Breaking Down Grantland’s Oscar Tragedies, Part One

It’s fun to argue about movies. As Drew Magary might say: NO ONE DENIES THIS. And movie awards are fun to argue about: they present this idea of finality, that because this movie won this award, it’s the best movie. Even though it doesn’t really mean anything other than just saying a movie won an award. After all, there’s so many awards and so many deserving movies that never won an award and honestly, most awards are pretty self-congratulatory anyway.

Enter this weekend’s award show, the Oscars. It’s going to put a cap on the 2012 movie season. Whatever movie wins Best Picture will probably be called the year’s best movie, even though there’s so many other awards, acclaims, reviews, etc. It doesn’t do much more than fuel the argument fire.

So I wasn’t surprised to see Grantland whip out a convoluted bracket for the Oscars, encouraging arguments about all kinds of trivial bullshit: a Letterman joke, a Rob Lowe duet, etc, etc. In one way, it’s a very Bill Simmons idea: reduce years of movie arguments to a one-vs-one bracket, with each winning by popular vote. At the end, one of them will be crowned the Biggest Oscar Tragedy Of All Time or whatever, a title that means even less than any award.

And here at Extended Play, we’re calling bullshit on this. Not just because it is BS, but because some of these choices are godawful and only there to stir up fanboys and move the needle. We’ve gotten the old Flashfact crew back together, plus later we’ll add Sarah from Deconstructing Hollywood to defend one travesty and call out another. 

Joey G.

Actual Travesty: Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction

This one really is as close to a travesty as you can get when talking about something other than genocide. Do not get me wrong. Forrest Gump is a good movie, I’ll even go so far as to say that it’s a *very* good movie, Tom Hanks is pretty incredible in it and deserved all the praise he got for the role. But, the best picture? No. No. NoNoNoNoNoNo. Pulp Fiction was not only a masterpiece, but was a REVOLUTION. It spawned a gajillion imitators (some good, some not so good), it relaunched John Travolta, it forever coloured peoples memories of songs (You Never Can Tell? Anyone?) it gave us one of the best Samuel L. Jackson performances EVER. How many times a week do you think of or reference a line of dialogue from Pulp Fiction? Ok, now how many times a week do you think of or reference Forrest Gump? Unless you have a friend with gimped legs or are particularly insensitive about the mentally handicapped I’m going to guess ‘not many’. Pulp Fiction is a chaotic, stylish, witty and unforgettable artistic statement. Forrest Gump is a charming, nostalgia trip with a very good lead acting performance. No Contest.

Fake Travesty: Rocky wins Best Picture

Oh, now it’s ON. You’re going to tell me that Rocky was undeserving of its statue? WE GOT BEEF. (That’s a thing people say, right?) I can see where you’re coming from, it won the year Taxi Driver was nominated, it spawned 5 sequels (2 good, 2 fun, 1 we shall not mention ever again) and Stallone is a bit of a joke nowadays, but to dismiss Rocky for these reasons is to miss out on one of the greatest films ever made.
It’s a shame that the many sequels have coloured peoples memories of the first film. Rocky is not a meathead sports movie. It’s not a movie about boxing. It’s a movie about a man overcoming obstacles to do what noone thought he should be able to do. A man who makes a decision not to be a bum anymore. A man with integrity and honesty and a desire to “go the distance”. Most of all it’s a love story. The movie is about Rocky and Adrian and the way they refuse to allow their station in life to define who they are and how they behave. You never get the feeling that Rocky really wants to beat Apollo or win the title, he only wants to show Adrian that he’s good for something and that he is worthy of her. It’s a near-perfect film…. and I like some of the sequels too… except 5… fuck that movie.


Actual Travesty: Goodfellas doesn’t win Best Picture

I’m a big Scorsese guy and although this isn’t my favorite movie of his – Raging Bull takes the cake – but this one sticks in my craw. The 63rd Oscars had what I’d charitably call a weak lineup: Dances With Wolves, a bloated Western I remember for it’s use of Lakota; Ghost; Godfather Part III and Awakenings, which I know absolutely nothing about. Basically, we’re talking one of Scorsese’s high-water marks against a bunch of movies you now stumble across on cable on a Saturday afternoon.

There’s a lot to like about Goodfellas. There’s an iconic Joe Pesci and about two or three scenes everyone remembers. Or there’s it’s no-holds-barred approach to just how bad everyone in the mob is (does anyone come off like they have a soul?). It directly inspired the greatest TV drama of all time, dispelled the allure of the mob and is on the shortlist of the decade’s best movies. It’s shocking that Scorsese wasn’t even tossed a bone for the Academy overlooking everything he’d done to that point, too. It’s even worse than everyone will remember The Departed now, because that’s when they tossed him one.

Fake Travesty: I’ll skip the nonsense categories like Bjork’s Swan Dress to take an unpopular opinion: Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction.

Sure, Pulp Fiction has proven to be the more influential movie. That’s great: the award is for best movie of 1994. And Gump was a better movie. Like Pulp, it’s a movie trading in on the past. But unlike Pulp, it’s got something to say. It’s less a movie about Gump than one about America growing up post-WW2, losing itself during Vietman and struggling to get itself back together again. Pulp was a fun movie that reveled in a shared nostalgia, but more in a “hey remember this song? What about this cartoon? Hey and what about this breakfast cereal?” kind of way.

Or look at how Gump is one of Hanks best performances and certainly his most iconic (Gary Sinise was pretty good, too). Or at it’s tight script, written by Eric Roth. Or how everyone knows the line about chocolates? Or the running scene, or the one where he shows Nixon his ass or the one with Elvis or… well, you get the point.

I get that some people find Gump melodramatic. I get the impact Pulp has had since (and that Gump hasn’t had). But speaking strictly in 1994 terms – the only ones that mattered when this was awarded – Gump was the more important movie. I can live with this decision.

Brett Y.

Actual Travesty: John Cazale Never Nominated

It may be the benefit of hindsight. It may also be that John Cazale was only in five feature films before he died(all Best Picture nominees) and because of this film-like 27-club, it may magnify the legend and lore of Cazale the actor, but he was an undeniable talent. The most notable perfomance is unquestionably Fredo from the Godfather films. It was a stunning debut, but my gripe with the lack of nominations does not begin here. Fredo, while an important character in the first, was all set up to his turn in the second film of the trilogy. Part 2 was as much Cazale’s movie as it was Pacino’s and De Niro’s, and all three put on one of the best ensemble performances in film history. I’m breaking no new ground by praising the Godfather Part 2, but the fact that Cazale’s role wasn’t even acknowledged while both Michael V Gazzo and Lee Strasberg were for the same film is really quite surprising. (Note: I completely agree with De Niro winning best supporting for Godfather Part 2, even if Cazale would’ve been nominated).

The other stellar Cazale role was as Sal in Sidney Lumet’s “Dog Day Afternoon”. Sal is the perfect antithesis of Pacino’s Sonny, where Sonny is loud and desperate, but relatively harmless, Sal has a quiet, nervous energy, bordering on sadness and a disconnect from the lives around him. It’s a far more subtle portrayal than the one Pacino gives, and both actors come away better for it. During the entire robbery, Sal is the true threat to employees. He is a joy to watch in this film, from his ridiculous hairline to his wide, unpredictable eyes and his unnerving manic motions with a loaded gun in his hands. It’s one of my all-time favourite film performances, and to have nominated Chris Sarandon over John Cazale for this film is a perfect representation of an Oscar travesty.

Fake Travesty: Kubrick Never Wins Best Director

I know how this looks. If I were to have spotted someone denying that Kubrick should have ever won Best Director, I would have probably pegged them as either a contrarion to a ludicrous degree, or as a person who has no clue who Stanley Kubrick is(they are out there). I’m neither of those. I would comfortably list Kubrick as one of my all-time favourite directors. So why would I be OK with him never winning the coveted golden naked-guy? The answer to this lies not in Stanley Kubrick the director, but in Stanley Kubrick the entity. The public perception of Kubrick is an odd one. His entire life is shrouded in a veil of mystery and rumors, which goes hand-in-hand with his far from conventional, yet always provocative and brilliant body of work. Like few directors before or since, Kubrick managed to obtain an almost rock-star level of notoriety with very little insight into his personal, and even professional life. The small behind-the-scenes footage that does exist of him working on set of Full Metal Jacket just adds to the intrigue.

There’s a certain possessiveness one feels his works, where each viewing feels very personal, and elicits an almost obsessive nature in it’s viewers to comprehend just what they watched, and all the layers that were encased within each film. To this day, people are divided on just what happened in 2001: A Space Odyssey, and there is even a documentary called Room 237 being released this year that investigates the theorized hidden meanings behind various pieces of The Shining. This all gives his career a feeling like you’ve made a really unique discovery, and to have given him the award would’ve made it seem like your parents have started listening to the same bands you do. Kubrick is way more interesting to think about as undiscovered, misunderstood and underappreciated(despite all evidence to the contrary), and a Best Director award would’ve tainted this fiction that he helped create for his many admirers.




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