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03 March 2014

The Five Best Oscar-Losing Films (or "Why Losing in the Oscars May Be Good for a Film in the Long-run")

Another Academy Awards ceremony has ended and we applaud the winners, but not all Oscar-winning films will end up becoming classic English-language films. In fact, some of the English-language films that are now considered landmarks in filmmaking did not win best picture, or worst, they were never even nominated. Here are just five films that critics, art historians and filmmakers consider the best English-language films in history.

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Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” (1941) received eleven Oscar nominations including best picture but it only won for best screenplay for Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz. However, “Citizen Kane” is universally regarded as a landmark film, ushering a new way of storytelling in films such as the use of multiple narrators, and innovative camera work and cinematography.

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” (1958) did not receive a single Oscar nomination but the film is now considered as a fine example of a psychological thriller. Critics lauded the film as “a tale of male aggression and visual control,… a deconstruction of the male construction of femininity and of masculinity itself” (Susan White, "Vertigo and Problems of Knowledge in Feminist Film Theory". In Richard Allen and Sam Ishii-Gonzales, “Alfred Hitchcock: Centenary Essays.” London: BFI. p. 279)

Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: Space Odyssey” (1968) was not nominated for best picture. The film only received four Oscar nominations including best director for Kubrick, best screenplay for Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke, and best art direction. It only won one Oscar for best visual effects. Kubrick’s film is not simply science fiction; it is a perfect example of what science fiction should be. The ape throwing a bone in the air is now one of the iconic scenes in films.

Martin Scorcese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” is irreverently cartoonish in portraying capitalist excesses but “Raging Bull” (1980) is probably one of his finest films. It lost against Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People,” which has also become a classic. Prior to “Raging Bull,” another Scorsese classic, “Taxi Driver,” also lost in the best picture category in 1976.

Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” (1982) is one of my favorite films of all time. It is the quintessential post-modern film. According to film critic Steven Benedict, the film took influences from classic films from different decades of the twentieth century, such as “The Seventh Seal,” “Shanghai Express,” “Citizen Kane,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “Mildred Pierce,” “Blow Up” “Taxi Driver” and “Apocalypse Now,” just to name a few. “Blade Runner’s” influence is also evident in anime films such as “Akira,” “Ghost in the Shell,” and live action films like “Seven,” “The Matrix,” “Minority Report,” “Batman Begins,” and “Wall-E.” The film only received two Oscar nominations for best visual effects and best art direction, and it lost in both categories.

Bottom line, we have to wait if the winning best films of the last decade will age gracefully or not. For now, I still cannot imagine why “Argo” beat “Amour” or “Zero Dark Thirty” in 2013, and how “The Artist” beat “The Tree of Life” in 2012, and on and on…


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