24 Feb 2011 @ 6:00 AM 

Thursday Minute
No. 219 | February 24, 2011

Oscar Perspective

Our theme this week

Films and filmmakers overlooked by Oscar

Featured this week
(See Monday post for theme introduction)
Monday         —   Actors Who Never Won an Oscar
Tuesday         —   Actresses Who Never Won an Oscar
Wednesday    —   Directors Who Never Won an Oscar

Films That Didn’t Win a Single Oscar

double indemnity_1the searchers_1mean streets_1the shawshank redemption_1

Double Indemnity, The Searchers, Mean Streets, The Shawshank Redemption:  the kind of movies they make movie awards to honor.  But not Oscars.

The theme so far this week is non-winners:  actors, actresses, and directors who never won an Oscar—but should have.  Today we turn to films.  All of the movies are very good—classics, even—but not one of them won a single Oscar for anything.  We have two lists.  On the first are five movies that racked up a considerable number of nominations, seven apiece, yet all the cast and crew went home empty-handed.  The second has fifteen films, none even getting to the ceremony—not one measly nomination for any of them.

Movies don’t get much better than these, and the lesson is that the ultimate quality of a film isn’t measured by the fickle taste of the Academy.  There’s more than a bit of guesswork (and bias and other noise) that goes into the honors that Oscar voters bestow each year.  Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don’t.


Double Indemnity (1944)
Billy Wilder, director
Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson
An insurance salesman and suburban housewife plot to kill her husband
Nominations:  7 (including picture, director, actress/lead, screenplay)
Oscars:  0

The Caine Mutiny (1954)
Edward Dmytryk, director
Humphrey Bogart, José Ferrer, Van Johnson, Robert Francis, Fred MacMurray
A navy captain loses his command and the mutineers are court martialed
Nominations:  7 (including picture, actor/lead, actor/supporting, screenplay)
Oscars:  0

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Otto Preminger, director
James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara
A small-town lawyer defends an army lieutenant on trial for murder
Nominations:  7 (including picture, actor/lead, two actors/supporting, screenplay)
Oscars:  0

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Frank Darabont, director
Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman
A banker convicted of his wife’s murder finds friendship and redemption in prison
Nominations:  7 (including picture, actor/lead, screenplay)
Oscars:  0

The Thin Red Line (1998)
Terrence Malick, director
James Caviezel, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte
The lives of soldiers during the Battle of Guadalcanal
Nominations:  7 (including picture, director, screenplay)
Oscars:  0

Failing to win an Oscar hasn’t hurt the reputations of these five films.  They’re generally regarded highly, very good to great.  They are not, however, the record holders for shut-outs at the Oscars.  A handful of films, not all of the same rank, had more nominations yet still didn’t win an award:  The Turning Point (11 nominations; 1977); The Color Purple (11; 1985); Gangs of New York (10; 2002);  The Little Foxes (9; 1941); Peyton Place (9; 1957); Quo Vadis? (8; 1951); The Nun’s Story (8; 1959); The Sand Pebbles (8; 1959); The Elephant Man (8; 1980); Ragtime (8; 1981); The Remains of the Day (8; 1993).


The General (1927)
Buster Keaton, director
Buster Keaton
A Civil War train engineer seeks to rescue his beloved Annabelle Lee

City Lights (1931)
Charlie Chaplin, director
Charlie Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill
The Tramp falls in love with a blind girl

Duck Soup (1933)
Leo McCarey, director
The Marx Brothers
Freedonia declares war on Sylvania

Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
Preston Sturges, director
Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake
A Hollywood film director hits the road as a hobo

The Big Sleep (1946)
Howard Hawks, director
Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall
Philip Marlowe investigates blackmail and murder in a case for General Sternwood

The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Charles Laughton, director
Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish
A preacher marries, and murders, for money

The Searchers (1956)
John Ford, director
John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, Natalie Wood
A Civil War veteran searches for his niece, captured by Comanches

Paths of Glory (1957)
Stanley Kubrick, director
Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready
A tale of treachery in the trenches of World War I

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Alexander Mackendrick, director
Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis
A powerful columnist hires a press agent to break up his sister’s romance

Touch of Evil (1958)
Orson Welles, director
Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles
A crooked cop plants evidence in a murder case on the Mexican border

Mean Streets (1973)
Martin Scorsese, director
Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel
Small-time hoods on the streets of Little Italy

Body Heat (1981)
Lawrence Kasdan, director
William Hurt, Kathleen Turner
A neo-noir set in hot and steamy Florida

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Quentin Tarantino, director
Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi
The search for a police informant after a jewelry heist goes wrong

Donnie Darko (2001)
Richard Kelly, director
Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell
A troubled teen has visions of a large bunny rabbit

Zodiac (2007)
David Fincher, director
Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr.
The search for a famous serial killer in the San Francisco Bay Area

Double Indemnity (1944)
Billy Wilder, director
James M. Cain (novel); Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler (screenplay); writers
Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck

The big winner at the 1944 Oscars was the lighthearted and relatively lightweight Going My Way, with 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Leo McCarey), Best Actor (Bing Crosby), Best Supporting Actor (Barry Fitzgerald), and Best Adapted Screenplay.  In those days, at the Oscars, crime did not pay.

Quote of note
“How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?”
—Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), Double Indemnity (1944)


Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 23 Feb 2011 @ 07:44 PM



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