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Jewish World Review
Feb. 17, 2011
/ 13 Adar I, 5771
The 10 worst best pictures ever
I have nothing against William Shakespeare, but the mere mention of his name makes my blood boil.
My anger at the Bard started on March 21, 1999, at the precise moment that Harrison Ford tore open an envelope near the end of the Oscars telecast and announced that "Shakespeare in Love" was the winner in the best motion picture category.
In my mind, it remains the greatest travesty in the history of the Academy Awards.
How could that clever little comedy beat out the epic "Saving Private Ryan" as the best picture of the year? How could Steven Spielberg be the best director of the year, Janusz Kaminski be the best cinematographer of the year and Michael Khan be the best film editor of the year, and their movie NOT be the best picture?
I'm shocked that I still watch the Oscars every year. I guess I'm a masochist, and can't wait to see how the Academy voters will outrage me again.
"Shakespeare in Love" wasn't the first time I have been disappointed with the outcome of the voting at the Oscars. And I'm sure it won't be the last. In fact, there are countless examples of how the 5,755 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have gotten it wrong. I don't understand why they don't just call me in advance to get my advice on how to vote.
I will sit by my phone until the Oscars are announced on Feb. 27, just in case academy voters come to their senses.
In the meantime, here are the 10 most glaring voting errors in Oscar history, from the most horrible to the least horrible. Not every movie on this list is horrible. They are merely horrible choices as best picture.
And nobody is implying that the bad choices were made for nefarious reasons, such as politics or money spent on buying the election, but somebody might be suggesting it.
1. "Shakespeare in Love": To be fair, Shakespeare didn't write the screenplay for this movie, so I shouldn't lump him in with the gang of thieves who stole the election.
2. "The English Patient": I started watching this movie in 1996, and couldn't tell you for sure what year it ended. I also couldn't tell you when my brain recovered from the numbness. This movie's only saving grace was that it didn't come out the same year as "Saving Private Ryan." Regardless, it swiped an Oscar from "Fargo" and "Jerry Maguire," although I admit that the field was weak that year, and "The English Patient" obviously benefitted from the absence of serious competition.
3. "Chicago": Rob Marshall directed this terribly miscast musical, and I'm still mystified that it beat out "Gangs of New York," "The Hours," "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" and "The Pianist."
4. "No Country for Old Men": The Coen brothers' ode to bad hair wasn't as good as Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood," another nominee that year, but maybe voters were overwhelmed by the violence and blinded by Javier Bardem's bangs.
5. "Oliver!": It won six Oscars, and was excruciatingly long (153 minutes), which might explain why it won best picture. I wasn't privy to the workings of Oscar back then, but I believe that voters were promised that if they cast their ballot for "Oliver!" no one would ever have to watch it again. Think about it; have you seen it since 1968?
6. "Out of Africa": It was Sydney Pollack, the academy's favorite director at the time. It was Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, the academy's favorite actors at the time. And it was colonial Kenya, the academy's favorite setting for an epic.
7. "Rain Man": Dustin Hoffman as a savant. Tom Cruise in a cool suit. I can't think of another reason why this won.
8. "Driving Miss Daisy": Politically, I'm not sure this movie would be viewed in quite the same favorable light these days, with everybody's favorite god Morgan Freeman playing the chauffeur for a cantankerous old white Southern woman. Based on a play, which I suppose is why voters thought it was better than it was.
9. "A Beautiful Mind": Opie won the Oscar as best director, but Richie Cunningham accepted the award for an excellent film that just didn't seem to have the epic scope of a best picture. Two other nominees — "Moulin Rouge" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" — did have epic qualities, but did not have the same universal appeal.
10. "The Hurt Locker": Director Kathryn Bigelow certainly deserved the praise heaped upon her, including the best director statuette, but was it really the kind of movie that belongs in the same breath as best picture winners like "Ben-Hur," "The Bridge on the River Kwai" or "Casablanca?"
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