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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Five Best: Oscar Winning Directors for the Wrong Movie

David Fincher courtesy of
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a habit of making amends too late. This vicious cycle only continues, as recipients then snub other deserving nominees who eventually get an undeserved Oscar and so on and so forth. I decided to take a look at the deserving directors who have won Oscars, just for the wrong film. That's not saying the film they won for was an injustice - they just have better films that they should have won for. So, let's take a look, in chronological order.

NOTE: I used the photo of David Fincher here because he will eventually join this list - I guarantee it. Not that he makes "Oscar friendly films" that often, but still. He's already getting no respect (Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network - only one directing nominee among them and no wins), and will probably be again this year.

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James Cameron

Won for: Titanic (1997)

Should Have Won for: The Abyss (1989)

I don't like James Cameron. I really don't. But I do respect him as a filmmaker, especially before he became the special effects obsessed man he is now. Sure, his older films had nice effects, but they supplemented the story, as opposed to overwrote it. He won for the spectacle Titanic in 1997, but I, for one, felt he deserved it more for The Abyss, a much better, more interesting film. The Oscar that year was won by Oliver Stone for Born on the Fourth of July, further supporting my point. The Abyss wasn't even nominated.

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Joel & Ethan Coen

Won for: No Country for Old Men (2007)

Should Have Won for: Fargo (1996)

The Coen borthers should win for most of their films, but the biggest travesty came in 1996, when the modern masterpiece Fargo was passed over for - both in Best Picture and Best Director - for Anthony Minghella and The English Patient. No Country for Old Men was certainly a deserving accomplishment (though I would have chosen Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood that year), but they should have received it 11 years earlier, too.

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Ron Howard

Won for: A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Should Have Won for: Apollo 13 (1995)

Ron Howard doesn't have the most stellar track record as a director, but occasionally he makes a good film. I like A Beautiful Mind just fine, but he was up against Ridley Scott for Black Hawk Down, Peter Jackon for Lord of the Rings, and David Lynch for Mullholland Drive. Needless to say, he did NOT deserve that award. But, six years earlier, his best film to date, Apollo 13, wasn't even nominated for Best Director, as Mel Gibson walked away with it for Braveheart. The rest of the nominees weren't too stellar either, so Howard really should have taken it.

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Roman Polanski

Won for: The Pianist (2002)

Should Have Won for: Chinatown (1974)

Polanski has a littany of great films and The Pianist is certainly one of them. But, he made Chinatown. CHINATOWN. Now, he was up against Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather: Part II (who didn't even win for Part I - it went to Bob Fosse for Cabaret), but Chinatown is so complex and detailed that it took a steady hand behind the camera that shouldn't have gone unnoticed. 2002 was a weird year for nominees and it could've gone a number of different directions, but it probably should've gone to Pedro Almodóvar for Talk to Her or even Scorsese for Gangs of New York (which I didn't love, but still)...

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Martin Scorsese

Won for: The Departed (2006)

Should Have Won for: Goodfellas (1990), Raging Bull (1980), etc.

And now for the grand finale; the man who was beaten down so many times by the Academy that it was no wonder we assumed he'd never win. Marty finally won in 2006 for The Departed (which I love), but he shouldn't have gone empty-handed for so long. Let's take a look at his most deserving films and who won Best Director that year: Mean Streets (1973) - won by George Roy Hill for The Sting, Taxi Driver (1975) - won by Miloš Forman for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Raging Bull (1980) - won by Robert Redford for Ordinary People, The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) - won by Barry Levinson for Rain Man, Goodfellas (1990) - won by Kevin Costner for Dances with Wolves, Casino (1995) - won by Mel Gibson for Braveheart. He really did deserve it for The Departed, but good Lord it was a long time coming.

Who knows? Maybe one day the Academy will get it right the first time.

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