Even if the Academy Awards weren't looming large in the foreground of film coverage this week, the Oscars seem to inspire ongoing debate over which nominees were duly rewarded, who was robbed, and which nominees should have joined the ranks of the also-rans. This year's competition is racing toward a photo finish, with pundits and experts predicting different winners with equally powerful logic, we at Moviefone decided to recuse ourselves from that conversation and focus on the far more important task of pointing out the Academy's many oversights in past years.
Without getting encyclopedic -- because, quite frankly, who couldn't come up with a different and equally worthy collection of films and filmmakers that should have won? -- we assembled a dream team of sorts of should-have-been-winners from the annals of cinema history. Notably, none of our bizarro-world winners below were even nominated, and yet they continue to overshadow (if not fully obliterate) the winners and even other nominees from the years in which they were eligible.
At the 41st Academy Awards ceremony, which took place on April 14, 1969, 'Oliver!' took home the top prize, beating out 'Funny Girl,' 'The Lion in Winter,' Rachel, Rachel,' and 'Romeo and Juliet.' A different movie that year was nominated for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects (in fact the only Oscar it took home), Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey,' which is widely regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest science-fiction film of all time, was not even nominated for Best Picture. And while we still remember Zefirelli's Shakespeare adaptation and the other films (except for 'Rachel, Rachel,'), all of them pale in comparison to the imagination, intelligence and vision of Kubrick's film.
Incredibly, 'Vertigo' was nominated for only two Oscars, Best Art Direction and Best Sound, which both reflect the thoroughness of Alfred Hitchcock's vision for the film, but fail to celebrate the reason they worked at all: Hitchcock himself. Vincente Minnelli took home the statuette for 'Gigi,' and beat out the likes of Richard Brooks, Robert Wise and Stanley Kramer, but none of these filmmakers' works reflected the same sort of soul-baring artistry of Hitchcock's film. And even though it took 'Vertigo' some years to be fully appreciated, Hitchcock's technical bona fides were more than sufficient, classic status or not, for him to earn that glorious gold paperweight.
One can only suppose that the Academy feared that he might show up to accept the award with his unmentionables hanging out, but that still wasn't a good enough reason not to nominate Sacha Baron Cohen for Best Actor for his performance in 'Borat.' Mind you, Forest Whitaker was terrific as the terrifying dictator Idi Amin in 'The Last King of Scotland,' but in terms of the completeness of a transformation, Cohen was equal in his efforts. Not only does Cohen make our sides split from laughing, but he manages to make us care about this naïvely horrifying immigrant and in the process contemplate our own prejudices (sometimes without even realizing it).
This one is perhaps an easier oversight due to the fact that her performance was in a foreign film that received little critical recognition and no attention at all from the Academy, but Brigitte Bardot's performance in Roger Vadim's '... And God Created Woman' is more than the sum of her body parts put on display during its running time. What's most amazing is how the film lives on as a symbol of a changing time and how this young woman tragically tries to find conventional happiness, only to succumb to the charms of a life unfettered from responsibility. (It's also because of the surprise of its longevity that it went unrewarded when the film was first released.)
Best Foreign Film
Although he was nominated for an Adapted Screenplay award in 1969, Luchino Visconti seems like one of the Academy's most egregious overlooked artists. In 1963, his film 'The Leopard' was not merely an Italian melodrama but an embodiment of changing times – the world over. Although its competition, from the likes of a firing-on-all-pistons Federico Fellini (whose '8 1/2' won the statuette) and a piss-and-vinegar Roman Polanski ('Knife in the Water'), at the very least indicates that the Academy didn't entirely screw the pooch on that year's nominees, 'The Leopard' is truly one of the greatest films ever made -- a sumptuous, thoughtful, thought-provoking and ultimately profound opus anchored by a brilliant performance by Burt Lancaster -- which endures and feels even more important today than it did then.
Best Original Score
Criminally, Ennio Morricone won only one Oscar throughout his entire career -- an honorary achievement award for the entirety of his body of work. But while it could turn into an endless debate which of his countless iconic scores deserved to win by itself, the answer seems like it would have to be his work on 'The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.' He somehow managed to churn out one great score after the next for decades, but his work on the final film in the "Dollars" trilogy arrived at a sort of nexus in his career, when his worldwide recognition helped him get higher-profile work, and his music shifted ever so slightly from the shaggy, irresistible works he dashed off, to more introspective and epic scores. Again, however, there are plenty of scores before then and after which were equally sumptuous, psychedelic, creepy, fun, scary, or meditative, but they were all sophisticated, and this score in particular combines all of those impulses into a neat but undeniable single package.
Best Original Song
Best Original Song is a category in which it seems like the Academy has consistently picked the wrong nominees, much less winners, thanks in no small part to shitty, outdated rules and perhaps more importantly, equally outdated tastes. Never was this more obvious than in 1978, when the Bee Gees' stellar, iconic, unforgettable, and quite frankly brilliant theme song to 'Saturday Night Fever,' "Staying Alive," failed to receive one nomination; instead, the main theme from "A Little Night Music" won, which appears to violate the Academy's current rules about songs from pre-existing sources being ineligible. Regardless of the rules, however, the Bee Gees didn't merely make a best-selling or iconic soundtrack, they truly encapsulated an epochal moment in the zeitgeist and provided a larger soundtrack, for a generation, which still reverberates as much as it keeps us dancing.