Retrospective: 10 Movies That Should Have Won The Oscar | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Retrospective: 10 Movies That Should Have Won The Oscar

The Oscar is coming, and it's time to look back at some of the past nominated movies that should have won the golden statuette instead. Here are the 10 selected movies that I have picked:


Widely regarded by some as the greatest movie ever made, CITIZEN KANE was a landmark cinema that pioneered the "deep focus" cinematography (where foreground, middle-ground background was entirely in focus), innovative narrative structure, experimental editing techniques and complex sound. This black-and-white classic was definitely ahead of its time and it had since became a wide inspiration for many future filmmakers. No doubt actor, producer and director Orson Welles was truly a wunderkind (he was only 25 years old when he made this remarkable debut!).

However, it really baffled me when John Ford's HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY beat CITIZEN KANE for most Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. CITIZEN KANE, in turn, only managed to win Oscar (which was Best Original Screenplay for Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles).

No doubt HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY was a moving tearjerker drama aided by top-notch acting ensemble and strong direction by John Ford. It's a great movie, but not engaging enough to win the Best Picture Oscar. That honour was more deserved for the groundbreaking CITIZEN KANE instead.

2. TAXI DRIVER vs. ROCKY (1976)

When I first saw TAXI DRIVER, I was immediately hooked by the movie. To me, it was one of Martin Scorsese's best movies and definitely one of the greatest movies ever made. Robert De Niro was impeccable as the emotionally-disturbed Vietnam vet, Travis Bickle. He was particularly famous for the now-legendary dialogue ("You talkin' to me?"). Scorsese's direction was brilliant, especially the way he visualized the New York underbelly like a living hell with unforgettable images of steaming sewers, neon lights and rain-slicked streets. I could go on and on.

Too bad TAXI DRIVER went home empty-handed when it was nominated for 4 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor (Robert De Niro), Best Supporting Actress (Jodie Foster) and Best Original Music Score (Bernard Herrmann). TAXI DRIVER was of course famously snubbed by the more popular ROCKY for the Best Picture Oscar. And to add salt to the wound, Martin Scorsese was snubbed for the Best Director nomination as well.

ROCKY was an excellent movie about underdog and I have to admit it was one of the greatest boxing/sports movies of all time. Still, TAXI DRIVER was a more emotionally-powerful movie that truly deserved the Best Picture win. In fact, TAXI DRIVER was really timely at the time of its release in 1976 when the aftermath of Vietnam War was still fresh in the mind.


This was another Martin Scorsese's movie that failed to win Oscars that matters the most: Best Picture (lost to ORDINARY PEOPLE) and Best Director (lost to Robert Redford -- his directing debut -- for ORDINARY PEOPLE). Sure, I'm happy to see Robert De Niro won his much-deserved Best Actor Oscar for his engaging portrayal as the real-life boxer Jake LaMotta as well as the Best Film Editing win, but that was it? Seriously, RAGING BULL deserved to win more than just two awards out of its eight nominations. Here's why: RAGING BULL was one of the greatest boxing/sports movie ever made. Again, Scorsese's direction was impressive and all the technical credits (especially the brilliant usage of black-and-white cinematography) were top drawers. And apart from De Niro's great acting, the rest of the supporting actors (including Oscar nominees Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty) were equally remarkable.

By contrast, ORDINARY PEOPLE was definitely pale in comparison. While Robert Redford's low-key tearjerker drama had its moments and great acting all around (Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore and Timothy Hutton), the movie was a bit too melodramatic and didn't really had the lasting impact. A Best Picture-winning material? Not even close when compared to RAGING BULL.


Third time wasn't the charm for Martin Scorsese. GOODFELLAS was one of the best gangster movies of all time. The movie managed to secure six Oscar nominations but only win Best Supporting Actor award for Joe Pesci. It's a real shame because the seven Oscar win for Kevin Costner's DANCES WITH WOLVES was really... shocking. At three hours, DANCES WITH WOLVES was overlong and seriously, the movie was actually mediocre.


Following the critically-successful debut of 1992's RESERVOIR DOGS, Quentin Tarantino got better with PULP FICTION -- a groundbreaking cinematic masterpiece that sets the benchmark for countless imitators in the future. The way Tarantino and his co-writer Roger Avary presented their storyline in a non-linear structure that echoes the likes of CITIZEN KANE and RASHOMON, was simply extraordinary (which earned them a well-deserved Best Original Screenplay Oscar). The movie also best remembered for "anything-can-happen" scenarios, great career comeback for John Travolta and of course, lots of quotable dialogues. It's certainly one of the best movies of all time but sadly, PULP FICTION failed to win the coveted Best Picture Oscar -- which of course, went to the enormously popular FORREST GUMP.

Speaking of FORREST GUMP, it was an excellent feel-good movie. Robert Zemeckis' direction was remarkably cinematic and the cast was first-class (especially Tom Hanks' unforgettable performance as the title character himself). No doubt the movie was a real crowd-pleaser. But deep down, the movie was mawkish. And PULP FICTION deserved better for the Best Picture win.


In the era where most filmmakers obsessed with special effects technology, Steven Spielberg took charge and made WWII movie trendy again with his highly-successful SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. It was widely regarded as one of the greatest war movies ever made and of course, who could ever forget the first 20 minutes combat sequence at the Omaha Beach? In fact, the bloody combat sequence, which was shot in documentary style, became a benchmark for subsequent war movies to come.

Unfortunately, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN was shockingly lost to SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE for Best Picture Oscar. Sure, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE was fun and delightful. But Best Picture Oscar? Not at all.


Steven Soderbergh was one of the best independent filmmakers of the modern generation since his debut in 1989's SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE. Until today, I personally thought TRAFFIC was his finest work to date. It's a well-acted and engrossing crime drama that explores illegal drug trafficking from three stories. I was happy when Steven Soderbergh won his much-deserved Best Director Oscar, but I was kind of disappointed when the Oscar favored the more popular GLADIATOR for Best Picture instead.

Don't get me wrong. I did enjoy GLADIATOR. It was a rousing entertainment and kudos to Ridley Scott for bringing the long forgotten sword-and-sandal genre back to life again. But still, the layered complexity that Soderbergh brought to his TRAFFIC was far more rewarding of a Best Picture material than the crowd-pleasing GLADIATOR.


Hailed as Hollywood's first gay Western, Ang Lee's BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN was an emotionally-penetrating epic tale of forbidden love between two men (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal). Although the subject matter was controversial, the movie was remarkably poignant. It was best remembered for Ang Lee's historic Best Director win (first Asian to win the particular Oscar category) and also launched plenty of career-defining performances including Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams.

Then came the famous upset -- Paul Haggis' CRASH unexpectedly won over BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN for the coveted Best Picture Oscar. CRASH was a good ensemble drama with good acting ensemble (Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Ryan Phillippe, Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton) but BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN was better qualified as the Best Picture winner instead.


Jason Reitman's UP IN THE AIR was thoughtful and beautifully-told drama with knockout performances from George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. Best of all was the way Reitman managed to inject sense of humour within its depressing subject matter of corporate downsizing without sacrificing the integrity of its storyline. Although the movie received six Oscar nominations, it was a real loss that it didn't win in any category. Seriously, UP IN THE AIR was really worthy to win Best Picture.

Instead, it went to Kathryn Bigelow's THE HURT LOCKER. It was a gripping military thriller about the life of bomb disposal technicians anchored by Jeremy Renner's breakthrough performance. Well, at least for the first half of the movie. But the movie failed to live up to its high expectation once it reached the second half with unnecessarily overlong narrative. And frankly, the critical success of THE HURT LOCKER was overrated.


THE SOCIAL NETWORK was one of the best movies in 2010. David Fincher's stunning direction and Aaron Sorkin's witty screenplay were all top notch. And so did the terrific acting ensemble from Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake. But the most remarkable thing about this movie was the way Fincher and Sorkin managed to make this generally talkative movie into something compulsively watchable. A great Oscar material but....

... Tom Hooper's THE KING'S SPEECH scored not one, but two stunning upsets against THE SOCIAL NETWORK when the movie won Best Picture and Best Director. Well, THE KING'S SPEECH was nevertheless a crowd-pleasing and inspiring period drama about King George VI (Colin Firth) who suffered from speech impediment. The acting (particularly Firth and Geoffrey Rush) were wonderful. Overall, the movie was straightforward and delightful to watch for. But winning Best Picture and Best Director against THE SOCIAL NETWORK was beyond me.

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