Okay, it would be very easy to come up with a list of the oddest Academy Award nominations that included things like Rocky as Best Picture or Lee Marvin as Best Actor for Cat Ballou. But when I say odd I don’t mean just in terms of bad taste, I mean really bizarre and off the wall choices for a solid reason. For the most part the Academy Awards don’t usually make incredible left of center choices that defy reality, but there have been some that just leave you scratching your head.
10. Paul Zastupnevich, Best Costuming. The Swarm.
Here we have a 1978 movie that tells a contemporary story of a bee attack on everyday people. In other words, people wearing clothes that could be purchased in any Sears in America at the time. Or, for the abundance military figures in the film, any Army/Navy surplus store.
9. Tina Earbshaw, Greg Cannom, Simon Thompson, Best Makeup. Titanic.
Okay, well, we have an old woman playing Kate Winslet’s character as an old woman, so it can’t be because of that. And Kate looks like she just waltzed out of the makeup chair even in the scenes where she’s supposedly been through the most famous sinking in history, so it can’t be that. Where exactly was the extraordinary makeup application in this movie that was deserving of an Academy Award nomination again?
8. Best Sound Editing, 1980.
What’s odd about this is that in 1980 no film was awarded an Academy Award n this category. This despite the fact that two of the most amazing uses of sound editing in film history occurred during this year. Firstly, there was the simply stunning sound editing in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, especially when Danny Torrance is riding his Big Wheel throughout the hotel and the sound is perfectly edited to match the Big Wheel’s travel from wooden floor to carpeting. Even more amazing is the use of sound in the boxing scenes in Raging Bull. Listen closely and you can hear everything from the screeching of a jet plane to the roar of an animal. The fact that the Academy Awards didn’t see fit to even nominate these two movies is proof enough of how meaningless they are. Lot of fun, though.
7. Bhanu Athaiya, John Mollo, Best Costuming. Gandhi.
Must have had something to do with being able to find all those thousands of towels and sheets rather than the actual process of folding them around the actors’ bodies correctly.
6. Warren Beatty, Trevor Griffiths, Best Original Screenplay. Reds.
Umm, didn’t I read this exact same story in Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed, the main character of the story played by Warren Beatty? Original screenplay? Aren’t those suppose to be relegated to works of imagination?
5. Beatrice Straight, Best Supporting Actress. Network.
On-screen for less than eight minutes in a role that was hardy integral to the plot of the overall movie. Not saying she wasn’t terrific in that one scene, but come on! (See also Judi Dench for Shakespeare in Love.)
4. Timothy Hutton, Best Supporting Actor. Ordinary People.
By the time the Academy Award nominating process came around, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Robert DeNiro was going to win Best Actor for Raging Bull. The movie execs in charge of Ordinary People also figured that Raging Bull and Martin Scorsese were a lock for Best Picture and Best Director and they didn’t want to come away empty handed so they slyly placed Timothy Hutton in the Best Supporting Actor category, figuring that was their best shot. I can’t say for certain that Timothy Hutton holds the record for the most screen time ever for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner, but I’ll bet he’s at least in the top two. And by unfairly placing him in that category, Joe Pesci got cheated out of the Academy Award he so richly deserved for Raging Bull. But hey, it was a night for thievery.
3. Barry Fitzgerald, Best Actor AND Best Supporting Actor. Going My Way.
Yes, the only man to be nominated for an Academy Award twice in the same year for playing the same character in the SAME movie! Apparently, the Academy couldn’t decide whether Barry Fitzgerald’s character was a leading character or a supporting character. And rather than wimping out ala Timothy Hutton style, they split the difference and nominated him in both categories. Nothing like having firm convictions, huh? And yes, just in case you’re wondering, he did win the Academy Award for Supporting Actor.
2. Sascha Baron Cohen, et. al., Best Adapted Screenplay. Borat.
Any time I hear filmmakers discussing how their movie was 95% improvised, I know right away that the movie was at least 75% scripted. But in the case of Borat, either half of it was improvised in the form of honest reactions by people not in on the joke, or else the Academy needs to wipe the slate clean and populate all the acting categories with those who appeared alongside Borat. I mean, come on. We know what’s happening here; the Academy members are too gutless to nominate the movie for Best Picture or Cohen for Best Actor so they toss it this ridiculous bone. Hey Academy: rent some balls.
1. Kenneth Branagh, Best Adapted Screenplay. Hamlet.
Okay, I get that a screenplay is more than dialogue. There’s stage directions, for instance. And description. But let’s face it, most scripts are 90% dialogue. Therefore, shouldn’t William Shakespeare have at least gotten a co-nomination for this one? This is, as far as I know, the only English-language film that contains Hamlet uncut and in its entirety.