On Monday afternoon (New Zealand time), Hollywood gathers for the 89th Academy Awards.
Kevin Costner in Waterworld. Photo: AFP / Universal / The Kobal Collection / Ben Glass
But as Dan Slevin from Widescreen tells Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, the academy often gets its Oscar picks very, very wrong.
Listen to the whole conversation with Widescreen’s Dan Slevin
“It is a good time of the year to remember that when you go to the video shop and see something on [a DVD] cover that says ‘Academy Award nominated’ or ‘Academy Award winner’, it’s not necessarily an indicator, on its own, of quality,” Slevin says.
A quintessential example of this is Eddie Murphy’s Norbit which was critically reviled, although it was a box office success.
In it Murphy plays a number of characters and the film was nominated for an Academy Award in 2008 for Best Makeup (not to mention eight Razzies, for which it won three).
“It is a disaster of a film, it only has a 9 percent approval rating on (review aggregator) Rotten Tomatoes.”
Some examples from this year’s crop include the “terrible”Suicide Squad and Star Trek Beyond (which he slept through), which have both picked up nominations for makeup, and the badly-reviewed sci-fi flick Passengers which has a production design nomination, Slevin says.
The nominees are chosen by the various disciplines within the academy. For example, the cinematographers choose the nominees for cinematography and then the 8000-odd academy members vote on them, he says.
“It’s efficient but also leads to some fairly terrible choices I think.”
Other clangers to be nominated include Steven Segal’s Under Siege in 1993 and Kevin Costner’s career-killing Waterworld in 1995 for best sound.
“This is one that I found completely baffling – Shrek has a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination from 2002. I mean what were they thinking?
“You can’t tell me that it was the fifth best adapted screenplay out of the 600 films that were released that year.”
‘More misses than hits’
Slevin says time is not kind on Best Picture Oscar winners.
Gigi won in 1958 when Vertigo, voted by critics in 2012 as the best film ever made in the authoritative British Film Institute poll, was not even nominated, he says.
The Greatest Show on Earth won in 1952 when Singin’ in the Rain– another film in the top 50 ever made list – was not nominated, and 2001: A Space Odyssey was not nominated in 1968 when Oliver won the Best Picture Oscar.
“I think there are more misses than hits actually if you go through it. Driving Miss Daisy instead of Do the Right Thing, Forrest Gump instead of Pulp Fiction, Slevin says.
“And the most famous one, the one that appals film fans everywhere: Crash winning instead of Brokeback Mountain in 2005.”
And then there is the situation were talented actors are given an award for weak or even terrible work in a film because the academy have the idea that they have earned it over their career, he says.
“Al Pacino in Scent of Woman in 1992, Paul Newman The Color of Money, Sean Connery won for The Untouchables in 1987.
“And for only six minutes of screen time, Judi Dench won an academy award for Shakespeare in Love.”
And Slevin’s predictions for the Oscars for Monday?
“People will have a lot to complain about.”