Tag Archive: Academy Awards

Iconic scenes 2001 A Space Odyssey

If you’re wondering what the best movie was in any given year, you have plenty of options.  You can look for the movie that had the biggest take at the box office.  You can look to critic reviews.  You can scroll through the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com).  You can review the dozens of award lists.  Or you can just watch the movies and choose for yourself.  Three thousand Oscars will have been given out by the end of this year’s 88th annual Academy Awards tomorrow.  But what does the Academy know?  Historically it’s Oscar-bait that takes the big trophy, often over-represented categories like not-always-so-historical costume dramas, biopics, “family” melodramas, or just plain highbrow yawners, all usually released within the last three months of the year.  The movie viewing public often raises its collective eyebrows to winners who seemingly take home the prize for sentimental reasons, popularity instead of performance, atonement for being overlooked in the past or catch-up Oscars for an end of career weaker performance to award an actor’s entire body of work.

Writer Danny Peary did something we all want to do, and wrote a book to correct all of Oscar’s many past errors.  Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but Peary presents many great arguments for overlooked American masterpieces and acting triumphs, in his 1993 book Alternate Oscars.  His best selections shore up the biggest failing of Oscar, its ongoing snubbing of genre works.  Peary argues that many worthy movies were passed over, and awards his Alternate Oscar to the likes of King Kong in 1933 instead of Cavalcade, Hitchcock’s mystery The 39 Steps instead of Mutiny on the Bounty in 1935, The Adventures of Robin Hood instead of You Can’t Take it With You in 1938,  the all-time fantasy classic The Wizard of Oz instead of Gone With the Wind in 1939, Citizen Kane instead of How Green Was My Valley in 1941, Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life in 1946 instead of Fredric March in The Best Years of Our Lives, Strangers on a Train in 1951 instead of An American in Paris, the Western Shane in 1953 instead of adapted novel From Here to Eternity, The Searchers in 1956 instead of Around the World in 80 Days.

Alternate Oscars

Peary would have the arguable best comedy of all time Some Like it Hot sweep the big Oscar categories in 1959.  The sci-fi game changer 2001: A Space Odyssey would have taken Best Picture of 1968 instead of the musical Oliver!  Steve McQueen would win Best Actor for the police procedural Bullitt.  And George Lucas’s American Graffiti would have taken Oscar instead of The Sting.  In 1982 E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial would knock out Gandhi, The Right Stuff would take out Terms of Endearment in 1983, and Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V would have beaten Driving Miss Daisy in 1989.  In 1991, Wesley Snipes would win Best Actor for New Jack City instead of Anthony Hopkins for Silence of the Lambs.

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Hannibal - Season 1

If only it wasn’t another incarnation of Hannibal Lecter.

In hindsight the Academy Awards sweep of Silence of the Lambs at the 1992 Oscar ceremony seems very strange.  A win for a horror movie about a cannibal that took best film, best director for Jonathan Demme, best actor for Anthony Hopkins as the villain Lecter, best actress for Jodie Foster, and best writing for Ted Tally’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’s novel–it was pretty much unheard of.  The actual antagonist in the film was far creepier than Hopkins’ Lecter, played by Ted Levine, who would go on to star as the far kinder cop in Monk.  The Hunt for Red October and Silverado star Scott Glenn also had a key role in the film as an FBI director.

One explanation for the Oscar wins was that the events were preceded by actual cannibalism in the news and as sometimes happens Oscar nods to movies reflecting life.  The other is that it was a pretty bad year for movies, with Lambs facing off against the underwhelming JFK, Bugsy, and The Prince of Tides (it beat one acclaimed film, the bigger box office draw for the year, the successful animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast).  It also beat out two of the best sci-fi films of all time: Terminator 2 and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  Yet which of these are the only films that stand up to repeated viewings today?  Not Lambs or Tides or Bugsy or JFK, but the now classic genre films Terminator, Trek VI, and Beast.

Hannibal poster

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