It's an annual rite. Oscar ballots are announced and people gripe about what movies and actors were left off. Here are 10 of the most egregious omissions/snubs.
1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
This movie deserved more awards than just Best Sound Mixing and should have been rewarded for George Lucas not directing it. It had everything, comedy, action, romance and even a kiss scene that millions of viewers would later realize was actually between a brother and a sister. The voters really dropped the ball on this one.
2. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
Morgan Freeman might occasionally mutter, "If I'd played a guy in a wheelchair, I'd have won." He lost out to Daniel Day-Lewis that year, which was a shame, since he and Jessica Tandy put on a tour de force of acting in this film.
3. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Tim Robbins climbed through a sewer and STILL lost to the Tom Hanks juggernaut Forrest Gump. Robbins has had a very underrated career in my eyes, though I'll always see him as "Nuke" LaLoosh.
4. The Color Purple (1985)
Steven Spielberg must have been feeling blue after being snubbed as Best Director. He probably wanted to feed the voters to Jaws. Spielberg is a brilliant director, but he has definitely gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to movie awards.
5. The Dark Knight (2008)
The late Heath Ledger won as the Joker, but the movie lost out to Slumdog Millionaire for Best Picture. I guess the voters didn't want to vote for a movie about a guy with pointy ears and a cape. It certainly was better than the next movie in the series, The Dark Knight Returns.
6. The Shining (1980)
All work and one stinkin' career Oscar made Stanley Kubrick sad. All work and one stinkin' career Oscar, and that Oscar wasn't even for directing! Kubrick definitely died with his eyes wide open about how the politics of Hollywood awards were won.
7. Leo DiCaprio for What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993)
What was eating Grape was DiCaprio's being robbed of an Oscar. He turned in brilliant work, especially for someone who had previously only been famous for appearing on Growing Pains.
8. Martin Scorsese for his whole career
The Oscar voters disagreed with early '90s alt-rockers King Missle's assertion that Scorsese "makes the best f*****g films" and kept him shut out of Best Director awards up until 2007's just-okay The Departed, which really felt like a consolation prize. It's a shame, since he can tell a story like very few directors.
9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
The comedy troupe probably wanted to lob the Holy Hand Grenade at the Oscar voters for not nominating this brilliant movie. Maybe the voters held the fact that they ran out of money and had to film a hasty ending against them.
10. Argo (Ben Affleck, director)
The Oscar voters apparently thought this movie directed itself, even after it collected a host of other nominations, including Best Picture. Ben Affleck has gotten a lot of guff about his acting ability (especially with the announcement that he would play Batman), but he's a fantastic director. It's not your fault, Ben. It's not...oh, wait, wrong movie.
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If the railway thriller Unstoppable looks familiar it’s only because its director Tony Scott and star Denzel Washington partnered just over a year ago on another railway thriller The Taking of Pelham 123. In Unstoppable the train is granted a bigger slice of the narrative pie than it received in Pelham serving not only as the film’s principal setting but also its primary villain. Stocked with a payload of dangerous chemicals Train 777 (that’s one more evil than 666!) hurtles unmanned towards a calamitous rendezvous with the helpless residents of Stanton Pennsylvania. Surely an upgrade over a hammy John Travolta no?
On whom can we depend to put a stop to this massive killing machine this “missile the size of the Chrysler Building ” in the ominous words of Rosario Dawson’s station dispatcher? Not the entry-level clods (Ethan Suplee and T.J. Miller) whose ineptitude originally set the train on its fateful path. (In a chilling testament to the potential dangers posed by the obesity epidemic a chunky Suplee runs to catch up with the coasting train in the hopes of triggering its emergency brake before it leaves the station only to collapse in a wheezing heap unsuccessful.) Certainly not their supervisor (Kevin Dunn) a middle-management goon more concerned with impressing his corporate superiors than ensuring proper rail safety. And most definitely not the parent company’s feckless golf-playing (the nerve!) CEO whose disaster-containment strategy is dictated purely by stock price.
No sooner or later the burden of heroism must fall on the capable shoulders of our man Denzel. As Frank Barnes a resolutely competent locomotive engineer on a routine training assignment with a reluctant apprentice (Chris Pine unshaven) he emerges as the only force capable of preventing the Train of Doom from reaching its grisly destination. Of course in any train-related emergency such as the one depicted in Unstoppable a litany of things must go wrong before the task of averting disaster becomes the sole responsibility of the engineer of another train. And screenwriter Mark Bomback (Live Free or Die Hard) trooper that he is takes care to cycle through every single one of them lest we question the believability of such a scenario. Because believability is so important in films like this.
Denzel’s most formidable foe in Unstoppable it turns out is his own director. As an alleged “old-school” filmmaker Tony Scott largely eschews the usage of CGI but he embraces almost every other fashionable action-movie gimmick occasionally to nauseating effect. When the camera isn’t jostling about or zooming in and out jarringly it’s wheeling at breakneck speed across a dolly track; countless circling shots of key dialogue exchanges give the impression that we’re eavesdropping on these conversations from a helicopter. No static shots are allowed and cuts are quick and relentless giving us nary a moment to catch our breath or recover our equilibrium.
These are the tactics of an insecure director one with startlingly little faith in his material or his performers. As Unstoppable nears it climax we’re invested in the action not because of the incessant play-by-play of the TV reporters who’ve converged on the scene — a ploy mandated by Scott’s frantic style which by this point has left the story teetering on incoherence — but because of our almost accidental bond with the film’s protagonists who despite the director’s best efforts have managed to make just enough of an imprint on our consciousness that we’d prefer they not perish in a fiery train wreck.
For a few years in the '60s and '70s producer Gerry Anderson made "supermarionation" all the rage in the world of British children's television. His stop-motion puppets starred in a number of sci-fi adventure series most memorably Thunderbirds which followed the exploits of International Rescue -- a team comprised of ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his sons. Based out of their secret fortress on Treasure Island the Tracys (aided by lovely secret agent Lady Penelope) used their amazing rocket-powered vehicles to prevent disasters and save lives around the world. Now 40 years after Thunderbirds' TV debut Star Trek vet Jonathan Frakes has brought Anderson's characters to life on the big screen. Front and center is youngest son Alan Tracy (Brady Corbet) who dreams of the day he too can pilot one of his family's fab ships and lead missions. But first he has to prove himself to his father Jeff (Bill Paxton). That opportunity comes sooner than either expects when mysterious villain The Hood (Ben Kingsley) strands Jeff and the older Tracy boys in space and attacks Treasure Island. With only his friends Tintin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) and Fermat (Soren Fulton) to help him Alan has to grow up quickly if he wants to save his family ... and the world!
It would be easy to mock several of the performances in Thunderbirds-- to chide Paxton for his earnest seriousness as Tracy patriarch Jeff to dismiss Corbet's angst-tinged eagerness as Alan to roll your eyes at Kingsley's over-the-top mystical fierceness as The Hood and to wince at Fulton and Anthony Edwards' nerdy stuttering as science whizzes Fermat and his dad Brains. But actors are only as good as their script and the one Frakes has given his cast (courtesy of screenwriters William Osborne and Michael McCullers) is weak and clichéd at best filled with after-school-special-worthy lessons for Alan to learn. "You can't save everyone " Jeff tells his son somberly and even Tintin has a moral for her crush when he's feeling selfish and indulging in self-pity: "This is hard on all of us Alan." Talk about insight! What makes it even more frustrating is knowing that the actors are capable of much more even the kids: Both Corbet and Hudgens did well with supporting roles in Thirteen. Thunderbirds' only real bright spot is Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope. A cross between Reese Witherspoon's Elle in Legally Blonde and Jennifer Garner's Sydney on Alias Myles' Lady P doesn't let her pink couture wardrobe prevent her from coolly kicking ass when the situation demands it. Attended by her droll driver/man-of-all-trades Parker (Ron Cook) Lady Penelope is a fresh feisty heroine with all of the film's best lines -- and the coolest car to boot.
Frakes cut his directorial teeth on episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and his first feature film was Star Trek: First Contact so he would seem like a natural choice to bring a cult sci-fi TV show to the big screen. Unfortunately while he does an admirable job re-creating (and improving on) the original Thunderbirds' mod sets cool ships and special effects (which are fine if a bit more TV-sized than summer blockbustery) Frakes can't seem to decide who his audience is. If he was aiming at grown-ups who remember the show fondly from their own childhood he should have embraced the source material's campiness (à la Starsky and Hutch) rather than restricting it to the Tracys' plastic Barbie-like furniture and Lady P's bouffant hairdo. If on the other hand Frakes was hoping to entertain today's kids he should have really reinvented the show for a 21st-century world (à la Stephen Hopkins'1998 Lost in Space) rather than clinging to the '60s references As it is he's stuck somewhere in the middle leaving adults bored during the kids-on-an-adventure bits and children mystified by the handful of jokes aimed at their parents.