Considering the kind of hype the Oscars manage to create every year and the buzz it generates among cinephiles, it is only rational for one to think whether the ceremony is truly worthy of all the fuss. So, are the Oscars a benchmark of good cinema? No. Do they really matter? Yes.
Despite how commercialized it has been over the years, the Oscars have always managed to recognize and appreciate good cinema. But they’ve faltered on numerous occasions and sometimes they’re unforgivable like the great Al Pacino losing out to Art Carney for Best Actor in 1975, ‘Mulholland Drive’ not even receiving a nomination for Best Picture, ‘Apocalypse Now’ losing out to ‘Kramer vs Kramer’ for Best Picture in 1980 and so on. Similarly, the Oscars have also managed to nominate some of the most atrocious pieces ever churned out in the name of cinema. Let’s take a look at the list of worst movies nominated for Oscars.
15. Alice in the Wonderland (2010) – Best Visual Effects
‘Alice in the Wonderland’ is, by no means, a bad film. It’s quite good in parts but it doesn’t do half justice to its searing ambitions. Tim Burton has always been a hit or miss filmmaker and like most of his films, this was certainly looked promising and could have turned out to be a lot better with a more refined script and structured narrative instead of turning it into a mere visual extravaganza. The plot isn’t well toned and the writing lacks a level of sharpness and intelligence that could have hugely benefited the film. Critics criticized the film’s excessive use of CGI but maybe it was just enough to impress the academy.
14. Alien 3 (1992) – Best Visual Effects
Let’s face it, ‘Alien 3’ was an awful film. It felt completely out of tone and the plot was so frustratingly convoluted and forced that after a certain point you just didn’t care for anything. David Fincher has disowned the film and blamed the studio execs for frequent interference and deadlines. The film did, however, receive better reception when the Assembly Cut was released in 2003 but none of them held up to what Ridley Scott and James Cameron did with its predecessors. The film received an Academy Awards nomination for Best Visual Effects which it eventually lost to ‘Death Becomes Her’.
13. The Village (2004) – Best Original Score
One of M. Night Shyamalan’s most ridiculed movies, ‘The Village’ is a film that starts off really well but takes itself way too seriously and ends up kicking itself in the foot. It builds on a fascinating premise but loses its grip midway through and then kills itself with that awful twist at the end which fails to cater to the most basic human logic. There are quite a few good moments in the film which display Shyamalan’s abilities as a director like the ‘The Those We Don’t Speak of ‘ scene but the overall experience is hugely unsatisfying. But one cant argue much with James Newton Howard’s score which deservedly got nominated for an Oscar.
12. Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) – Best Visual Effects
‘Poltergeist’ is one of the greatest horror movies ever made. So a sequel holding up to it was always going to be challenging and as you’d expect, it failed miserably. Not only was ‘The Other Side’ a bad sequel but it’s also probably among the worst movies ever made. The film felt as if it was made only for the sole purpose of multiplying investments. There are some genuinely scary moments but the narrative feels so disjointed and fractured that you can’t invest yourselves in the film which hugely hampers the experience. The film received a debatable Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects.
11. Waterworld (1995) – Best Sound
No, ‘Waterworld’ is nowhere near as bad some of the other films on the list. In fact, it’s a decent flick but it’s a film that gets caught up in own ambitions and goes nowhere despite how promising it seems. ‘Waterworld’ has a fascinating to story to tell but the writing is frustratingly inconsistent and lacks logic for the most part. It was the most expensive film ever made at the time and one can’t really fault the production design. Apart from some nice visuals and overall ambition, there is nothing in the film worthy of appreciation. However, it did garner an Oscar nomination for Best Sound.
10. Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) – Best Original Song
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. It had some of the worst writing and acting I’ve ever seen. But perhaps the only thing a filmmaker could do after having decided to turn an awful novel into a film is regret. There was absolutely no way ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ was going to turn into something even remotely good. The sex scenes are absurd and acted with no real passion. The story itself was largely implausible and whilst the film had a certain style to it, the narrative wasn’t sharply structured and fell flat for the most part. The film managed to garner an Oscar nomination for the Best Original Song.
9. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) – Best Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects
‘Phantom Menace’ isn’t as bad as some of the other films on the list but still it doesn’t hold a candle to its pathbreaking predecessors. Its extensive use of visual effects put off many critics and the writing was downright awful for the most part. Like most George Lucas movies, it’s a technical marvel but as a whole it fails miserably. Poor characterization and bland storyline hamper the film from fully realizing its vision and it also lacks the entertainment value of its predecessors. However, the film deservedly bagged Oscar nominations for Sound Editing, Visual Effects and Sound Mixing.
8. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) – Best Picture
Another awfully preachy melodrama that managed to floor academy awards off with its cheap manipulative tricks. The film has a decent story to tell with some decent performances from its cast that includes Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Max von Sydow. However, it gets extremely self-indulgent and takes itself way too seriously before we could get a grasp on anything. A bit more restraint, precision and most of all a little respect for the viewers would have certainly helped the case here.
7. The Blind Side (2009) – Best Picture
Well, where should I begin with this one? ‘The Blind Side’ is a laughably preachy and almost offensive film that resorts to such cheap manipulative tactics that leave you infuriated. And what’s worse? Sandra Bullock won the best actress award that year! Yes, you heard that right. Similar to what happened with ‘I am Sam’, the academy once again fell prey to Hollywood’s evil schmaltzy tricks. Bullock isn’t particularly bad here. In fact, she shines at some places but eventually it gets more annoying just as the film turns into a massive cringefest.
6. Pearl Harbor (2001) – Best Sound, Visual Effects and Original Song
‘Pearl Harbor’ is one of Michael Bay’s better films but that’s not saying a lot really. The film was vehemently trashed by critics including Roger Ebert who particularly criticized the film’s use of special effects. The writing is downright laughable and it hugely compromises on the historical accuracy to the point it loses any kind of authenticity which its subject clearly demanded. However, the film was nominated for Oscars in the Best Sound, Sound Editing, Visual Effects and Original Song categories and eventually winning in the category of Best Sound Editing.
5. Batman Forever (1995) – Best Cinematography, Sound Mixing and Editing
‘Batman Forever’ is one of the worst cinematic experiences I’ve ever had. Everything about the film is downright awful and abysmal. Jim Carrey’s ridiculously entertaining performance very nearly turns this into a guilty pleasure but eventually it fails on that level too. It’s a shame that the film was nominated for multiple Oscars when films like ‘Before Sunrise’ and ‘Se7en’ were largely ignored at the Academy Awards. However, Schumacher made this one look like a masterpiece three years later when he did the abysmal ‘Batman and Robin’ which is now widely regarded as one of the worst films ever made.
4. I Am Sam (2001) – Sean Penn for Best Actor
‘I am Sam’ is emotional manipulation at its worst. Sean Penn gives his heart out but some terrible writing turns his performance into an absolute mockery. An actor is only as good as his film and with a scrip as awful and melodramatic such as this, even an actor of Penn’s class and brilliance would look absurd and ridiculously out of place. Perhaps the reason why it struck a chord with many people was because of its schmaltz and Hollywood has a great history of glorifying schmaltzy dramas but this is epitome of everything bad about melodrama. This is the ultimate Oscar-bait flick.
3. Click (2006) – Best Makeup
An Adam Sandler movie receiving an Oscar nomination. Yes, you heard that right! ‘Click’ is a classic Sandler flick replete with tasteless humor and numerous cringeworthy moments that make you question your existence in the universe. And not surprisingly, the film was trashed by critics although it did exceptionally well at the Box office, grossing around 237.7$ against a budget of $82.5 million. The film received its Oscar nomination for Best Makeup and is the only Adam Sandler movie to be nominated for an Oscar to date.
2. Norbit (2007) – Best Makeup and Hairstyling
How? Just how? This atrocious Eddie Murphy flick garnered eight Golden Raspberry Awards nominations, winning three of them and was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. I’m not quite sure what the academy was thinking because, clearly, this is one of the most outrageous pieces ever churned out in the name of comedy. The humor is downright absurd and even offensive at places, glorifying cliches and stereotypes. Asking even your worst enemies to sit through this cringefest would be too cruel.
1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) – Best Sound Mixing
This was a no brainer, to be very honest. An abysmal sequel to one of the worst films ever made, ‘Revenge of the Fallen’ is the epitome of everything bad about mainstream Hollywood. The film was ruthlessly trashed by critics at the time for its nonsensical plot and utter disregard for the viewers’ intellect. It’s so bad that one can’t even take it as a guilty pleasure as it lacks any kind of human touch which could’ve let us invest ourselves in the movie, emotionally. However, the academy seemed kind enough to the film, nominating it for Best Sound Mixing which it eventually lost to Kathryn Bigelow’s ‘The Hurt Locker’.
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