I still can't believe what I saw last night at the Academy Awards.
La La Land wins Best Picture, its producers and cast on stage to celebrate Hollywood's highest honor.
By the by, congratulations to the makers of Moonlight for the win!
But it left me wondering, if I had the power to rush on stage and change the outcome of an Oscar win, which movie, actor, or director would I reward with a do-over?
Here's my list of 5 in no particular order:
1. 1968--Give Stanley Kubrick the Best Director Oscar for 2001: A Space Odyssey
Ok, true confession, I borrowed this one from CNN's Jake Tapper. But there is no way that Kubrick wasn't more deserving of the Academy Award for Best Director than Carol Reed, director of Oliver!
You can hardly find a filmmaker of any renown who hasn't cited 2001 as a MAJOR influence on their works and career. I'm talking everyone from Steven Spielberg to Christopher Nolan. From James Cameron to Alfonso Cuaron. It changed how movies were made.
The problem Kubrick ran into was that MGM executives had no idea what they were watching when they first saw the movie (I recommend watching it 2 or 3 times before making any judgments.), so they didn't get behind it or Kubrick. Oliver! was much easier to understand. The orphan exclaiming, "please sir, I want some more" and a bunch of kids singing "Consider yourself at home" makes more sense at first glance than an ape throwing a bone in the air, a monolith or a computer singing "Daisy."
Kubrick did receive an Academy Award for 2001, in the category of Best Visual Effects. His first and only Oscar. That's a travesty.
2. 1941--Give Citizen Kane Best Picture
Look, I like John Ford...a lot. Any list of the best directors of all time has to include him. But even his biggest fans have to admit that How Green Is My Valley isn't anywhere on the level of Citizen Kane. But when you go after the biggest mogul at the time in William Randolph Hearst and nearly bring down your studio in the process, you suffer consequences. And that's what happened to Orson Welles.
Welles did get an Oscar for Kane, sharing Best Original Screenplay honors with Herman Mankiewicz, but the film generally considered the greatest of all time should have won Best Picture...and Best Director...and Best Actor, etc.
If you want an idea of how influential Citizen Kane was to the art of filmmaking, listen to Martin Scorsese:
3. 2005--Give Brokeback Mountain Best Picture
This one is generally viewed as one of the biggest surprises/snubs in Oscar history, and it merits mentioning on this list. We will never know how much homophobia played a part in Brokeback losing out to Crash. Nor will we ever know how much goodwill the studio Lionsgate gave away by reportedly sending out an unprecedented 130,000 + screeners. You just know that it was wrong to deny the film the Best Picture Oscar it so richly deserved. Heck, I would have voted for George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck before Crash.
When you combine Ang Lee's direction, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal's master performances, breakthrough roles from Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams, the music, the script, and all other elements, it was clearly the best film of 2005 and one of the best of the decade.
4. 1994--Give Gary Sinise Best Supporting Actor in Forrest Gump
OK, here we go. I'm NOT taking Forrest Gump's Best Picture, Director, or Actor Oscars away. 1994 was a VERY good year for motion pictures with Gump, Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Quiz Show. I'm fine if you want to give the Box of Chocolate Oscar to Shawshank or Pulp Fiction, but I'm not.
What I am going to do is reward the actor who brought out the best in Tom Hanks' Forrest Gump, Gary Sinise. His performance as Lt. Dan Taylor was nothing short of amazing, whether he had real legs, CGI legs, or 'magic legs.'
My favorite part of Sinise's performance is on the shrimp boat with Forrest Gump when the two are sailing in a hurricane. The fury and rage over losing his legs comes out in a dazzling moment.
Sinise paid the price for being a relative unknown (as did Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction) compared to veteran actor Martin Landau, who won for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood. Sorry Marty, the Oscar goes to Gary.
5. 1998--Give Saving Private Ryan Best Picture
Up until Sunday night, I think Private Ryan losing to Shakespeare in Love might have been the biggest shock I've ever seen at the Oscars. Credit the Weinstein Brothers for some outstanding campaigning for their film (which by the by had two Academy Award winning performances from Gwyneth Paltrow and Judi Dench).
But few films have ever captured the essence of war like Spielberg's masterpiece, starring Tom Hanks and featuring a great ensemble: Matt Damon, Edward Burns, Tom Sizemore, and Vin Diesel among others. You even get 'blink and you miss them' appearances from Ted Danson, Bryan Cranston, and Paul Giamatti.
I've always wondered if part of the reason why Saving Private Ryan didn't win in 1998 was that another epic World War II film was nominated for Best Picture that year. The Thin Red Line was brilliant in its own right and I wonder if it took some votes away from Private Ryan.
My favorite scene is at the end (sorry if this is a spoiler but the film is nearly 20 years old). Hanks' Captain Miller lays dying on the bridge as American forces clear out the village, meaning Damon's Private Ryan is on his way home. Miller says two great final words...'earn this.'
I decided to chat about the Oscar night flub with WKYC Channel 3's Sara Shookman on Facebook Live. We talk about how things can go wrong during a live TV broadcast and much more!