Almost every year the Academy Award snubs someone deserving of recognition. When you consider how many movies are made every year that should come as no surprise. What is more distressing is how many legends have never won an Academy Award. Consider that James Cameron has an Oscar, but Stanley Kubrick does not. Hilary Swank has two Oscars, but Glenn Close, Mia Farrow and Laura Linney have none between them. Katherine Hepburn has four Oscars, but Barbara Stawyck tossed a shutout. Probably the most infamous lifetime Oscar snub today is the curious case of Martin Scorsese. As of this writing, Martin Scorsese has yet to win though he just picked up a nomination for The Departed. Will he win? Only time will tell. If he doesn’t, one need not get too upset. Marty is in what some might consider a far more illustrious club than those whose biography will always start off with Oscar winning….
10. Danny Elfman.
Hard as it may be to believe, Danny Elfman has only been nominated for an Academy Award three times and two of those came in the same year. Total wins? Zero. Maybe his lifetime Oscar snub has something to do with his rock and roll background, or maybe it’s because Oscar voters are so lazy that whenever they see the name John Williams on the ballot they just automatically vote for him whether they’ve seen the movie and heard his score or not.
9. Gordon Willis
The lifetime Oscar snub of Gordon Willis defies explanation. This is the cinematographer responsible for creating the iconic look of films such as The Godfather, parts I and II, All the President’s Men, and Manhattan. Even more shocking than Gordon Willis not winning an Academy Award for those films is that he wasn’t even nominated! He finally secured a nomination for what I consider to be the most incredible cinematography of all time in an American film, Zelig, but lost. At least he lost to another legendary cameraman, Sven Nykvist for Fanny and Alexander.
8. Glenn Close.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, what you’ve heard is not a rumor, but fact: Cher is an Academy Award-winning actress, but Glenn Close is not. There’s two words for a universe in which that sentence isn’t satire, but I’ll clean up the language. Messed up.
7. Ingmar Bergman.
He would be higher, but since he’s a foreigner his chances are limited as it is. In a perfect world, he’d have a shelf full of Oscars since most of his greatest work was in the 50s and 60s. So, while directors of movies like Gigi and My Fair Lady have Oscars, Ingmar Bergman has none. What a world. Memo to the Academy: Time is running out, give him a lifetime achievement award before he dies. I guess I can kind of understand his not winning a Best Director Oscar in light of his movies being foreign language films, but what really galls me is that his screenplay for Wild Strawberries, though nominated, lost to…Pillow Talk! I mean, come on, if they just didn’t want to give it Berman, couldn’t they at least have saved him some humiliation by giving it to North by Northwest?
6. Cary Grant.
Some say Cary Grant never won and Academy Award because he wasn’t really acting, he was playing himself. Maybe. Perhaps. But then how do you explain the Oscar wins of Gary Cooper and John Wayne and Michael Douglas? Cary Grant was an enormously talented actor and versatile, too. He could go from manic screwball comedy in Arsenic and Old Lace to icy cool in Notorious to clueless in North by Northwest. He was also capable of deep, dark dramatic turns such as None but the Lonely Heart. And then he could do both comedy and drama at the same time as in The Bishop’s Wife. Not really acting? Then why is it that with all the amazingly talented actors to come our away since Grant quit acting that there has never once been anyone even remotely like him? It’s painful to watch his namesake Hugh try to be the next Cary Grant. Well, actually, it’s just painful to watch Hugh Grant, period.
5. Stanley Kubrick.
Dr. Strangelove. 2001: A Space Odyssey. A Clockwork Orange. The Shining. Full Metal Jacket. And not an Oscar in the bunch. There are two reasons for Stanley Kubrick’s lifetime Oscar snub: He rejected America by emigrating to England and he made cold movies. Oscar loves feel-good, uplifting flicks. How else to explain how Rocky beat out Taxi Driver, All the President’s Men and Network, three movies so infinitely superior that it’s laughable. You don’t come out of a Kubrick movie feeling good. In fact, the problem is even worse that. You come out of a Kubrick movie thinking and Oscar rarely rewards movies that make you think. The Academy Awards prefer you to feel, preferably in the way you’ve just been manipulated to feel.
4. Orson Welles.
Probably the most famous snub in movie history was Orson Welles not winning Best Director for what is widely considered the greatest movie ever made (not by me) Citizen Kane. What is more shocking to me is that that he wasn’t even nominated for Touch of Evil or The Magnificent Ambersons. Some say Welles’ lifetime Oscar snub is a result of jealousy, but I don’t think so. Orson Welles’ committed a far greater crime than merely being a genius in a city overrun with mediocrity: his movies never made any money.
3. Barbara Stanwyck.
Comedy. Drama. Romance. Soap opera. Sexy. Funny. Tough. Film noir. Screwball. Westerns. There was nothing that Barbara Stanwyck couldn’t do. She is, without question, the most versatile film actress in history. What is so amazing to me is that Katherine Hepburn has four Oscars despite speaking with the same New England accent whether playing a common American or a Queen of England, yet Stanwyck has none. If you don’t think Barbara Stanwyck is the sexiest actress in history, then Netflix such pre-code sex dramas at Baby Face, Illicit or Night Nurse. If you don’t think Barbara Stanwyck is one of the funniest women in movie history, then Netflix Ball of Fire or The Lady Eve. If you don’t think Barbara Stanwyck could do scary, Netflix Double Indemnity. And then watch Lady of Burlesque where Barbara Stanwyck not only sings, but does cartwheels while wearing heels and a stripper outfit!
2. Montgomery Clift.
Few people today realize that in the early 50’s Montgomery Clift was bigger than either Marlon Brando or James Dean. He was also there before them. He made the cover of Life Magazine and is still considered one of the most handsome movie stars of all time. But all that changed after an ill-advised decision to leave a party at Elizabeth Taylor’s house. Clift had had a few and was in no condition to drive. The result was a horrific car accident that nearly cost him his life; had it not been for Elizabeth Taylor reaching into his throat and pulling out teeth that were blocking his air passage, he might well have died. Of course, had Montgomery Clift died that night at the height of his fame, he would have gone on to become the legend that James Dean became. Instead, the accident destroyed his good looks and painkillers destroyed his career, but not his talent. One can make an argument that Montgomery Clift should have had at least three Oscars. His acting in A Place in the Sun, From Here to Eternity and Judgment at Nuremburg were all clearly the best performances of their respective years.
1. Martin Scorsese.
Martin Scorsese doesn’t just take the top spot because he’s arguably the most talented American director in film history. What is so annoying about his lifetime Oscar snub is the fact that he’s been beaten by such undeserving competition. He could have won for Taxi Driver and lost to the long-forgotten hack who directed Rocky. He definitely should have won for Raging Bull and lost to first time director Robert Redford. Redford is a talented director and on its own terms (of endearment) Ordinary People is a fine movie. But let’s face it: it’s not Raging Bull! I am perhaps a little biased here since Raging Bull happens to be my favorite movie of all time, but when you consider it was named the best film of the 80s by movie critics in 1990, well. Then there’s 1990 and Goodfellas. Again, Martin Scorsese loses to an actor’s first directorial debut, the unwatchable Dances with Wolves. And that’s not even to mention losing Last Temptation of Christ to Barry Levinson for Rain Man. Rain Man’s a fine movie, sure, but not only is the direction pedestrian, Levinson must also accept some blame for letting Dustin Hoffman turn in that exceptionally overrated performance. A lot of people look at the Academy Awards snub of Martin Scorsese and they ask what’s going on, but I think there’s a much simpler answer than jealousy or envy. If you look back you’ll see that most of the time he’s lost to an actor/director. Perhaps the biggest slap in the face was when the Academy awarded Clint Eastwood the Best Director trophy for Million Dollar Baby. I mean, come on, there’s got to be something there when Eastwood is given an Oscar for a boxing movie, right? I don’t think so. The Academy is made up of people from all aspects of the filmmaking business, but the largest single voting bloc is actors. And every actor really wants to direct. It has been Scorsese’s misfortune to get nominated in years when he’s gone up against an actor-turned-director. (The case of losing to Rocky is so mind-blowingly difficult to comprehend that we must consider that in terms of the rampant drug use of the 70s.) This year Martin Scorsese is up against an actor-turned-director once again. Only this time it is Scorsese who is the fortunate one. For one thing, Eastwood got nominated for a foreign-language film, which has never been considered a good thing. For another, Eastwood already has two and just won over Scorsese a couple of years ago. The Queen is an actor’s movie and Babel is too much like Crash. That leaves only Scorsese and Paul Greengrass for United 93. No one has ever won Best Director for a movie that wasn’t also nominated for Best Picture so I’m going out on a limb and predicting that this year Martin Scorsese will win Best Director.