Muller: Reflections on some of the Academy Awards’ most recent travesties


Yoni Muller, Columnist

As you’re reading this, you’ve had at least 30-some odd hours to absorb and come to terms with the results of Sunday night’s 85th Academy Awards. This year produced some surprisingly good nominees (especially compared to last year’s group). It’s inevitable that some defeats were taken poorly, some arguments broke out among friends and some punches were thrown — and not just by me.

So as we all finalize our angry letters to the academy and rub antiseptic on the wounds caused by the moron who said “The Dark Knight Rises” got robbed, let’s take a minute to put things into perspective. The Oscars are the most significant awards moviemakers can receive, and it’s the pinnacle of many people’s careers just to be nominated. But the voters aren’t always right. In fact, sometimes their decisions are downright inexcusable.

So before we proclaim from our lead-lined safe rooms that the sky is falling, let’s look back at some of the most egregious mistakes by the Academy in the last decade (going any longer would provide enough material for a novella)

2013: “Life of Pi” wins the most Oscars. Subsequently, the Oscars lose the most respect. That’s just absurd. The movie (deservedly) won Best Score and Best Cinematography, but Steven Spielberg was the obvious choice for Best Director, which Ang Lee somehow got his hands on.

Additionally, the movie won Best Visual Effects over “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” Not only is that stupid, but (as Sam Rojas, the wonderful girl who agrees to date me, points out) it brings to light a modern concern: movies whose visual spectacles are entirely computer-generated should not compete for the same award as those who manipulate physical objects. “Life of Pi” was a stunning movie, but it’s hard to make a tiger look anything but great when you create it on a screen. “The Hobbit” had quite a bit of CGI, but also utilized makeup, cameras that shot at 48 frames-per-second, and motion-capture to perfectly create Gollum. The fact that this award has not yet been divided into categories for best live-action effects and best CGI effects is beyond me.

2011: “Please welcome your hosts, James Franco and Anne Hathaway!” Who knew one sentence could be so disastrous.

2010: I recognize that it was beautiful and it made more money than I could ever hope to, but in no way should a movie whose only achievement is “looking beautiful” garner Best Picture and Best Director nominations. Yet, even with its uninspiring story, its flat characters and its horrific writing, “Avatar” managed to do just that. When the Best Picture category is expanded from five to ten possible nominations, each one better be great, and Avatar is a far cry from that. That the Coen brothers didn’t get directing nominations over James Cameron for “A Serious Man,” along with a handful of other worthy movies, is a shame. The fact that the academy tried to convince us “Avatar” was a great movie is unforgivable.

2006: And here we see voters make a mistake in a completely different direction. Although both “Avatar” and “Life of Pi” received heavy acclaim and recognition, thanks to brilliant animation, Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” was shut out of Best Director and Best Picture, despite being a far superior film. “Pan’s Labyrinth” is the perfect example of a film that uses animation and dazzling visuals to complement the narrative rather than to compensate for acting or plot. These aren’t just my opinions – its 98 percent MetaCritic rating is the 15th highest of all time and the highest of its decade. And yet, the movie didn’t even win Best Foreign Film, which I think is criminal. Maybe voters were just traumatized by the Pale Man.

2005: “Crash” wins Best Picture. Let me repeat. “Crash,” the most horrific, black-and-white (in all too many ways), poorly crafted film most of us could ever hope to see, wins Best Picture. Touche, Academy.

Of course there are more disputes and poor choices, but the fact that any voting body can make five mistakes as absurd and horrific as this in a single decade assures me that the Oscars are not to be taken too seriously.

Except, of course, this year’s awards to Quentin Tarantino and Christoph Waltz for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor. Even the academy couldn’t mess that one up.

Yoni Muller is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to publicly respond to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].