It’s not that uncommon for the Oscars to dish out a Best Picture Oscar to a movie resembling a bowl of oatmeal. No sugar, no salt, no butter, nothing. Just oats and hot water.
This isn’t always the case. No Country For Old Men, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Midnight Cowboy, Silence Of the Lambs, and a ton more are all deserving pictures which have won the coveted award.
That said, there are also some standouts which are notably poor examples. For the record, Titanic will not appear on this list, because for one thing, Titanic is a technical achievement of epic proportions. Like James Cameron’s movies or not, the man raises the bar.
Also, I think Titanic is a sweet love story. Sappy and unrealistic? Maybe. But it makes me feel things. It’s not my favorite movie, or even the best movie that year, but there are worse movies that have won the Oscar for Best Picture.
5. A Beautiful Mind
Regardless of what you may have heard about the subject of A Beautiful Mind, ie John Forbes Nash, Jr., the man was clearly mentally ill. So, there’s plenty of gray area to speculate at on who he actually was as a person. Were his shortcomings a result of uncontrollable mental illness? Was that an excuse? It’s impossible to say.
However, A Beautiful Mind makes a terrible mistake with misrepresentation in another way. Schizophrenia is a terrible affliction to deal with, and I think this movie, however unintentional, projects a romanticization of mental illness. While the stigma of mental illness is terrible, romanticizing it is just as bad, but in the opposite direction.
While the movie does show significant struggles with schizophrenia, it also ends on a note of Nash, Jr. winning the Nobel Prize. Coupled with the title referring to Nash’s mind as beautiful, I feel it perpetuates the idea that schizophrenia and other mental illnesses somehow make a person special, suggesting such people may possess desirable advantages over those without mental illness.
To note, though, this is a personal view of the film, and an umbrage I personally take. I found the movie to be lacking in its portrayal of mental illness. At the end of the day, this is just a film and I’m in no way suggesting it should be censored.
4. The Departed
The Departed has some amazingly quotable lines. It’s well shot, it has amazing acting. It’s also pretty disjointed.
There are fantastic scenes in The Departed, but the sum isn’t equal to its parts. A film jumping around as much as it does, from character to character, needs to take special care to execute such a concept as effectively as possible. It feels to me like Scorsese missed the mark in that department, just a bit. It’s a difficult movie for me to get emotionally invested in. At times the movie just becomes confusing. Or maybe it’s tiring and tedious, and I just stop paying attention without realizing as much.
If this were a piece of abstract art, such challenges to the viewer would be expected. A straightforward crime thriller like The Departed shouldn’t feel so slogging. Scorsese deserved a best picture Oscar for Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Casino, Gangs of New York, take your pick. But The Departed was a courtesy Oscar for the Academy having passed over such a legendary director so many times. I’ll always believe that. It’s a movie that is really great for about 20 minutes at a time, but it keeps dropping its rhythm. Sure it picks it back up, pretty much every time, but the experience as a whole just doesn’t come near Scorsese’s other notable works.
3. The King’s Speech
The King’s Speech isn’t a bad movie, in fact, it’s kind of enjoyable, once. Jeffery Rush delivers a fine performance, as does Helena Bonham Carter and Colin Firth. It’s just incredibly underwhelming when compared with every other nominee in 2011, which included Black Swan, The Social Network, True Grit, Toy Story 3, Winter’s Bone, and even The Fighter. The scene about smoking being potentially deadly is hilarious, and when the king finally delivers his speech, it reaches a twinge emotional sting but providing little more to remark on than can fill a single paragraph.
Spotlight is kind of criminal because it should have been so good. The subject matter is similar to that of The Purge, in that it’s a fantastic premise for a movie. Also, like The Purge, it’s execution is decidedly surface, flat, bland, and wildly on-the-nose, if a work can be such a thing. Spotlight suffers from unremarkable framing, by-the-numbers performances, and works more like a procedural television legal drama than a prestigious film.
Alternative review: Spotlight comes off like a Lifetime original movie with a great cast and slightly less disturbing subject-matter.
1.Shakespeare In Love
This movie was a goofy spoof-comedy which never should have been nominated, and the fact that it won was an exercise in absurdity. Sincerely, the Oscar’s ceremony in 1999 may have been the work of a brilliant satirist as it marks a moment where the Oscars genuinely seemed like a parody within a parody of themselves.
The biggest problem with this movie is that it’s not even so much bad, as it’s forgettable. At least a terrible movie has the decency to be memorable. I’ll never forget The Wolfman (2010) as long as I live. The most memorable part of Shakespeare In Love is that it has a running joke about Romeo and Juliet being originally called Romeo and Ethyl.
The joke is only memorable for being a prime example of consecutive swings for a joke, followed by consecutive misses.