The 10 Most Mind-Boggling Oscar Nominations Ever

The Academy Awards are perhaps just as famous—maybe even more so—for the mind-boggling ways in which they have overlooked or ignored what were destined to become classic films as they are for helping to turn films that underwhelmed audiences at the time into recognized classics. What really boggles the mind when it comes to Oscar history, however, are those nominations—which sometimes even translate into wins—that go onto create a legacy of the inexplicable. Wading through the minefield of nominations that are questionable simply from a purely subjective view occasionally results in a full-scale explosion of the objectively inexplicable. For instance, these ten absolutely mind-boggling nominations (or, in one memorable case, non-nomination).

10. Best Makeup. Titanic

The first thing to keep in mind is that The Fifth Element, Austin Powers, Selena, Spawn, L.A. Confidential and An American Werewolf in Paris were all released the same year as Titanic and none of them received a nomination for their makeup. The second thing to keep in mind is that despite surviving the sinking of ship in freezing cold water, Kate Winslet on that chunk of ice looks not terribly worse than when stripping down for a Leonard DiCaprio whose makeup makes him look all of twelve years old. The most important thing to keep in mind in that when Kate Winslet’s character is portrayed as an old woman…she is actually played by an old woman! Combine all those elements together and the result is a boggled mind. The question that lingers like in the mind

9. Best Costuming. The Swarm.

The winner of the Oscar for costume design this year was Death on the Nile, a period piece requiring actors look like the idle rich without a care while the actors portrayed them were actually being exposed to temperatures over 100 degrees. Arguably, the winner should have The Wiz, a misguided but visually dazzling urban revising of The Wizard of Oz. And then there was The Swarm. A movie set in the late 1970’s featuring people dressed in clothes that looked as though they came from a late 1970’s Sears. The Swarm is generally viewed to be the nadir of the 1970’s disaster movie cycle and is often touted as one of the worst movies to ever be nominated for an Oscar. In fact, the nomination of The Swarm for costuming has been a subject for debate over exactly what could explain the seemingly inexplicable.

8. Best Sound Editing, 1980.

What’s odd about this is that in 1980 no film was awarded an Academy Award n this category. This despite the fact that two of the most amazing uses of sound editing in film history occurred during this year. Firstly, there was the simply stunning sound editing in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, especially when Danny Torrance is riding his Big Wheel throughout the hotel and the sound is perfectly edited to match the Big Wheel’s travel from

wooden floor to carpeting. Even more amazing is the use of sound in the boxing scenes in Raging Bull. Listen closely and you can hear everything from the screeching of a jet plane to the roar of an animal. The fact that the Academy Awards didn’t see fit to even nominate these two movies is proof enough of how meaningless they are. Lot of fun, though.

7. Best Costuming. Gandhi.

Must have had something to do with being able to find all those thousands of towels and sheets rather than the actual process of folding them around the actors’ bodies correctly. Sure, it sounds racist, but it is also true. The thing is, Gandhi was an runaway Oscar train wreck. E.T., Tootsie and a handful of other movies are so superior in every filmmaking aspect than this deadheaded epic, but that’s totally beside the point. The Academy wanted the noble effort about a noble man to win and win big. And so it did. Despite the fact that it should no more have received a nomination for costumes than it should for Best Director or Best Picture. The whole thing was a sham. Well, except for Ben Kingsley.

6. Warren Beatty, Trevor Griffiths, Best Original Screenplay. Reds.

Umm, didn’t I read this exact same story in Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed, the main character of the story played by Warren Beatty? Original screenplay? Aren’t those suppose to be relegated to works of imagination?

5. Beatrice Straight, Best Supporting Actress. Network.

On-screen for less than eight minutes in a role that was hardy integral to the plot of the overall movie. Not saying she wasn’t terrific in that one scene, but come on! (See also Judi Dench for Shakespeare in Love.)

4. Timothy Hutton, Best Supporting Actor. Ordinary People.

By the time the Academy Award nominating process came around, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Robert DeNiro was going to win Best Actor for Raging Bull. The movie execs in charge of Ordinary People also had to figure that Raging Bull and Martin Scorsese were their primary competitors Best Picture and Best Director and they didn’t want to come away empty handed so they slyly placed Timothy Hutton in the Best Supporting Actor category, figuring that was their best shot. I can’t say for certain that Timothy Hutton holds the record for the most screen time ever for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner, but I’ll bet he’s at least in the top two. And by unfairly placing him in that category, Joe Pesci got cheated out of the Academy Award he so richly deserved for Raging Bull. But hey, it was a night for thievery. Also of note: Hutton has more screen time than Mary Tyler Moore, nominated in the Best Actress category.

3. Barry Fitzgerald, Best Actor AND Best Supporting Actor. Going My Way.

Yes, the only man to be nominated for an Academy Award twice in the same year for playing the same character in the SAME movie! Apparently, the Academy couldn’t decide whether Barry Fitzgerald’s character was a leading character or a supporting character. And rather than wimping out ala Timothy Hutton style, they split the difference and nominated him in both categories. Nothing like having firm convictions, huh? And yes, just in case you’re wondering, he did win the Academy Award for Supporting Actor.

2. Sascha Baron Cohen, et. al., Best Adapted Screenplay. Borat.

Any time I hear filmmakers discussing how their movie was 95% improvised, I know right away that the movie was at least 75% scripted. But in the case of Borat, either half of it was improvised in the form of honest reactions by people not in on the joke, or else the Academy needs to wipe the slate clean and populate all the acting categories with those who appeared alongside Borat. I mean, come on. We know what’s happening here; the Academy members are too gutless to nominate the movie for Best Picture or Cohen for Best Actor so they toss it this ridiculous bone. Hey Academy: rent some balls.

1. Kenneth Branagh, Best Adapted Screenplay. Hamlet.

Okay, I get that a screenplay is more than dialogue. There’s stage directions, for instance. And description. But let’s face it, most scripts are 90% dialogue. Therefore, shouldn’t William Shakespeare have at least gotten a co-nomination for this one? This is, as far as I know, the only English-language film that contains Hamlet uncut and in its entirety.