by Jason McCullum
Award shows have quickly become one of the most flawed forms of entertainment criticism and approval. At the end of the day, it is all a popularity contest, that’s why Taylor Swift wins every Grammy and Meryl Streep wins every Oscar, even if they happen to put out aggressively mediocre work. Regardless, they are still events that I look forward to, specifically the Oscars. In the best years, I look forward to surprising upsets but all too often, the intrigue comes from seeing how the Academy will refuse to change and, ultimately, let me down. Over my next two articles, I will pay tribute to both ends of the spectrum, but let’s start with the negative and count down the five worst mistakes the Academy has made when selecting the best picture…
Honorable Mention: 2014 (Won: Birdman - Should’ve Won: Boyhood)
This selection is by no means the offender that the following five will be as it is far too rooted in personal preference to get too worked up about. I love Birdman, but Boyhood holds such a special place in my heart. Something about watching that movie when entering my teenage years gave me such a deep understanding of Mason and the heavily flawed life that he experiences. But putting my individual feelings aside, the film is so well executed under such a unique format. The ambition of Boyhood, in my opinion, was well deserving of Best Picture, or at least some greater recognition than just the Support Actress win. With that aside, let’s begin this list proper.
5. 1976 (Won: Rocky - Should’ve Won: Taxi Driver)
For all the Scorsese films that went up for Best Picture that probably did not deserve nominations (namely Wolf of Wall Street and Irishman), his two greatest accomplishments in cinematic history were pretty massive snubs. In 1991, Goodfellas lost out to Dances with Wolves, but in my opinion, the bigger offender was the lack of awards given to Scorsese’s real magnum opus, Taxi Driver. Its loss to Rocky in ‘76 is an early case of the Academy selecting the more popular movie, not necessarily the better movie. Almost undeniably, Taxi Driver has not aged well as Travis’ heroic moment in the end could be interpreted in a less than admirable manner by today’s standards. However, within the context of the ‘70s, Taxi Driver is a triumph that deserved more praise than it got. The film showed off Scorsese’s natural chops for directing a visually appealing, yet disturbing, tale and helped to assert De Niro as a uniquely impressive actor, a title he has maintained to this day. It is pretty easy to see why the Academy would opt for the all ages, inspirational Rocky, which is admittedly a good watch that holds up. Still, it is a shame that the deranged nature of Taxi Driver held it from obtaining the glory it truly deserved.
4. 2017 (Won: The Shape of Water - Should’ve Won: Get Out)
This entry runs a bit lower on the list because of two major factors: 1. The Shape of Water is very good and 2. Get Out won Original Screenplay, which certainly helped lessen the blow. Still, in my ideal world, the awards would have been swapped with The Shape of Water getting screenplay while Get Out took home Best Picture. While Gulliermo del Toro certainly had seniority, Jordan Peele’s masterful directorial debut is arguably one of the strongest debuts o