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This article was first published 12 years ago

The Worst Films that Won the Oscars

Last updated on: February 13, 2012 08:55 IST

Image: A scene from Crash
Raja Sen in Mumbai
Raja Sen lists the 10 truly undeserving Oscar winners through the years.
Listen, I know and you know the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences often gets it wrong. This isn't a revelation. This is, however, about the times the Oscar, the biggest Oscar of them all, that for Best Picture, has gone to the wrongest choices possible.

Here's my list of 10 truly undeserving Oscar winners.

Crash (2005)

A simplistic piece of multi-narrative drivel, this Paul Haggis film won simply because the Academy could not bring itself to reward Ang Lee's glorious Brokeback Mountain, and the shock was palpable.
A washed out and simplistic version of Magnolia, this film had a coupel of decent performances but is too preachy to be applauded.

American Beauty (1999)

Image: A scene from American Beauty
One of the better films on this list, Sam Mendes' well-written but oddly twisted film legitimizes a middle-aged man's near-paedophiliac fantasies as the director takes suburban cliches and puts them in a plastic bag and films it.
Yes, screenwriters, the opening voiceover is cleverly worded, but here's some perspective for you: David Fincher's Fight Club wasn't even nominated.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Image: A scene from Million Dollar Baby
Clint Eastwood hurled every bit of manipulative cliche at the Oscar voters in 2004 with this painfully unsubtle film about a female boxer learning the ropes from a couple of old men.
An overwritten film with caricatured archetypes, it had no business even being nominated alongside Alexander Payne's Sideways.
Oh, and guess what wasn't nominated? Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Oh no, we'll take Rocky-in-drag instead.

Oliver (1968)

Image: A scene from Oliver
Carol Reed was a fine director and there's nothing wrong with a musical version of the Charles Dickens classic, but Oliver is overlong, hamhanded and full of performances so theatrically obvious that it's tedious just sitting through the whole thing.
If the Academy really wanted to give it to a musical, fellow nominee Funny Girl made for a far better film. (While 2001: A Space Odyssey wasn't even nominated.)

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Image: A scene from Driving Miss Daisy
Often the Academy is so entranced by dramas centering ostensibly around deeper topics like 'race' (and, for the last two decades, 'holocaust,' for example) that they fail to see a film for what its worth, and hence this rather ordinary Bruce Beresford film about a Southern woman and her black chauffeur.
Well acted, yes, but really not a film that should have won Best Picture over, for instance, Born On The Fourth Of July.

Dances With Wolves (1990)

Image: A scene from Dances With Wolves
It ends sloppily, miraculously portrays both Native Americans and the West very naively, and is often too self-indulgently pretentious.
Directed by Kevin Costner, this film that has aged very poorly indeed (and wasn't great to begin with) should also always be loathed for it denied a Best Picture Oscar to one of the best films of all, Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas.

Titanic (1997)

Image: A scene from Titanic
Where do we begin? James Cameron's meticulously recreated shipwreck of a film features not just a painful Celine Dion warble, but also much schmaltziness as we see a film with love across the galleys, with Kate Winslet being sketched naked and Leonardo DiCaprio dancing up a storm, a film with no end in sight except the one we go in expecting.
Visually impressive? Sure. Amazing attention to detail? Absolutely. A great film? Um.

The English Patient (1996)

Image: A scene from The English Patient

In a characteristically astute bit of pop culture commentary, Seinfeld character Elaine Benes, in an episode titled The English Patient, loses it as she tries to 'get' the movie, yelling at the screen: "Quit telling your stupid story, about the stupid desert, and just die already! Die!"

Suffice it to say that I agree, and this subplot-laden and flashback-filled overlong film had no business even being nominated. (Oh and it beat Fargo, by the way.)

Chicago (2002)

Image: A scene from Chicago
Despite a riveting performance from Catherine Zeta Jones, this Rob Marshall film was unevenly scripted, poorly acted and edited to within an inch of its rhythm, robbing audiences of the very essence of the musical.
The songs looked good and a couple were well choreographed, but essentially this was -- unlike the wildly inventive Moulin Rouge the year before -- a musical for people who hadn't watched good musicals.

Shakespeare In Love (1998)

Image: A scene from Shakespeare In Love
I have nothing against Shakespeare In Love, or romcoms in general.
On a scale of contemporary romantic comedies, Shakespeare In Love is a notch above You've Got Mail and a few notches below Notting Hill, and that's where it should stand, not suddenly honoured with the biggest Oscar of all.
The first comedy to win the Oscar since Annie Hall wasn't one that fit the bill. And Peter Weir's The Truman Show wasn't even nominated.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Image: A scene from A Beautiful Mind
Ron Howard's hamhanded film about schizoid mathematician John Nash is an embarrassingly unsubtle film resting on the shoulders of a particuarly spelt-out performance by leading man Russell Crowe.
Definitive Oscar-bait, it is a ploddingly earnest biopic about a genius who dealt with mental issues, so it isn't a surprise it won, but what a film. Particularly when you think back to that FightClub-esque twist ending, completely out of place.