An Oscar is considered one of the best awards a movie can get, but at the same time, they're no guarantee of the success or relevance of a film.
The Academy Awards are almost here and we’re all experiencing all that annual excitement around them. Don’t take me wrong, I’ve always been an Oscars fan and I don’t even know why, to be honest. Each year I get on board of all the craze and even bet with everybody on the years’ winners (maybe there’s my answer). Now, what I’ve noticed after years of religiously watching the ceremony, is that we tend to remember only those films that won the best movie and only if they were extremely popular or ended up being blockbusters. But there are tons of films that have been recognized by the Academy that no matter if they won or how many nominations they had, they just went into oblivion in most of the audience’s heads. Now, it’s not that they’re only good or bad because the Academy says so, actually there are tons of cases where you just don’t understand what went on in their minds, but we can’t deny it’s still a good reference to start with. So bearing this in mind, I made a very short selection of films that were awarded at their time and that almost nobody talks about or remembers.
The Omen (1976) Dir. Richard Donner
This one isn’t that forgotten actually since we’re all familiar with the story, but I’m almost certain that from all the lore of horror films of the time, The Omen didn’t stick into our collective imaginary as others. You know the story, after his son dies at the hospital right after being born, a powerful ambassador decides to replace him with a little baby whose mom has just died as well. Little does he know that baby Damien is the son of Satan and the antichrist. As he grows up surrounded by luxury and wealth, the lives of those around him won’t be as pleasant. This horror film, which we can say are not often considered by the Academy, was awarded Best Original Song thanks to the eerie score by Jerry Goldsmith.
Chariots of Fire (1981) Dir. Hugh Hudson
We all know the reference of the athletes running by the beach with the emblematic song that’s been replicated throughout the years (you can watch a hilarious homage to that moment in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in London 2012 with the awesome Rowan Atkinson). But have you actually watched the film, or even knew the reference was taken from it? It took me many, many years to actually watch it and although it’s not my favorite, I must admit it has all the elements of a classic movie. It tells the story of the Olympic athletes Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams and their struggle to overcome all their hurdles, literally and metaphorically. The movie got seven nominations and won four including Best Picture.
Gandhi (1982) Dir. Richard Attenborough
With a very uncanny resemblance, Ben Kingsley gives life to one of the most renowned and celebrated men in history. This biopic centers on the life of Mahatma Gandhi and his movement to free India from the claws of the British empire. This is one of those films that has won most of its nominations with eight out of eleven including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (basically the most important ones), and yet, other films competing that same year were more memorable (like Tootsie, or even E.T.).
The Fly (1986) Dir. David Cronenberg
This is one of the films that have disturbed me the most. Seriously, I can’t expand on how much it appeals to the grotesque but in actually a thrilling way. Although in recent times it’s become popular as a cult film, the story of an eccentric scientist who after a failed experiment ends up becoming a gross mutation of men and fly, wasn’t very likely to be considered for an award. However, it was actually nominated and awarded with Best Makeup and Hairstyling. I mean it’s not one of the strong awards but it actually says a lot of the impact the visuals of this movie had.
Dances with Wolves (1990) Dir. Kevin Kostner
Dances with Wolves is one of those films everybody praises but is kind of boring at a first watch. I procrastinated a lot to finish it after I started it some years ago, but when I had to actually watch it for my dissertation I actually liked it. It tells the story of a lieutenant who is sent to a military post in the frontier with the Lakota tribe. After many hostilities, he ends up establishing a good relationship with them which teaches him that all the ideas he had towards them were all harmful stereotypes. This movie didn’t only mean the rebirth of the western, but even when it’s full of inaccuracies and it has some sort of a hypocritical point of view, for the first time it depicted a less damaging image of native American tribes and their history. This, of course, won it seven out of twelve nominations including Best Picture and Best Director.
The Full Monty (1997) Dir. Peter Cattaneo
This is one of those films that’s widely popular over Britain, but not that much anywhere else. It tells the story of a group of unemployed men who decide to become strippers when they realize this makes way much more money than what they made as steelworkers. As you can imagine this movie is filled with irreverent and very British comic moments but at the same time makes some serious statements on social matters like unemployment, economy, and even body image. That’s why perhaps it was nominated for Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and Score. Though it was a very tough year for the movie since it was competing in everything with Titanic. Still, it was awarded Best Score, which is a lot compared with what the producers were actually expecting when they did it.
The Red Violin (1999) Dir. François Girard
This one is like the classic “dad-film”, you know the one your parents love for some reason and that’s why you know them but that actually you have no clue what it is about. Well, perhaps I made it too personal, the thing is that I remember seeing that tape on the shelf almost all my life and until very recently I decided to give it a chance, and it wasn’t that bad actually. It literally tells the story of a violin created in the seventeenth century and the tragic stories of those who have owned it throughout the centuries. It was nominated and awarded with Best Original Score and although that was it, I think this is one of those movies perfect to watch over a lazy Sunday.
Babel (2006) Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
I remember how this film was a hit over Mexico at the time and people got really crazy about it not only because it was directed by the famous Iñárritu who gave us The Revenant and Birdman, but also because it was his second international film, and his first real blockbuster with Brad Pitt, and Cate Blanchett in the lead roles. Taking the Biblical story of Babel and how all towns spoke the same language as an allegory, the film is divided into three main stories (set in Japan, Morocco, and the border between Mexico and the US) and how they are intertwined. This not very conventional plot narrative gave Iñárritu six nominations of which he only won for Best Score.
The Hurt Locker (2009) Dir. Kathryn Bigelow
This film created such a fuss at its time that I went to see it following the craze, it even got six of its nine nominations including Best Director (making Kathryn Bigelow the first woman to win in this category), Best Picture, and Best Original Screenplay. Perhaps all the craze was actually due to the fact that her movie was competing against her ex-husband’s (James Cameron) Avatar, which well, we know wasn’t the best thing ever. Still, I had totally forgotten about this film that tells the story of a military Explosive Ordinance Disposal team during the Iraq War and the tensions and stress this provokes in them.
The Artist (2011) Dir. Michel Hazanavicius
Actually, I liked this film a lot and I often rewatched it, but the reality is that the interest only lasted for a year and then it passed to history. This visionary film took us back to the Golden Age of Silent Cinema. It tells the story of an Hollywood star whose entire career and life are threatened with what they refer to “talkies,” meaning cinema as we know it. The movie was nominated for eleven awards and won four including the three most important ones, Best Picture, Director, and Actor. Oh, and how could people forget about the cute dog Oggie?! I don’t get it.
These films made Oscar history during their time, but apparently, they didn’t last that much in our minds for some reason. I stopped the counting in 2011 assuming that we all can remember some of the best movies in the past seven years. Still, I was surprised at how many of these most recent ones, I had totally forgotten of their existence, but maybe we can leave them for the second part of this article.
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