No mass cultural event has the capacity to infuriate like the Oscars. There’s no logical reason why we should care about the giant party the Academy throws itself each year to distribute a few dozen gilded eunuch statuettes to its temporarily most-favored members, or the brutal, months-long campaign that seeks to sway the opinions of the organization’s most suggestible voters, or the names that are read from a series of dramatically opened envelopes during a four-hour telethon dedicated to the eradication of ego-poverty in the greater Beverly Hills area.
Yet we do. We bellyache by the watercooler; we filibuster on our Twitter accounts; we bore the living shit out of anyone within earshot about how Lincoln was just an overblown history lesson, Argo a competent-enough piece of mainstream filmmaking, Silver Linings Playbook a screwball trifle that ends in identical fashion to every Drew Barrymore rom-com ever made. We draw battle lines. We take sides. We formulate pro and con arguments about how much exposed flesh Ben Affleck is allowed to demand of Ben Affleck before he self-violates his nudity rider.
And when the movies and directors and actors and Victorian-period-garbers and stacks of three-hole-punched paper we like the most are not the ones winning the statues, we get pissed. How dare they deny Pulp Fiction its due, stab Goodfellas in the gut as it squirms helplessly in Kevin Costner’s trunk, nod in Michael Haneke’s direction when Kathryn Bigelow is standing right there in front of their faces? How’s Driving Miss Daisy working out for everybody? Anyone not want to suffocate themselves with that plastic bag from American Beauty when they think about Kevin Spacey whaling on his abs in his garage?
There we go, getting all riled up about stuff that doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s because we have too much time on our hands, or think that our ticket purchase somehow constitutes a Best Picture vote. Maybe it’s because it’s a steaming load of a headless horse’s shit that nobody thought to give Michael Corleone an Oscar, but then handed him one for hoo-ahing it up with Robin 20 years later.
We shouldn’t get upset. Yet we do.
And then we make brackets. It’s the only sensible response to the last 40 years of pent-up awards rage.
This bracket, as they all do, began as a shouting match in a conference room, involved a selection process even more corrupt than that of the Oscars themselves, and was meticulously engineered to inspire the greatest possible levels of righteous outrage in its organizers and participants alike. Graft, strong-arming, whisper campaigns, misinformation, Weinsteining: It’s all in there. It seemed both logical and appropriate that our own methods should be every bit as dysfunctional as the Academy’s.
We did, however, set a cut-off date of 1972. Nothing previous to The Year of The Godfather was considered. We warned you we were arbitrary and corrupt.
Intermission: Steven Spielberg Watches Himself Get Snubbed for Jaws
The Nominees: A Taxonomy of Travesties
What constitutes an Oscar Travesty? Here are all 32 nominees, grouped in relatively self-explanatory categories to help illustrate what’s going on here. Did we throw in a bunch of things that weren’t about a particular movie/person winning or not winning an award, just because it seemed that this would be even more fun this way? We sure did. Stoned hosts, Benignis, dresses, siblings making us uncomfortable, the entire history of the song category — why not mix it up? They’re all part of the travesty tapestry. The only important thing is that at the end of this process, we all have one target for our collective rage. That seems a worthy enough goal.
Tough Calls That Went the Wrong Way
Kramer vs. Kramer over Apocalypse Now
The English Patient over Fargo
On the Wrong Side of History
Rocky over Taxi Driver, Network, and All the President’s Men
Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas
Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction
Zero Dark Thirty‘s Kathryn Bigelow1 for Best Director
The Dark Knight for Best Picture
Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction loses to Martin Landau in Ed Wood
Bill Murray in Lost in Translation loses to Sean Penn in Mystic River
Denzel Washington in Malcolm X loses to Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman
John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever loses to Richard Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl
Al Pacino never winning for The Godfather
Looks Pretty Bad in Hindsight
Driving Miss Daisy
Martin Scorsese denied until The Departed
An Oscarless Spike Lee
Stanley Kubrick, 0 for Best Director
John Cazale, never nominated in his tragically way-too-short, but nearly perfect career
13 (!) nominations for Benjamin Button
Angelina Jolie kissing her brother
The Best Song category
Every Dance Number Ever
Rob Lowe and Snow White
Harvey Weinstein Killed Some People
Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan
The King’s Speech over The Social Network
Billy Crystal’s blackface
James Franco’s hosting
Seth MacFarlane, preemptively
Roberto Benigni’s victory rampage
Björk’s swan dress2
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