Total Recall

Total Recall: Surprising Oscar Nominations and Snubs

We look at some of the Academy's most noteworthy recent snubs... and the less noteworthy films that were nominated instead.

by | February 22, 2013 | Comments

Oscar Noms and Snubs

Watching the Academy Awards is a perfectly fine way to spend an evening, but let’s face it: Half the fun of the Oscars is trying to predict who’ll win, and the other half is bellyaching about who wasn’t even nominated. It’s in that spirit that we assembled this week’s list — looking back over the last few decades of Oscardom, plenty of worthy films have been honored, but just as many (if not more) have seen their contributions to cinema unfairly overlooked in favor of some rather questionable nominations. Obviously, this is meant to be a conversation starter rather than a complete list, but hey — that’s what the comments are for. Let’s Total Recall!

The Clan of the Cave Bear

Oscar Nominee for Best Makeup

10%

1986

Oh Academy, where to start with 1986? You nominated two middling sequels (The Karate Kid, Part II, Poltergeist II), a notorious box-office dud (Pirates), and a goofy caveman movie (The Clan of the Cave Bear). Meanwhile, you snubbed a well-reviewed box office hit with an all star cast (Down and Out in Beverly Hills, starring Nick Nolte, Richard Dreyfuss, and Bette Midler) and a film that made Siskel and Ebert’s list of the best movies of the decade, one that marked the arrival of Gary Oldman as one of cinema’s most dependable actors (Sid & Nancy). But hey, when you get the chance to give some love to Peter Cetera, you’ve got to do it.

NOT NOMINATED FOR A SINGLE OSCAR:


Down and Out

in Beverly Hills

    

Sid & Nancy

 


Toys

Oscar Nominee for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design

26%

1992

Base your movie’s visual aesthetic around the work of Rene Magritte, and you’ve kind of earned yourself a shot at Academy Award nominations for art direction and costume design — so negative reviews notwithstanding, it’s hard to begrudge Barry Levinson’s notorious Robin Williams-led flop Toys its pair of Oscar noms. Along similar lines, while Jean-Jacques Annaud’s adaptation of the Marguerite Duras novel The Lover was critically savaged, it’s certainly lovely to look at, so we don’t have a major problem with its nomination for Best Cinematography. All the same, it’s hard to swallow those honors when some of the year’s best movies — heck, some of the decade’s — were snubbed in ’92, including a cult classic (Reservoir Dogs), a powerfully acted crime thriller with an instant-classic theme song from Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg (Deep Cover), and a crowd-pleasing smash dramedy with a hit soundtrack (A League of Their Own).

NOT NOMINATED FOR A SINGLE OSCAR:


Deep Cover

    

A League of Their Own

    

Reservoir Dogs

 


Beethoven’s 2nd

Oscar Nominee for Best Original Song

27%

1993

For the most part, the 66th Academy Awards were bereft of egregiously silly nominees, with the exception of the schmaltzy ballad “The Day I Fall in Love,” the love theme from the barely-remembered doggie-com Beethoven’s 2nd. Still, it’s not unfair to ask what the Academy was thinking when it failed to nominate Robert De Niro’s critically acclaimed directorial debut A Bronx Tale, a coming-of-age drama loaded with standout performances. It was a box office flop, you say? Fine: what about Groundhog Day, then? Not only is it a near-perfect romantic comedy, it also features one of Bill Murray’s finest performances, and was a decent-sized hit to boot. (Oh, right. Comedies never get nominated.)

NOT NOMINATED FOR A SINGLE OSCAR:


A Bronx Tale

    

Groundhog Day

 


Waterworld

Oscar Nominee for Best Sound Mixing

42%

1995

Though it was an infamous flop upon its release, Waterworld has its retroactive defenders, who value the sheer audacity of Kevin Costner’s expensive, expansive sci-fi epic. Still, it’s kind of shocking in retrospect that Waterworld got a nod from the Academy, while both Get Shorty and Heat were sidelined come Oscar time. The former is a deft Hollywood satire featuring sharp performances from such old pros as John Travolta, Gene Hackman, and Danny DeVito, while the latter contains riveting set pieces and a much-ballyhooed showdown between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. You’d think either of these movies would have been nominated for something, but you’d be wrong.

NOT NOMINATED FOR A SINGLE OSCAR:


Get Shorty

    

Heat

Patch Adams

Oscar Nominee for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score

22%

1998

Okay, sure, we all remember the chorus of that Aerosmith song from Armageddon, and we’re willing to concede the sound and visual effects nominations the movie earned. We can even sort of understand the Academy’s nod to Patch Adams for its score; after all, it’s a big part of the movie’s decidedly saccharine aftertaste. That said, was there really no room for any recognition for Rushmore‘s script or production design, or for The Big Lebowski‘s fantastic ensemble cast? Fine, we get it: Wes Anderson wasn’t as a big a name yet, the Coens had Fargo to live up to, and the Academy has never been particularly generous to comedies.

NOT NOMINATED FOR A SINGLE OSCAR:


The Big Lebowski

    

Rushmore

 


Hollow Man

Oscar Nominee for Best Visual Effects

27%

2000

Alright, we’ll admit it: the visual effects in Hollow Man were pretty cool. You know what other movie had good visual effects? A little flick called X-Men, which was a much bigger hit with audiences and critics. And while the Oscar-nominated 102 Dalmations is dimly remembered in the minds of movie buffs, High Fidelity is as adored now as it was in 2000. And given its endlessly quotable dialogue, you’re telling us High Fidelity didn’t deserve a Best Adapted Screenplay nod?

NOT NOMINATED FOR A SINGLE OSCAR:


High Fidelity

    

X-Men

 


Click

Oscar Nominee for Best Makeup

32%

2006

Action-packed and surprisingly weighty, Casino Royale reignited the James Bond franchise and was one of the best-received 007 flicks in years. So naturally, the Academy took no notice. Likewise, Inside Man was a strong thriller with several eminently nominatable actors (Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, and Christopher Plummer among them), and V for Vendetta was a feast for the eyes and ears. Instead, the Academy gave nods to a so-so Adam Sandler film (Click) and a forgettable disaster movie remake (Poseidon).

NOT NOMINATED FOR A SINGLE OSCAR:


Casino Royale

    

Inside Man

    

V for Vendetta

 


Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Oscar Nominee for Best Visual Effects

19%

2009

Effects-heavy sci-fi adventures are pretty commonly honored in the technical categories, so Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen‘s nomination for Sound Mixing wasn’t a big shock to anyone. What’s probably more surprising is that Sam Rockwell’s thoughtful performance in another sci-fi film, Duncan Jones’s critically acclaimed debut Moon, went overlooked, especially in a year that proved — with the nomination of District 9 for Best Picture — that the Academy wasn’t averse to modestly budgeted films of the genre. Then there’s The Damned United, which could have easily replaced a couple of entries in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. Throw in the curiously absent Studio Ghibli film Ponyo, and you’ve got yourself a solid list of potential nominees that would have given their competition a run for their money. Alas, we’re left with the “Oscar-nominated Transformers franchise.”

NOT NOMINATED FOR A SINGLE OSCAR:


The Damned United

    

Moon

    

Ponyo

 


Take a look through the rest of our Awards Tour coverage for the latest news and photo galleries leading up to this weekend’s Academy Awards.

Finally, here’s the trailer for one of the most memorable Oscar nominees from recent years — 2007 Best Makeup contender Norbit:

Written by Tim Ryan, Jeff Giles, and Ryan Fujitani