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Tuesday
Sep032013

Team Top Ten: Biggest Awards Season Flops

Amir here, to bring you our newest edition of Team Top Ten. Festival season is in full force. Telluride just wrapped. Venice is going strong. And in just two days, Toronto will set the awards season ablaze (Nathaniel and I will be there covering the flames). So we thought we’d vote on something that captures the spirit of the season.

Sort of.

Looking ahead at this point, there are a lot of films that look like surefire Oscar contenders. Inevitably, some of them will miss out on nomination morning, but at this very moment, everyone’s got their hopes high. Even in a year where unfortunate circumstances led to widespread discussion of racism in America, one can’t expect Mandela, 12 Years a Slave, Lee Daniels' The Butler AND Fruitvale Station to be nominated, but all four films are certainly gunning for it. So has been the story with many films in the past couple of decades, since the Oscars became the most glamorous political race on the planet and the Weinstein’s at Miramax supercharged awards campaigning.  

We’re looking back today at the films of the past 25 years – let’s call it the Campaigning Era – that looked like major Oscar players this far out in the year, or hell, even five minutes before nominations were announced in some cases, but failed to make a dent of any size. This is Team Experience’s Top Ten Awards Season Flops. Note that this is not a qualitative judgment - some stank, some were superb. But, for one reason or another, they fell short of what The Golden Man deems "Best". In simple terms – borrowed from Team Experience member, Nick Davis – these are the ten films that have the largest gap between their Oscar hopes and their Oscar outcomes. Without further ado… 

Bobby and 9 more dashed-hopefuls after the jump...

10. Bobby (2006, Emilio Estevez)
Some guys always get the short end of the stick. Sure, President Kennedy was famously murdered in 1963, but his younger brother Robert met his own violent death before he even got a chance to get elected. And while John F.'s assassination inspired an Oscar-nominated Oliver Stone masterpiece, Robert F.'s assassination inspired, well, Bobby. With its lacquer of Weinstein-packaged, Golden Globe approved prestige (Kennedys! Politics! Civil Rights!), its Altman-lite structure reminiscent of previous Oscar champ Crash, and a glitzy cast that managed to wrestle a SAG ensemble nod through sheer massiveness, Bobby was thought by many to potentially be an awards season inevitability, the kind of ticks-all-the-boxes contender that pulls off a Best Picture nomination despite no one seeming to actually love it (Frost/Nixon, anyone?) But like its title character's presidential hopes, Bobby's awards dreams vanished in a puff of smoke on nomination morning. 

Why? Three reasons, I'd argue. First, nothing made by Emilio Estevez as an actor or as a director was well-loved enough to lead voters into over-praising Bobby in the way that Argo was last year. Second, that cast: no doubt a film starring Anthony Hopkins, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy might have given Oscar voters a hard-on in 1996, but by 2006 those names carried more than a whiff of desperation. But more importantly, while the crushing obviousness of Crash was probably one of its biggest assets with Oscar voters (even the most absent-minded viewer could tell it was about RACISM), who knew what the hell Bobby was even about? The political idealism of the 60's? The logistical difficulties of managing a hotel during a campaign? Famous actresses walking around with giant octopuses on their heads? In retrospect, it was all there in the title: hopelessly generic and betraying an overconfidence in the audience's familiarity with its central figure. Because -no disrespect to Senator Kennedy- as far as evocative titles go, Bobby ain't no JFK.
- Julien Kojfer

 

9. American Gangster (2007, Ridley Scott)
Travel back with me in time to 2001. Denzel Washington (Training Day) and Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind) were both seeking their second Oscar and it was a true showdown, neck and neck until the finish line. Whether it was the insider Denzel push from Julia "I love my life" Roberts or Russell's BAFTA behavior that decided it, Denzel walked away with his second gold man and Russell just walked away (he was never nominated again). Six years later the one time competitors, teamed up for what would have to be an Oscar event. The story was true (ding ding ding) the setting was period (ding ding ding) and the director was definitely still "overdue" (ding ding ding). But the results were, if hardly embarrassing, underwhelming.  Crowe's onscreen fire was down to embers (seriously what happened between 2001 and 2007... it's one long gradual dimming of the light) and Denzel, in "King Kong aint got shit on me" proud criminal mode again, had too recently been rewarded for just that. Perhaps it's worth noting that for all the film's handsome professionalism, literally the only thing I remember was the sudden cold snap from Ruby Dee's angry mama slap. That's (almost) all that Oscar remembered too, despite the hype. Sometimes all you need is to wake people up when a film is weirdly slumbering.
-Nathaniel R 

8. Beloved (1998, Jonathan Demme)
Everyone crediting Oprah with The Butler's box-office ("See, she can lure anyone to anything!") is obviously not paying attention to the OWN tribulations and has certainly forgotten Beloved, which sank like a stone upon its October 1998 release.  The critical reception was not warm enough to turn things around, or even to keep Beloved in the awards conversation as an honorable flop.  Its Disney-owned production company (Touchstone) and distributor (Buena Vista) didn't go to the mat with repeated re-releases, the way Paramount kept putting Braveheart into theaters for almost a year to dissipate its aura of box-office disappointment.  I don't think audiences were dissing Oprah in general, but a specific Oprah: the one perceived as forcing high-flown literature onto fans of modest reading, and the one who couldn't put a movie into theaters without associated TV specials and coffee table books.  She didn't have the book's fans behind her, or even the author: Morrison's an Oprah pal, but when asked about the movie, she complimented the textiles in the costumes.  (And that's a part of shade!)  The costumes were the only thing AMPAS complimented, too, but in a just world, this uneven but compelling film deserved at the very least to own Best Supporting Actress: Elise, Newton, Hamilton, and Richards are all so indelible in their roles.
- Nick Davis

7. Zodiac (2007, David Fincher)
David Fincher's Zodiac, based on the true-life, unsolved case of the Zodiac murderer, was a critical success at the time of its release and went on to appear on countless Top 10 lists at the end of that year. Boasting a cast of Academy Award nominees (Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey, Jr, Mark Ruffalo, and Chloe Sevigny) and a smart screenplay that called to mind the adult dramas studios used to make (Fincher said that All the President's Men was a big influence on the film), it felt like a new direction for the director and the first of his films (following such brilliant but brutal films as Se7en and Fight Club) to seem Academy-friendly. But on Oscar nomination morning, the film failed to receive a single nomination. Perhaps the shock and gore of his previous films still lingered in the minds of voters making them hesitant to reward prior violence. At almost 3 hours in length (contractually, Fincher had final cut) and notorious for doing up to 90 takes per scene, perhaps the thinking was that his hubris was too much too soon and that he hadn't yet earned the right to be so controlling. But I think the main factor was that its March release was too early in the year. Though the campaign was bold enough to address the voters notoriously short term memory what was perhaps more damaging was the public reception. The film never caught on at the box office. It debuted in second place (behind Wild Hogs!!! Oh, America...) and only went on to make $33 million domestically.

Despite the film’s lack of Oscar luck, it set the groundwork for Fincher's subsequent Oscar traction. His next three films (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) went on to receive major nominations and earned the director a pair of nominations of his own.
- Andrew Stewart

6. Short Cuts (1993, Robert Altman)
What was the reason Short Cuts only gathered one Oscar nomination? (A well-deserved Best Director nod for Altman was all it snagged.) This is a film with 22 great lroles played by one of the best groups of actors (and a few singers) Hollywood had ever seen. Just have a gaze at these names: Anne Archer, Matthew Modine, Jack Lemmon, Tim Robbins, Madeleine Stowe, Fred Ward, Julianne Moore, Peter Gallagher, Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Davison, Chris Penn, Andie MacDowell, Tom Waits, Huey Lewis, Annie Ross and Lili Taylor and Lily Tomlin. That’s a roll call which should’ve reeked of gold. At least at the time.

Why no nods for anyone in this line-up? Maybe the Academy was split as to exactly who to nominate. Perhaps the performances were too subtle, too real and too intuitively conveyed. There were no big, gesture-based scenes of showboat-style speechifying. Everything in the film was too relatable. It wasn’t movie-movie enough, perhaps. But, really, no one here could be easily defined as either lead or supporting. The performances bridge that gap. They all feature intermittently throughout the three-hour running time, each giving us their own slice of LA life. They are a true ensemble, given equal weight and time to show us the length and breadth of a collection of ecstatic, troubled, funny, confused and vibrant Los Angelenos. Maybe they all went under the radar by being collectively exemplary? They won a special ensemble acting award at the Golden Globes two months prior to the 1994 Oscars and won the Special Volpi Cup at Venice, along with three other awards, the previous year. Maybe The Academy should’ve taken note and created an ensemble award just for experiences like Short Cuts. Altman was, as we know, the king of improvisational, ensemble-based organic filmmaking and all his actors and crew here pooled their immense talents in service of telling the stories of Raymond Carver’s people. A sole nod simply wasn’t enough; it required at least 22 more.
- Craig Bloomfield

5. The Crucible (1996, Nicholas Hytner)
Like another much ballyhooed Daniel Day-Lewis production, Nine, this stage adaptation felt like a “can’t miss!” Also like Nine, The Crucible was met with a reception that ran from polite to hostile and ultimately failed to live up the reputation of its Broadway kin. While it ultimately received two high profile nominations for Joan Allen’s fantastic performance in supporting actress as well as for the then 71-year-old playwright Arthur Miller’s adaptation of his own work, it’s impossible not to think of the film as an Oscar flop. Maybe it was the coldness with witch Nicholas Hytner directed the material, maybe even Winona Ryder’s divisive performance, but it probably had more to do with the fact that in 1996 the Academy was more interested in new stories and voices (see also Kenneth Branagh’s immaculate 4-hour Hamlet). In this instance, Oscar was right."
- Glenn Dunks

4. All the King’s Men (2006, Steven Zailian)
Penn. Winslet. Hopkins. Law. Gandolfini. Clarkson. Zaillian. Practically every name attached to 2006's All The King's Men spelled quality - even the name of the film itself. The hugely acclaimed novel by Robert Penn Warren was adapted into a Best Picture Oscar-winning film in 1949. So it's safe to say that, given the pedigree and talent involved, expectations were high for Steven Zaillian's film.

But then it opened.

Despite a few notable dissenters, critics panned it, and audiences listened to them; the film only grossed about $9.4 million. Zaillian, who both wrote and directed the film, seemed to have no control over the tone of the picture, or over his actors, who mostly seemed to be involved in a scenery-chewing contest. In their first Oscar prediction issue, Entertainment Weekly said that the only reason to be concerned about the film's Oscar prospects was the film's delayed opening - it was supposed to open in 2005. Turns out, they should have paid more attention to that warning sign.
- Daniel Bayer

Globe, SAG, BAFTA, and BFCA nomnations of some sort. Nada from Oscar

3. The Shipping News (2001, Lasse Halstrom)
If Harvey Weinstein raised Oscar campaigning to an art form then The Shipping News was to be his masterpiece. Not only did it star a veritable Avengers of Oscar powerhouses, including Spacey, Blanchett, Moore and Dench, but the film was helmed by Lasse Hallström, who after Cider House Rules and Chocolat was Miramax’s go-to guy for passing off middle-brow pabulum as art films to undiscerning Oscar voters. Problem is, it turns out nobody cares about sad sack Kevin Spacey moping around Newfoundland encountering a series of “Ain’t small town folks kooky?” caricatures on the way to a predictable life affirming ending. For all its perfection on paper, The Shipping News ended up with a big pile of nothing on nomination morning. At least it demonstrated in vivid fashion that no matter what the pedigree or campaign it helps to have a story about which someone might conceivably give a damn. 
- Michael Cusumano

2. Into the Wild (2007, Sean Penn)
Hindsight is 20/20, so there always seem to be more explanations after the fact for why sure-fire contenders didn't make it. I've never managed to find a satisfying one for Into the Wild, though, and even though it tops my list I'm still uncertain as to the why. Sure, it wasn't a big hit with the Golden Globes or BAFTA's but with early support from the Broadcast Film Critics, MUCH support from top critics, and important late game support from the DGA and the SAGs (where it was the most nominated film) having it peter out on Oscar morning with only two nominations - for Hal Holbrook and its editing - suggests evidence of a "snub". But, was it snubbed or just unloved? ....or, maybe neither? 2007 was the first year I was following the Oscar race before the nominees were announced and I think the unpredictability of that season is much forgotten. When the nominees were announced on January 22nd every major category had a shocker nomination (or two, or three) and one of the biggest casualties was Into the Wild. But, remember this was the year of the mildly surprising Jolie snub, wondering whether or not the Guild cold shoulder had sunk Atonement, surprise inclusions for Laura Linney and Tommy Lee Jones, etcetera. It’s possible that Into the Wild just ended up being on the unlucky side of each surprise. The editing nomination and the love for Holbrook suggest support but just not enough of it. Considering the pedigree, the all-star ensemble, its respected actor turned director at the helm and a much ballyhooed leading turn, having the reason for Into the Wild's lack of success be so random seems unsatisfactory. But, really, its quasi-shutout might just be the classic example of very bad luck. Each year some film is unlucky number 6 in major categories; poor Into the Wild just got the short end of that stick in 2007.
- Andrew Kendall

1. J. Edgar (2011, Clint Eastwood)
A director who’d snuggled himself comfortably within the Academy’s bosom (even when the critics started to turn, with Changeling); a lead actor who spent most of the preceding decade marking up “overdue!” notices; a biopic of a Great Man with a closet famously jam-packed with lacy skeletons. That J. Edgar could manage to overcome all of those Oscarbaiting strengths to rack up not one single nomination is perhaps testament to many things – that even the Academy doesn’t like to be outright bullied into giving out statues, for one – but the biggest one of all is surely that the movie is just not that good, and everybody noticed. A movie respected by even a handful of key critics surely wouldn’t have ended up a national punchline on the strength of Armie Hammer’s infamously mummified old-age makeup. But out-of-control latex isn’t nearly the worst sin of this dramaturgically sodden collection of clichéd, harpyish mothers, self-loathing gays, and oppressively dusky interiors filmed with the choking reference of all the most nobly boring period pieces. All the immoderate self-respect in the world can’t overcome a strangled lack of humanity or creativity, and for once, the Oscars wanted more than just another competent, lifeless biopic.
- Tim Brayton

Do you remember these OscarBait stumbles? Which film would you argue should've made this list?

The also-rans
Here’s a list of the films that finished 11th to 20th in that order: Cast Away, Big Fish, Malcolm X, The Majestic, Hoop Dreams, Pay It Forward, Do the Right Thing, Flags of Our Fathers, Radio, Casino, and The Lovely Bones

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Reader Comments (56)

IIRC, the Crowe phone incident was during Cinderella Man in which he failed to get a nomination in a prestige, bait-y movie that under-performed and only got Supporting Actor.

Isn't Nine an all-timer? The whole ensemble of ladies presented together at the Oscars the year before. It had front-runner status for a while. At least with The Crucible, it still had Allen. Nine had some stand-out numbers but in addition to the stage version it was dealing with comparisons to FELLINI!

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

CMG- Our criteria was that any film with a best picture nomination, or more than two nominations in any categories, or win a single win in any category is ineligible. Nine doesn't pass so it wasn't in the running.

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

I think Nathaniel meant the Bafta incident, where he physically harassed the producer of the show for cutting his speech off.

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

How about Hyde Park on Hudson?

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPJ

Still incensed that Into the Wild got barely any love. Another Eric Gautier snub, along with the powerful editing, Hirsch's performance (still do not understand how that didn't happen), and most of all Eddie Vedder's songs (he should've had three nods for sure, if Dreamgirls could get that many). That's still one of my all-time favorite movies and it makes me wish Penn would direct again. And for what it's worth, Hal Holbrook would've gotten my vote that year.

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

Oh man, The Majestic. Yikes!

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Z

Remember when people thought Amelia would win Hilary Swank a third Oscar?!

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJonn

Love the mention of Short Cuts. I'd argue that The Player was similarly hyped and also only got the lone major nomination for Altman as Director. As for Short Cuts, I think Julianne Moore probably had the best shot at a nomination, but, for me, the best performance was from Jack Lemmon. A year after being criminally overlooked for Glengarry Glen Ross, Lemmon was passed over again for his heartbreaking role in Short Cuts.

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergwynn1984

Haha. I see what you did there, Glenn.

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWill h

arkaan -- i did. thanks for the correction

jonn -- lol. I DO.

Jordan -- I am firmly in the "didn't love" camp with Into the Wild but I think Holbrook would have had such a great shot at a win in a year without a steamroller presence (like Bardem). Sad for Holbrook. such a tender turn.

September 3, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Man on the Moon.(99)

Hoop Dreams was robbed. I remember the backlash when one of he members of the nominating committee had her film nominated but Hoop Dreams wasn't. It kicked HD into eveyone's mind and it did stellar box office, but was still robbed of the nomination it deserved.

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

You name it, it has got Spacey in it. Not only Shipping News and Pay It Forward byt also Beyond the Sea, K-Pax and The Life of David Gale.

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

I think the reason "Zodiac" didn't get any Oscar attention is simply because nobody liked the movie: sure, we may have admired it, but the declarations by critics that it was a masterpiece and the best film of the year -- when it so obviously wasn't -- resulted in voters being turned off by the film. (That it flopped early in the year didn't help.)

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

Amir-- Oh, my apologies.

Arkaan-- Yup, that was the incident and let's remember that was when the awards were still in March (and usually around my birthday) and there was a distance between BAFTAs and Oscars. Definitely had an effect.

Henry-- The Hoop Dreams debacle was a major subject for Siskel & Ebert. They played fair as much as they could but really championed the movie. Who remembers other docs from that year?

murtada-- Let us not forget one of the great vanity projects of the last 20 years, Beyond the Sea. My dad likes Kevin Spacey and hey loves Bobby Darin. Guess what he played in his car for almost a year? The Kevin sings Bobby soundtrack to Beyond the Sea.

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

A bit surprising that J. Edgar topped the list, but Invictus wasn't even in the top 20. Also, I thought Amelia would break the top ten thanks to Nathaniel's ballot alone ;)

I guess the reason why Into the Wild didn't do that well is that AMPAS rarely warms up to movies about people in that age bracket.

I just realized I've had the DVD of American Gangster for about four years, but still haven't gotten around to watching it.

And finally - that picture of Demi Moore on the poster of Bobby cracks me up. Her hair looks more suitable for Marie Antoinette.

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJan

outstanding article. very astute, I agree with everything. bravo! now I" want to see them all!

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrichg

Joseph- Well, I just don't like the movie, I love the movie. It is a remarkable study of tension, be it a construct of the conscience or really happening, and the way fear and paranoia pervades. I put it up against a lot of modern horror movies in that department. The editing, the sound design, and Harris Savides cinematography are all-around excellent. The technical categories deserved nominations.

Let's not confuse more positive legacy in hindsight with the reception at the time. It had a good showing on critics top ten lists but in no way was having this building groundswell of critical praise amid There Will Be Blood or No Country for Old Men. All 3 are brilliant in very different ways and honestly I heard the same comments of those two other films being more 'admired' and 'critically declared so-called masterpieces' by people. 2007 was one of the best years in movies, people are allowed to have different favorites. People also really loved The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford (brilliant Deakins cinematography and such a strong ensemble) but I don't see people accusing its 'floppage' on critical adoration.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

As of lately, I remember how Casino Royale was building momentum as to becoming the best Bond movie, one of the highest grossing movies on the US and it was gonna play big time at the Oscars (Daniel Craig included).

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

Great list, but the one I want to focus on is Beloved. I think it was bound to fail from the get go, it was just too difficult. Not saying that it isn't a fine adaptation (I think the film is actually pretty good), but a film about slavery, rape, and infanticide ain't exactly gonna put butts in the seats. They never should've spent as much as they did on the production and as good as I think Oprah's performance is, Angela Bassett should've played Sethe. Oprah would've served the production best as solely the producer (her profile was just too high at that time, and I don't think her audience was all that interested in or ready to see her in such a difficult role/film) and just think of how much better the world would be if Ms. Bassett scored a second nomination and possible win.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVal

@Val: I think Alfre Woodard might actually have been my preferred choice. Bassett was a bit young at the time, and Sethe/Beloved is all about having a long history. The world would be a better place with Woodard as a multiple nominee, too, and though she's had a terrific career, this could have been the kind of part to really ratchet it further up. That said, you're probably right that this was always an uphill climb. And I don't think Demme's stylistic affectations (those straight-to-camera close-ups, for example) really served the material all that well. Oprah's... let's call it her ambitious casting was also a lightning rod as well as an aesthetic problem, though I don't actually think she's bad in it, especially if you get past her first few scenes. I mostly agree with you: I think the movie's much better than the public or the novel's disciples tend to give it credit for, and it's unforgivable that this sort of material is treated as box office poison, when people obviously need to spend more time contemplating these kinds of histories and stories.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick Davis

Will H, what did I do? :/

I'm surprised by some of the titles on the list. Only four films I voted for made it into the top ten. And while it's hard to argue with BELOVED and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN's inclusions, or even INTO THE WILD (although I really don't like that movie at all and think its young male protagonist probably doomed it), some of the others I don't think can be all *that* disappointed. Was ZODIAC ever gunning for Oscar? It was released in March, after all. And SHORT CUTS feels like maybe it was shafted in screenplay and editing, but other than that I can't imagine many categories it genuinely could have placed in. I'd say THE PLAYER had more of a "best picture vibe". I dunno.

My top ten were:

1. The Crucible
2. Robin Hood
3. The Shipping News
4. Bobby
5. J. Edgar
6. Reservation Road
7. Spanglish
8. The Majestic
9. Pay it Forward
10. Fahrenheit 9/11

I actually out PAY IT FORWARD on there above certain other contenders because not only did it miss on all counts, but it single-handedly destroyed Mimi Leder's career in the process. Meanwhile, gritty ROBIN HOOD, James L Brooks' SPANGLISH, the oh so serious very actorly RESERVATION ROAD (or even REVOLUTIONARY ROAD), the missed FAHRENHEIT, and the serious no for real is Jim Carrey gonna happen MAJESTIC.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Hello? Pay It Forward?
Am I the only one who remembers it?
Is that maybe a good thing?

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Oh, I just noticed the also-rans. Never mind.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Every year people remind me that I was the only person who loved FROST/NIXON.

I can't have been the only one, right?

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulien Faddoul

RADIO!! Good lord! I literally never would have arrived at that movie existing, and I even saw it. Was that 2003?

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulien Faddoul

The Crucible no doubt, especially since many insiders believed before it was released that it would be nominated in every category existing. EW called it a masterpiece and so on, but they screwed up the release. Opening it limited and keeping it that way for a month or so, and it couldn't sustain the buzz.

The best shots for Short Cuts were Andie Macdowell wasn't it? or Madeleine Stowe/Jennifer Jason Leigh?

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJesper L

Jesper -- the attention was all over the face and never coalesced around any one person. I personally think Madleine Stowe & Jack Lemmon were best in show though.

September 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Oprah's a wonderful actress, who continues to receive the shortchange of opinion simply because her fame lies in being a mega television personality. None of her three film roles would be better served by another actress in them. BELOVED is such an underrated affair, a black art film released through the studio system that isn't a Spike Lee Joint. If BELOVED wasn't an Oprah Winfrey vehicle, or a film dealing with American history from the African-American perspective, it would receive its proper reevaluation as challenging cinema. It doesn't matter in the end, the people who claim they want black films of a certain caliber/quality usually dismiss them on arrival. That's not Hollywood's fault when there's a lack of financial support during their theatrical runs.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I think there are things to enjoy in Jedgar esp Leo AND Judi and i'll say it again Hilary is no worse in Amelia than Sandra in The Blind Side it's just more fun to knock here,i also liked Stone in Bobby.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermark

I'm really surprised and disappointed to see Into the Wild make this list, especially so high. That turned out to be such a personal film that it hardly packed the broad prestige punch of some of the other movies mentioned. I would consider Into the Wild a modest, reputable artistic success. And what about something like Amelia? The Manchurian Candidate? Lions for Lambs? Rendition? Elizabeth: The Golden Age? At least three of those are punchlines for how poorly they panned out.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W

Valkyrie? Evening? The Lovely Bones? How on Earth does Short Cuts make a list these don't?

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W

I remember being so bummed when Emile Hirsch didn't get a nomination for Into The Wild. I thought he was great. J. Edgar tried so hard that it was almost embarrassing to watch. I thought the "honest Oscar poster" that (I think) College Humor made for J. Edgar really nailed it. "Give me an Oscar! I'll take anything, even Best Make Up!"

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrittani

Not sure what The Manchurian Candidate was in terms of awards despite another juicy role for Meryl Streep. I actually think it is a good remake and a much stronger movie than it is given credit for but I actually think the Streep casting (and I like that performance) made people jump to Hillary Clinton comparisons a little too easily and reductively. It cost a lot more than I expected ($80 million- I assume a large chunk to both Meryl and Denzel) and did not cross the $100 million threshold but given how many flops Demme was dealing with at that point, breaking even was a victory.

Speaking of Denzel, The Hurricane. This is what I imagine what Norman Jewison's Malcolm X would have looked like and it terrifies me. The way basic facts were fudged and how unnecessary those choices were infuriated me. Luckily only Washington got nominated and honestly, in that year, he shouldn't have been nominated.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Hayden - As I wrote in my introduction paragraph:
"Note that this [poll] is not a qualitative judgment [of the films] - some stank, some were superb. But, for one reason or another, they fell short of what The Golden Man deems "Best". In simple terms – borrowed from Team Experience member, Nick Davis – these are the ten films that have the largest gap between their Oscar hopes and their Oscar outcomes."

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

It may not be as Oscar-baity as some of those named above, but I'd put United 93 on the list. I still think it was the best film of its year, but it only got two Oscar nominations (director and editing).

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBill_the_Bear

Ok. When did Zodiac run for an Oscar or two? That movie is so great and of course this Fincher movie would never be recognised by the Academy. Its just too good

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

Ugh! "Life of DavidGale" That's exactly the movie I was trying to think of! Thanks Murtada :-) It was so bad.

And The Shipping News. Looked promising on paper...

Of this ten, I was most disappointed that Beloved wasn't as good as I anticipated.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

@Amir—Yep, read that. Thanks, though.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W

I didn't even know about the existence of Bobby. When a big Oscar hopeful fails to be a big Oscar contender is like the tree in the forest that falls down with no one around? Does it fall in silence?

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

Manuel -- Zodiac had a solid awards campaign, that even used a tagline that was something like "not all great pictures are released at the end of the year" or some such. i couldn't find an FYC ad but i admired their chutzpah at the time and though i hadn't thought of it I agree with Andrew that the film changed the way Hollywood thought of Fincher and allowed the next wave of Oscar nominations to happen.

Iggy -- i think it was a SAG hit if i recall?

September 4, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Bobby was SAG and Golden Globe nominated. Likely before anybody had actually *seen* it. Ditto NINE.

Bill the Bear, no way was United 93 ever getting near Best Picture. I think a director and editing nomination is an OVERachievement, really. It was my #1 or #2 of the year, but I don't think they had delusions of grandeur for that film that were never realistically going to be met.

And, look, let's just be thankful that the SHORT CUTS buzz never coalesced around Andie Macdowell, yes?

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Moore git an indie nod,def best in show,i liked f/n better the 2nd time.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermark

I know Zodiac has a lot of admirers, but dear me, what a slog. The sign of the Zodiac should be The End. Sigh.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

CMG - wasn't it weird how Spacey's beloved pet project was so ignored, but Glenn Close's beloved pet project "Albert Nobbs" managed 3 nominations, including one undeserved nomination for herself in a very crowded Best Actress race? I wonder if it's because Spacey already had 2 Oscars by then so the Academy felt fine ignoring him, whereas with Close there's still the overdue/underdog feeling.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

4 out of my 10 choices starred Spacey, and Midnight in the Garden in the Good and Evil just missed. What the Hell happened to that guy's ability to choose projects?

I'll publish my full list over at Serious Film soon.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

What's with "Sleepers"?

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStephan

"CMG - wasn't it weird how Spacey's beloved pet project was so ignored, but Glenn Close's beloved pet project "Albert Nobbs" managed 3 nominations, including one undeserved nomination for herself in a very crowded Best Actress race? I wonder if it's because Spacey already had 2 Oscars by then so the Academy felt fine ignoring him, whereas with Close there's still the overdue/underdog feeling."

Spacey, as you said, had two already and frankly, has a reputation. Glenn Close had been ignored by the Academy, I've never heard a bad word against her, and the project was known for years in the making whereas the Spacety-Darin thing seemed out of thin air (I swear it was only known about Spacey being a singer during that George Harrison tribute). I am starting to think the AMPAS voters who did not put in their screeners just checked marked Glenn while the ones who actually did only voted for McTeer.

Honestly, the juicy parts for Beyond the Sea belonged to Caroline Aaron and Brenda Blethyn and their whole secret they hid from Bobby which I frankly thought the movie should've played straight than exploit the reveal (Darin's biological mother posed as his sister and his grandma posed as his mother for years). I also thought the movie failed in terms of identifying Darin's changing musical journey as chameleon or just plain poser, but again this was a project on vanity and Spacey wanted the drama.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Elise was completely robbed of a nomination for Beloved, but Newton... I can't even watch her. It's one of the worst performances I've ever seen. It destroys the movie. I was on a big Morrisson kick back in college (Sula would make for a fascinating film), so I was sure I would enjoy this. Nope.

Zodiac was Fincher's best film. If I ruled the world he would have won Best Director that year, and it was a damn competitive year.

Malcolm X was totally robbed by the Oscars. Into the Wild, not so much. Emile Hirsch's reputation was probably part of it, but I was completed thrilled on nomination morning that Atonement and Juno bumped it out. I assume it would have made the cut with our current system, though, as would The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (plus American Gangster, ugh).

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I liked The Shipping News. If that cast got together and read the alphabet in around, I'd probably be down for that too.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

CMG, during the 1999 Oscar season, the WSJ did a poll, for the first and last time, of AMPAS members. It predicted all categories correctly except Best Actor, where Kevin Spacey came in a very close second to Denzel for The Hurricane. So I have to believe he almost won for that part.

I have been following the Oscars closely since '89, and I don't even remember The Majestic.

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I remember Kill Bill had some attention that never panned out. Then of course there was the whole 4 months 3 weeks & 2 days situation.. Didn't they actually change the foreign Oscar voting rules because of that movie?

September 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDino

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