David Simon Cowell will cover the worst Oscar snubs later in the week (beyond the obvious, of course). But today let’s discuss not those who were left out, but those who made the cut. Namely, the nine films that were nominated for Best Picture. Keep in mind: the wise and considered Academy didn’t have to nominate nine films. Five would have sufficed under the new rules. But no, voters determined that nine films this year made such excellent cases for themselves that they simply could not be ignored.
I haven’t yet seen all nine films that received nominations. Unfortunately, I am now obligated to do so, thanks to my dedication to PCHA readers. (It’s gonna be a bumpy ride, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.) But I’m reasonably confident that this field is filled with the mediocre and the damned.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse (“A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient horse walks in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you. A WAR HORSE, though, tramples over all the fucking Germans then swoops you up and carries you to safety.” — Author Unknown
We can’t say with certainty yet just how terrible this field of nominees is historically, but for context, let’s see what it’s up against. In evaluating a field of nominees, you have to look for two things: the absence of great films, and the inclusion of truly awful films. Ranking the worst Best Picture nominee fields of the last 40 years:
The Cider House Rules
The Green Mile
The Sixth Sense
“Goodnight, you princes of Maine! You kings of New England!” “Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.” “He infected us both, didn’t he, Mr. Jingles? With life.”
Bonus negative points for inflicting the Shyamalan plague upon us all.
The Killing Fields
A Passage to India
Places in the Heart
A Soldier’s Story
The mid-’80s served as the salad days for overwrought, self-indulgent melodramas racking up nominations. Directors attempted to recreate the scope of the best films of the ’70s, but lacked originality, vision and subtlety. There’s not a great movie among these five, nor anything remotely resembling self-awareness or a sense of humor.
Out of Africa
The Color Purple
Kiss of the Spider Woman
Like I said. Out of Africa and A Passage to India might just be the most ’80s Oscar nominees in existence. Does anyone ever want to watch any of these five movies again? Didn’t think so.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Yuck. So fucking self-important. Not a great movie in the bunch, and only one that could arguably classify as good (Frost/Nixon). Benjamin Button and Slumdog drag down this field with the weight of their undeservedly good reviews, running times and preciousness.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2000 earns the top spot more for its overwhelming mediocrity than for any stunningly bad films. Can we all agree now, more than a decade on, that Gladiator is not an award-worthy film? And that Chocolat is tripe? And that Crouching Tiger had some cool special effects and that’s about it?
Hey, do you know what came out in 2000 and didn’t receive a nomination? Almost fucking Famous. (Also Battlefield: Earth, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Just missed: 1995, 2004, 2009
This year’s field has its work cut out for it, but I think we can do it, you guys. Granted, it’s difficult to judge the expanded nominee groups against the bygone fields of five. In 2009, for example, trash like Avatar, Precious and The Blind Side scored nominations, but so did Inglourious Basterds, A Serious Man and District 9. But 2011 will definitely be assessed a penalty because the voters went out of their way to include more films than they needed to. Let’s all reassess in a few weeks after we’ve caught up on all the films. Cool? Cool.