James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Cole Clay // Film Critic
Awards season is in full effect. While on the outside looking in one would think that the truly “best” performances and projects will shine throughout the long, grueling and quite possibly fun campaign trail, the “best” is merely subjective. At the risk of sounding cynical, it’s all really just comes down to being the most popular kid(s) in class.
All of the critics groups, guilds and Golden Globes are simply a precursor for the Academy Awards, which goes without saying, carries a lot of weight in showbiz.
Lots of remarkable films and performances were overlooked this year, such as STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (Best Picture/Supporting Actor), STEVE JOBS (BEST PICTURE/Best Original Screenplay) and SICARIO (Best Picture/Best Director/Best Supporting Actor). Famously Leonardo DiCaprio has been “snubbed” more times than anybody of the past twenty years, commencing with his lack of Academy accreditation with TITANIC, and losing in 2013 for Leo’s work in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET to the slow like molasses drawl of DALLAS BUYERS CLUB’s Matthew McConaughey.
As Ricky Gervais said with a pint of pilsner in hand at last Sunday’s Golden Globes, “none of this really matters; let’s have some fun!” With that attitude it has made awards season quite more enjoyable and the one night film fans get to kick ESPN to the side and become the true center of attention.
Here at FreshFiction we gave our favorite Oscar snubs– the one’s we really have gotten never over (sad face emoji).
Best Picture Snub: GOODFELLAS (1990)
GOODFELLAS has gone on to be a modern classic after being released in 1990, and is regarded as director Martin Scorsese’s best two or three films (which is saying a lot given his pedigree). So much so, Scorsese went on to direct two more films about organized crime CASINO in 1995 and THE DEPARTED in 2006. The latter silenced the peanut gallery of staunch Scorsese supporter by winning Best Director/Best Picture.
But back to GOODFELLAS, which lost in several categories chiefly to Kevin Costner’s DANCES WITH WOLVES in the Best Picture category. You tell me which film has more of a reputation, the one that has Costner on a spiritual journey—although Costner’s film is quite remarkable to boot— or the hilarious kinetic energy of a group of violent wise guys. Not to mention De Niro was nominated for the “Academy friendly” film AWAKENINGS that year in the Supporting Actor category rather than his work as Irish mobster Jimmy Conway. To be fair this was, now, 26 years ago and the violence of GOODFELLAS could have come into play when the Academy was choosing their victor. Ya know, looking back not having the prestigious awards has not hampered the legacy of this truly masterful film.
– James Cole Clay
Best Picture Snub: FARGO (1996)
1996 was the year Cuba Gooding Jr. shouted “show me the money.” It was also the year SEINFELD, and I’m not the biggest fan of SEINFELD, joked about the film.
[Elaine and Peterman are watching “The English Patient”. Elaine is about to freak out of boredom]
Elaine Benes: [quietly] No. I can’t do this any more. I can’t. It’s too long.
Elaine Benes: [yells] Quit telling your stupid story about the stupid desert, and just die already! DIE!
J. Peterman: [surprised] Elaine, you don’t like the movie?
Elaine Benes: [shouts] I hate it!
[the audience shushes Elaine]
Elaine Benes: [shouts back] Oh, go to hell!
While THE ENGLISH PATIENT had one sexy bathtub scene, people are so inspired by the Coen brothers’ FARGO that they turned it into one of the best series on television. Meanwhile, THE ENGLISH PATIENT is remembered… scratch that. No one remembers it.
– Preston Barta
Best Picture Snub: SAVING PRIVATE (1998)
1998 was a pretty decent and interest year for cinema. All the Best Picture nominees were either war films or period pieces– SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, THE THIN RED LINE, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, ELIZABETH and SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. They were all good films, nonetheless, but only one should have won the top honor… and that was Steven Spielberg’s war epic SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.
It may not be the best story per se (a group of soldiers risking their lives for one man), but it’s one of the most staggering war films ever captured. It was also the highest grossing film in 1998.
How it lost to SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, a film we never talk about, I have no idea. I do remember when I was a youngin’ watching the reveal and Harrison Ford made a face like he was as pissed as everyone else.
– Preston Barta
Supporting Actor Snub: Samuel L. Jackson, PULP FICTION (1994)
Again, this has a lot to do with an original performance overshadowed by the impersonation of someone that actually existed. While the 1994 Oscars are talked about in various Oscar travesty articles (FORREST GUMP over either PULP FICTION or THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION depending on the perspective), I was more bummed about the coolness of Jules Winnfield losing to a faux Bela Lugosi.
Martin Landau’s portrayal of the horror legend in ED WOOD is a solid performance, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Jackson’s waves of dialogue and gusto that bombard you throughout Tarantino’s masterpiece. To this day, when people discuss PULP FICTION most of the quotes involve Jules, especially Ezekiel 25:17. When you have people, regardless of their religion, quoting the Bible, you have transcended the role into something special. No offense to the late, great Martin Landau, but he’s not even in the same ballpark, the same league, or the same sport.
– Jared McMillan
Lead Actor Snub: Mickey Rourke – THE WRESTLER (2008)
There is a long standing argument when it comes to the acting awards that the Academy gives every year: Is it fair to favor an actor when they are merely impersonating someone that actually existed outside of the cinematic world? In my opinion, I don’t believe so. Those that have hours of footage and recordings to use as reference have an upper hand to those that use their skill or presence to form something new… an original character to sell the narrative for the audience.
In 2008, Hollywood got taken over by the resurrection of Mickey Rourke, portraying Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a former big-name pro wrestler who is torn between his former passion for glory vs. his current passion in reality. Darren Aronofsky’s THE WRESTLER was something new and different, and Rourke gave life to this character study.
However, he would get beaten out for the Oscar by Sean Penn’s portrayal of Harvey Milk. Not that Penn’s performance wasn’t great, but it was a great impersonation of Harvey Milk. You could feel Rourke pouring his heart out into this role, never feeling forced, whereas you had those moments watching MILK. Ram Jam forever!
– Jared McMillan