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The Academy Award for Best Loser

Aug 23, 2008
The Academy Awards, more commonly known as the Oscars, are the highest accolade for directors, actors and writers to achieve. The outrageously glamorous ceremony is held each year to much fascination, excitement and media clamour. With regular viewing figures of over 30 million people, the Oscars are the most-talked about film event in the world.

Winners are lauded with praise as Earth's film fans watch the emotional speeches about who helped them along the way. But what about the winners that never were? Those that managed to slip through the net of glory, as a less-deserving winner stole the prestigious statuette.

As the friends and families of losers all over the world have said at one time - 'somebody has to lose'. To lose is not a pleasant feeling for anybody, but a to have a deserved victory snatched from one's grasp is a devastating blow. Just ask Martin Scorsese, who until 2007 failed to win the Academy Award for Best Director despite a succession of fantastic films.

Scorsese, since his directorial debut in 1963, had managed a massive 59 Oscar nominations prior to the release of The Departed. Five of these nominations were for Best Director, for film classics such as Raging Bull, The Aviator and Goodfellas.

Film fans all over the world will be aware that Goodfellas was nominated for six Academy Awards, with Joe Pesci scooping the film's only gong for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Despite the Academy's apparent failure to praise the film adequately, many other polls and award ceremonies were more just in their decisions.

Various film awards were presented to the film, its cast and of course the film's director Martin Scorsese. Fifteen years after its release, in 2005, Goodfellas was named the greatest film of all time in a popular movie magazine poll. This celebrated, commercial and critical success had lost out at the Oscars to Dances With Wolves and Kevin Costner. Ridiculous.

Scorsese is not the only director to have been senselessly ignored for the big prize, history is filled with nearly-men and also-rans. Quentin Tarantino burst onto the scene in 1992 with his heist-movie Reservoir Dogs, an independent film that would become a critical success. Tarantino was the seen as the 'next big thing' in Hollywood and when his next film arrived, the anticipation was more than warranted.

Pulp Fiction smashed every other film of 1994 out of the water with its rich dialogue, clever use of a nonlinear narrative and some fantastic performances from Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman and a dramatic comeback from john Travolta. However, at the Academy Awards it won only one of its seven nominations - the Best Original Screenplay Award.

The winner of Best Picture, Best Director and four additional Oscars in the year of Pulp Fiction was Robert Zemeckis' Forrest Gump. A fun, jovial trip through 20th century America, Forrest Gump was a commercial and critical success (six Oscars and 677 million dollars gross revenue) but surely cannot be considered in the same breath as the work of Tarantino.

Tarantino is yet to repeat his Oscar win in 1994, and will undoubtedly avoid the Best Director award with his controversial subject-matter and violent films. However, if the likes of Mel Gibson's Braveheart are picking up Best Picture and Best Director, maybe it's for the best that Tarantino goes unnoticed by the Academy.

There have been some embarrassing decisions at the Oscars in its history, with films like Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey losing out to Oliver! for Best Picture and Best Director. The strange choices are not consigned solely to the films but have always appeared in the awards for actors and actresses.

Tom Hanks winning the Best Actor Award for Forrest Gump may have been a reasonable choice, but when you look at the nominations there could have been a more worthy winner. Films like Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption were in the running, yet the sentimental movie took most of the plaudits in 1994.

In 1976, Robert De Niro (Taxi Driver) and Sylvester Stallone (Rocky) were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor but lost out to Peter Finch for his performance in Network. Now, Finch was impressive in the role but is it possible that De Niro didn't win because of the violent film for which he was nominated. Scorsese's film would receive a total of four nominations and would win none.

Controversy will always surround the decision of the Academy, with so many films, actors and directors fighting for the coveted titles. With so much acclaim attached to a single award, it is unsurprising that the competition is so tough and contested.

Decisions are made, arguments ensue and film fans everywhere will be asking the question as to why their favourite was unsuccessful. There have been some strange, and even unbelievable results that have left the critics and fans equally bemused.

So, after 44 years of trying, Martin Scorsese picked up his massively overdue Best Director Award for The Departed. If this is anything to go by, Quentin Tarantino may get the recognition for his work by about 2038, as long as he tones down the violence and swearing a little.
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