Oscars: A Look Back At Coulda-Been Contenders

The public was caught off-guard by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s announcement that the best picture category would now allow for 10 nominations.   Which prompted me to whip up this made-up memo. The Academy likes memos.   To: All Academy Members   After much consideration and extensive deliberations, the Academy has […]

Last Updated: July 1, 2009 @ 12:49 PM

The public was caught off-guard by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s announcement that the best picture category would now allow for 10 nominations.

 

Which prompted me to whip up this made-up memo. The Academy likes memos.

 

To: All Academy Members

 

After much consideration and extensive deliberations, the Academy has decided to broaden the nominees for the six major categories to 10 nominees.

 

As this may come as a shock to our members, I thought it best to give some insight into the decision-making behind such a momentous change. Our rigorous due diligence process required that we screen all movies released within a calendar year that would have been eligible for nomination.

 

Upon thorough review, we found many examples of fine movies and outstanding performances that merited attention and accolades but due to the restrictive nature of the nomination process, received neither.

In 2002, Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. starred in "Boat Trip," which strove to highlight the divide between gay and straight, through humor. How fearless and ahead of his time, yet the nominations focused on Denzel Washington in "Training Day" and Will Smith in "Ali."  Was either performance as searing? Could any of the others have laid the foundation for such movies as "Brokeback Mountain," "Milk" and "Bruno" with such understated grace?

Who could forget Katie Holmes’ nuanced performance in 2004’s "First Daughter" directed by the great Forest Whitaker? Will she feel betrayed when she learns that her boyfriend is an undercover Secret Service agent assigned to keep her safe at college? We were on the edge of our collective seats, Kleenex at the ready.

 

Yet the best actress race was focused on Charlize Theron in "Monster" and Naomi Watts in "21 Grams" while the best director nod centered on Peter Jackson and Clint Eastwood. Which of the three performances will we remember in 20 years time? Which movie’s subtle directing will remain in our memories? I think we all know the answers to these questions.

In the same year, even Robert De Niro, one of our finest actors, was penalized by the system. His dark turn in 2004’s "Godsend" as a doctor who clones a child with terrible consequences was completely overshadowed by Morgan Freeman in "Million Dollar Baby" and Jamie Foxx in "Collateral." While both are fine actors deserving of praise, in hindsight, it is extremely painful for us to come to terms with this missed opportunity.

In the best supporting actress category, we were crushed to discover that Anjelica Huston’s role in 2006’s riches-to-rags tale "Material Girls" was overlooked. Instead, the studios pushed Jennifer Hudson in "Dreamgirls" and Cate Blanchett for "Notes on a Scandal."  It is heartbreaking for us to know that it’s too late to correct such a horrific oversight.

And finally, even as recently as 2007, we were still unable to reward previous Oscar winners such as Hilary Swank, provocative in her role in "The Reaping" as a grieving former missionary faced with a return of biblical plagues. Instead, we saw Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren in contention. While both are living legends, it is beyond us as to how a performance dealing with such larger than life issues such as the death of a child and pestilence wasn’t nominated.

As we cannot correct the wrongs of the past, we strive to make improvements for the future. We’ve already seen outstanding performances from Dwayne Johnson, were mesmerized by "Taken," deeply touched by "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" and are breathless with anticipation for Bruce Willis in "Surrogates."

 

This is going to be a great year for movies and an even better year for the Oscars!

Mali Perl lives on the East Coast but her mind is always on Hollywood time. She enjoys A-listers, G6 travel, VIP treatment, Us Weekly and having a security detail. Her pet peeves include actors with two first names, waiting in lines, "just being nominated" and unflattering videos on TMZ.