loves to pat itself on the back, but this slick, saccharine, deeply reactionary nostalgia-fest is one giant leap too far.”
What should have won? Pulp Fiction
2. Crash (Best Picture 2005)
Director: Paul Haggis
Starring: Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock and Matt Dillon
Oscar competitors: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night, and Good Luck and Munich
Why it was a controversial winner? This Los Angeles-set film noir about race relations has not passed the test of time. While the ensemble cast were to be commended (especially Don Cheadle) there are very few film buffs who would argue that Crash should have beaten Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain.
What should have won? Brokeback Mountain
Entertainment Weekly said: “What???? What the…???? Brokeback Mountain, that great, gorgeous, successful, boundary-breaking, conversation-starting romantic drama about the love between two men in the 20th-century American West loses to Crash, a tidily plotted chessboard game of a movie in which L.A. “types” from all over the Hollywood-approved socioeconomic map intersect. So wrong!”
3. Shakespeare in Love (Best Picture 1997)
Director: John Madden
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Ben Affleck and Judi Dench
Oscar competitors: Elizabeth, Life Is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line
Why it was a controversial winner? Let’s not even go near the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow beat Cate Blanchett’s incredible performance in Elizabeth in this romantic comedy. The Best Picture win was put down to fierce campaigning by the Weinstein Company, Shakespeare in Love’s production company. Shakespeare in Love encapsulates everything that was wrong with the Oscars at the time – star quantity over cinematic quality. And who can forget Paltrow’s shocking acceptance speech for best actress.
What should have won? Saving Private Ryan
What Culture said: “Evil genius, Harvey Weinstein’s crowning success. And the definite proof that Academy voters were drinking something dodgy in 1999 because they literally got nothing right. Shakespeare in Love is a joyous comedy-drama but that is simply all it is.”
4. A Beautiful Mind (Best Picture 2001)
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly
Oscar competitors: Sideways, Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Moulin Rouge!
Why it was a controversial winner? While Russell Crowe’s performance as mathematician John Nash was lauded, and it’s almost impossible not love everything about Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind was – frankly – a bore.
What should have won? Sideways
The London Times said: “A Beautiful Mind, a plodding, stagnant film. This hagiography of the mathematician John Nash leaves no cliché unturned. At best it is workmanlike, at worst it is cynical Hollywood sentimentality.”
5. Dances with Wolves (Best Picture 1990)
Director: Kevin Costner
Starring: Kevin Costner
Oscar competitors: Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III and Goodfellas
Why it was a controversial winner? Like Waterworld, Dances with Wolves was seen, pretty much, as Kevin Costner’s ode to himself. And while no one could knock Costner’s sensitivity to America’s indigenous people (the American Indians), was it really better than Goodfellas or Godfather Part III? I don’t think so.
What should have won? Godfather Part III or Goodfellas
Time Magazine said: “In 1980, Martin Scorsese made what may be the finest film of the 1980s, Raging Bull, but lost Best Picture and Best Director to a matinee idol directing his first film (Robert Redford, with Ordinary People). Ten years later, in 1990, Scorsese made what may be the finest film of the 1990s, Goodfellas (pictured), but lost Best Picture and Best Director Costner, who was directing his first film (Kevin Costner, with Dances With Wolves).”
6. Out of Africa (Best Picture 1985)
Director: Sydney Pollack
Starring: Meryl Streep and Robert Redford
Oscar competitors: The Color Purple, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Prizzi’s Honor and Witness
Why it was a controversial winner? A sweeping cinematic experience about a married woman (Streep) who falls in love with Africa and a handsome American man (Redford) it was, but it could not be compared with the incredible story and performances in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple. This was the Best Picture prize many critics felt Spielberg was robbed of.
What should have won? The Color Purple
The Huffington Post in 2011 said: “The 1985 stigma of The Color Purple, up for 11 Academy Awards, which received zero still lingers.”
7. How Green Was My Valley (Best Picture 1941)
Director: John Ford
Starring: Walter Pidgeon and Maureen O’Hara
Oscar competitors: Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Suspicion and Sergeant York.
Why it was controversial winner? Look at any list of Oscar-winning films that should not have won and John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley is on it for two reasons: it was not a strong enough contender and it beat Citizen Kane.
What should have won: Citizen Kane
Time Magazine said: History has been much more generous to Citizen Kane, which routinely tops critics lists as the greatest film ever made, than it has to Ford’s sentimental epic, but at the time, Welles was lucky to get any Oscar recognition at all.”