Oscars: The loss you're still not over
Everything knows there’s only one thing more fun than the Oscars—and that’s complaining about the Oscars. It’s in that spirit that we present this week’s Academy-focused PopWatch Confessional, in which we’re venting our long-simmering rage about Oscar nights gone wrong: What’s the Oscar-night injustice that, try as you might, you still can’t get over?
Samantha Highfill, correspondent: I will never get over the fact that Heath Ledger didn’t win an Oscar in 2006 for his incredibly understated performance in Brokeback Mountain. To this day, it’s one of the most powerful and subtle performances I’ve ever seen on the big screen. But instead of honoring Ledger, the Academy chose to give the statue to Philip Seymour Hoffman—who was a deserving actor on his own, though, for me, his work in Capote did not merit beating Ledger. Yes, Hoffman looked and sounded like Truman Capote, but I always felt there was something missing, as if Hoffman didn’t fully capture the spirit of the writer. (And don’t get me started on the Best Picture race that year.)
Honorable mention: In 2002, Denzel Washington won Best Actor for his work in Training Day. It was a deserved recognition, but I still occasionally think about how Will Smith does not have an Oscar for his work in Ali, and that just never sits well with me.
Christian Holub, intern: The key to enjoying the Oscars is understanding that you don’t have to agree with them. I personally unlocked that gateway when The King’s Speech beat The Social Network for Best Picture in 2011. The King’s Speech, if you remember, is a fine historical movie with some good acting by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, but The Social Network is a dark, acerbic, zeitgeist-grabbing movie about the boys who created the modern world in their Harvard dorm room.
I saw The King’s Speech once when it came out, and have never felt particularly inclined to do so again—but completing this paragraph meant resisting several temptations to just go rewatch The Social Network. It’s the movie that introduced us to Andrew Garfield, brought the best out of Actor Justin Timberlake, and provided the soundtrack to thousands of homework assignments. It is a funnier, smarter, and wittier movie than The King’s Speech—the Sorkin-penned dialogue in this scene alone single-handedly makes up for all of The Newsroom. Colin Firth’s acting is good, but The King’s Speech‘s win taught me above all that the Oscars don’t necessarily reward the coolest movies so much as the best actor-y, Anglophile period pieces. It was an important lesson, and one I remember every year.
Jonathon Dornbush, EW Community assistant editor: The Social Network was the incredible sum of several amazing parts, all working in harmony. David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and the entire cast turned in some of the best work of all their respective careers. And the film did win several awards the night it was nominated—but it was worthy of being honored as a whole, rather than just as a few disparate parts.
Instead, Fincher and the film lost to a boring movie with two undoubtedly strong performances: The King’s Speech. I also felt personally slighted because that year’s Oscars telecast was on my birthday, and I had been 100 percent on the Social Network train—but I don’t hold it against Colin Firth.
Jeff Labrecque, senior writer: I’m okay with Forrest Gump, I’m okay with Ordinary People, and I LOVED Shakespeare in Love. But ladies and gentleman, how did we let The King’s Speech happen? In 2011? Tom Hooper’s biopic was a sappy throwback that belonged to a different Hollywood era, while The Social Network was David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin operating on all cylinders. I don’t get too upset over Oscar’s blunders—EXCEPT for when the Academy eventually makes it up to Fincher and awards him for a lesser film. Doesn’t it bother you that Martin Scorsese’s Oscar film is The Departed?
Kyle Anderson, senior writer: Look, everybody knew that the 1998 was the year that everybody had to dive out of the way of the monstrous spectacle that was Titanic. And I was completely aware that Elliott Smith, one of my favorite artists of all time, had no chance at stealing an Oscar for Best Original Song from the icy grip of Celine Dion and “My Heart Will Go On.” But that doesn’t mean I’m not still upset 13 years later. I did love that Smith, dressed in a suit that looked like it was made out of the upholstery from a ’70s rec room couch and then slept in, got to perform at the Oscar show all by his lonesome on that massive stage—a moment that certainly elevated his profile a thousandfold. “Miss Misery” losing the Oscar to “My Heart Will Go On” (and the fact that we lost Smith only a few years later) compounds my argument that nothing is ever fair, especially when it comes to shaggy sad-eyed folk laments.
Keith Staskiewicz, senior writer: I always thought Amy Adams should have won for Junebug. She’s just so heartbreakingly perfect in that movie, but instead they gave it to Rachel Weisz for playing a dead wife in flashbacks.
Joshua Rivera, EW.com writer: I don’t really get to worked up about Oscar losses, but I remember being mad about a lot of the Academy’s choices in 2011’s 83rd annual ceremony–particularly in the acting categories. James Franco hadn’t yet become insufferable (I am a huge fan of Pineapple Express, which gave me an inordinate amount of goodwill towards the man) and I really wanted him to win for 127 Hours. Also, Jennifer Lawrence hadn’t become one the biggest stars in Hollywood yet, but everyone immediately noticed her for her incredible performance in Winter’s Bone—which I was certain would win. She ultimately got a statue, but I still think she deserved one for this movie.
Jeff Jensen, TV critic: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Which came on the heels of The Elephant Man losing to Ordinary People. Watching yet another tale about a misfit, outsider hero from a geek auteur lose to yet another heavy prestige drama (this time, Gandhi) caused me to shed a tear and embitter me to Oscar’s narrow worldview.
Kelly Connolly, EW Community assistant editor: It’s not that I was upset that Daniel Day-Lewis won the Oscar for Lincoln in 2013—he wrote Joseph Gordon-Levitt a note in Abraham Lincoln’s handwriting, which is one of the best things I’ve ever heard—but I do think it’s unfortunate that Bradley Cooper had to go up against him. Cooper’s work in Silver Linings Playbook was moving and funny and honest, and it proved that he had a lot more in him than people expected (which I’ve been saying since Alias, thanks very much). Then again, things seem to have worked out just fine for Cooper.
Leah Greenblatt, senior editor: I always thought it kind of sucked that Tommy Lee Jones beat out Ralph Fiennes (Schindlers List) and Leonardo DiCaprio (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) in 1993 for basically playing himself in The Fugitive for 20 minutes. He was like, “So I squint real hard and don’t say too much? Got it.” I remember Fiennes being especially amazing, even though I haven’t seen that movie since high school; he played a monster with so much nuance, which can’t be easy.
Benjamin Spier, copy chief: Emmanuelle Riva, so shattering in Amour, losing to Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook.
Joe McGovern, reporter: In my mind, there’s no question that Marion Cotillard should win Best Actress this year for her scrappy, transcendent performance in Two Days, One Night. She’s going to lose to a well-respected veteran playing a women battling Alzheimer’s (Julianne Moore)—but that’s how it should have gone in 2008. That year Cotillard’s unsubtle, histrionic, makeup-slathered work as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose was victorious over Julie Christie‘s devastating performance as an Alzheimer’s sufferer in Sarah Polley’s Away From Her. Christie is so delicate and artful and even glamorous, never stumbling into the dementia movie clichés that even Moore can’t avoid, and it’s a shame that the heart-breaking tranquility and subtlety of her role likely cost her a much-deserved trip to the podium.
Esther Zuckerman, staff writer: I’m still frustrated that the Beasts of the Southern Wild score didn’t even get a nomination. It’s easily one of the best scores in the past couple of years, and so vital to the success of that movie as a whole.
Will Robinson, intern: A retroactive one, as I was too young to harbor rage then (millennial alert!): Kate Hudson losing out on Best Supporting Actress for her role in Almost Famous to Marcia Gay Harden in Pollock. When you look back at 2000s cinema, Cameron Crowe’s opus should appear on any legitimate “Best Of” list. Hudson as Penny Lane is a national treasure. She steals nearly every scene in which she appears and takes it to Morocco, whether she’s spirited or crushed. All the prepubescent, 15-year-old males in the world wanted to be with her. She was cool. Here’s proof of Hudson’s peak. Please come back, Penny.
Dan Snierson, senior writer: Jim Carrey for Dumb & Dumber in 1994. The deep and brave commitment to the role. The impish, childish glee. The bowl cut. Wait, what’s that? He wasn’t even nominated? Well, call me double pissed!