Weekend Film Recommendation: Oscar Snubs

Rather than focus on a single film this week, I am going to commend to you to three fine movies that the Motion Picture Academy snubbed by failing to recognize Oscar-worthy work.

Comic performances are massively undervalued by Oscar voters, who just don’t seem to appreciate what the great English actor Edmund Kean allegedly said when terminally ill: “Dying is easy, comedy is hard”. Exhibit A this week is Steve Martin’s brilliant performance in All of Me, in which he plays a man whose body is partially taken over by the spirit of deceased harridan (a quite funny Lily Tomlin). Martin’s matchless comic gifts make this movie a joy to watch. This clip is one of the highlights because it lets Martin demonstrate his flair for hilarious physical comedy. It’s appalling that he didn’t even garner a Best Actor Oscar Nomination. Shame on you, Academy philistines!

The next snub comes from another funny Steve Martin movie, Bowfinger, but this time it’s Eddie Murphy who was robbed at Oscar time. Murphy plays both an arrogant, psychologically unstable movie star (first clip) and his meek, errand boy brother (second clip). Hang your head Oscar, this was a Peter Sellers-like multi-character tour de force and you didn’t even nominate Murphy for his comic genius.

In addition to comic performances, the Oscars also have a blind spot regarding movies about African-Americans. Perhaps the most inexcusable snub in Oscar history is that the powerful, moving documentary Hoop Dreams not only didn’t get nominated for Best Picture — it wasn’t even nominated for best documentary! The entire nomination committee should have publicly committed seppuku to atone for their sins. My review of this magnificent film and a link to a site where you can watch it for free is right here.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College Lonon. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over ten thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

6 thoughts on “Weekend Film Recommendation: Oscar Snubs”

  1. Steve Martin has always been criminally underrated. In addition to being a fine actor, he's also a screenwriter, including Bowfinger. Whether writing or just acting, he's not afraid of doing something completely different. Sometimes his ventures fall flat, but it can also produce unexpected gems.

    I think this feature has mentioned L.A. Story, but I also recommend My Blue Heaven, in which he plays a mobster-turned-informant in the witness protection program. Rick Moranis plays his FBI minder, Barney Coopersmith. Martin was originally cast as Coopersmith, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as mobster Vincent Antonelli.* Thank god that Arnold was offered the lead in Kindergarten Cop and backed out, because it would have been a completely different movie, depriving us of the quirky masterpiece we got.

    *Vinnie Antonelli was based upon Henry Hill, the lead character in Goodfellas. My Blue Heaven was written by Nora Ephron, whose husband, Nicholas Pileggi, wrote both the screenplay for Goodfellas and the biography it was based upon. The two movies were released within a month of each other, and Ephron and Pileggi researched them simultaneously.

  2. Still, the Oscars are not as bad as the Nobel Prize for Literature. The earnest Swedes managed to avoid honouring Tolstoy, Ibsen, Henry James. Italo Calvino, Proust, Kafka, Rilke, Cavafy, Mandelstam, Garcia Lorca, Borges, Paul Celan, DH Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce. I'm sure I'm leaving some out.

    1. I'd even toss in Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson to that list. Schmaltzy, sure, but your kids still learn their poems. I don't think Neruda won. They are definitely anti-poetists, with a few exceptions, such as Yeats and that Polish woman. But yeah, they have been so devoted to Latin American literature over the past generation (which I love, and it was sadly neglected for too long), with some Middle Eastern thrown in every few years, that they essentially ignore Europe and America.

      Which, ya know, if that's the counterweight to the Whites-Only Oscars, so be it.

    2. Good catches. Oh, and Eugène Marais. An Afrikaner, horrors. But you don't have to know Afrikaans to see that he's the real thing:
      O koud is die windjie en skraal.
      En blink in die dof-lig en kaal,
      So wyd as die Heer se genade,
      Lê die velde in sterlig en skade.

      (Translation by John Irons: So cold now the wind is and spare/ And bleak in the dim light and bare,/ As wide as God’s mercy is boundless/ The scorched veldt lies starlit and soundless.)

  3. So which actors have received comedy Oscars? I can think of Marisa Tomei for My Cousin Vinny and Kevin Kline for A Fish Called Wanda.

    I really, really admired Kline's performance, but I didn't think Tomei's performance was particularly strong. (Not a knock on Tomei, who is always good and was good in that one.)

    I thought Bill Murray was robbed for Lost in Translation. Sean Penn took that one with an adequate performance in Mystic River.

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