PG Cooper: 31 Days of Oscar: 12 Classic Films with Zero Nominations

Posted: February 9, 2013 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

Paula, Kellee, and Aurora have done it again. The blogathon masters have come up with the 30 Days of Oscar Blogathon. The goal is for bloggers to basically write any Oscar related articles. I thought a list of classic films which were completely shut out would be fun.


The Oscars are suppose to award the best in film. With that in mind, it’s amazing how many classic films slip through the Academy’s fingers. I’m not talking about films that didn’t win Best Picture, I’m not even talking about films that weren’t nominated for Best Picture. I’m talking about films that did not receive any nomination in any category. Not one nomination. I’ve selected twelve films based on their status as a classics, the nominations they deserved, and my own personal enjoyment. The list will be presented in chronological order and is not reflective of my admiration for the film or how much of a “snub” the lack of nominations were. I also do not intend this piece to be a criticism of the Academy necessarily  but more of an observation. I also should point out that all twelve films were worthy of Best Picture and Best Director nominations, so I won’t be specifying that every time.

1. Yojimbo (1961)

yojimbo-posterFor the most part, the Academy was pretty decent to Kurosawa. A few of his films scored some nominations, and Rashomon won Best Foreign Language Film, for example. Yet throughout his career they still ignored one of his major works; Yojimbo. The film tells the story of a samurai who plays to rival gangs against each other. It’s not an overly complicated film, but it’s masterfully executed by Kurosawa. For Best Foreign Language Film, countries are only allowed to submit one film and they opted to go with the film Immortal Love. I quite speak of the quality of that film since I haven’t seen it, but Yojimbo certainly has a more enduring legacy.Possible other nominations include Best Actor for Toshiro Mifune’s badass performance, Best Editing, Best Cinematography Black and White, Best Costume Design, and maybe even Best Original Screenplay.

2. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1967)

good_the_bad_and_the_uglyIt isn’t exactly surprising that The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly received no Oscar love. After all, at the time the spaghetti Westerns were seen as nothing more than escapist entertainment. However history will side with me on this one. Today, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is considered one of the greatest films of all time. A true classic, in every sense of the word. In addition to Best Picture and Best Director, there are two awards that also jump out at me. The first is editing. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is an extremely tight movie which is made very tense by the editing. Of course, the American release was trimed so it’s possible the editing isn’t as strong, but I doubt the cuts made would justify the film not being nominated. The second is Best Supporting Actor for Eli Wallach. I’ve already written about how great Wallach’s work in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is so I won’t ramble on here. Suffice it to say he’s great and certainly worthy of a nomination. Granted, there was some tough competition that year (namely Gene Hackman in Bonnie and Clyde) but Wallach still should have been nominated.

3. Mean Streets (1973)

mean_streetsThough not technically his first film, Mean Streets is generally (and rightfully) considered the film that put Martin Scorsese on the map. The production is a bit rough and the low budget shows, but there’s a tremendous honestly to Scorsese’s portrait of New York gangs. In fact, the low budget actually lends a lot of authenticity to the film. I’m not necessairly surprised the film was passed over given the relatively low key production. Plus I assume most Acedemy members had no idea Scorsese would go on to become the master filmmaker he’s known as today.  Still, the film has merit in several areas and are worthy of recognition. The editing for example is very stylish and while it may not be as refined as the editing in letter Scorsese pictures, it’s still very good. Harvey Keitel is great in the lead role but stealing the show is Robert De Niro as the eccentric and dangerous Johnny Boy. De Niro definitely deserved a Best Supporting Actor nomination, but given he would win that very category the next year for The Godfather Part II I guess I can’t complain. Finally, Scorsese and Madrick Martin should have been candidates for Best Original Screenplay. Considering George Lucas’ vastly inferior  American Graffiti (another film about youth with low production values and similar themes) was nominated for its screenplay, direction, and picture, I see no reason why Mean Streets should be overlooked.

4. The Shining (1980)

2308_THE_SHINING_lgIf I were ranking this list based on what shutouts were the most ludicrous, this would likely be number one. Stanley Kubrick was already considered a genius and his films had several nominations under their belt already, including Best Director and Best Picture. In fact, all of his films from Dr. Strangelove on received at least one Oscar nomination. All except The Shining that is. Of course, like most Kubrick films, people didn’t see the brilliance of The Shining right away, which explains the lack of nominations for Best Director and Picture, but what about the technical categories? The cinematography is fantastic and the use of the steadicam groundbreaking. The production design is great and created one of cinema’s greatest settings. The editing, while not overly flashy, is very well-done and holds the film together nicely. The screenplay may be divisive among some folks given how much the film differs from the novel, but a screenplay shouldn’t be judged by how closely it follows the source material. But the most obvious snub of all is Jack Nicholson not receiving a Best Actor nomination. Whether one sees the greatness of The Shining or not, it’s hard for anyone to ignore how phenomenally good Nicholson is in The Shining. It’s one of the best performances of his career and the man has had one hell of a career. The film’s massive legacy is a testament to how egregious the lack of nominations really is. The film is loved by both film buffs and the average Joe and has managed to permeate the pop culture landscape in ways few movies can.

5. Scarface (1983)


Like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, I understand why Scarface was ignored by the Academy. Upon release, Scarface was met with a very mixed response and it was only in later years that the film would be seen as a classic. However, given the massive status the film has today, it is fair to say Scarface is another classic the Academy overlooked. Also similar to The Good, the Bad and the UglyScarface  has great editing. It’s a phenomenally tense film which flows perfectly for the three hour run time. Scarface also is worthy for categories like Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Oliver Stone’s screenplay is also excellent and worthy of recognition. And finally, like The ShiningScarface features an incredible performance at the center of it. Even if you hate Scarface, it’s hard not to enjoy, or at least respect, Al Pacino’s work as Tony Montana. He’s a fantastic character and Pacino completely gives himself to the role.

6. This is Spinal Tap (1984)

this_is_spinal_tapThis choice may seem odd, but I’d argue Spinal Tap is one of the greatest comedies of all time and Rob Reiner’s best film. Probably the biggest snub is the lack of a screenplay nomination. Spinal Tap has some hysterical dialogue and situations and perfectly satirizes rock stars. I also feel like a Best Editing nomination was deserved given how the film really is put together like a genuine documentary about a forgotten rock band.  Finally, a think the film deserved at least one Best Original Song nomination. That may sound crazy given that the joke is often how bad the songs of Spinal Tap are, but they serve the film perfectly and do exactly what they need to go. Plus I actually like a lot of the songs. “Rock and Roll Creation”, “Big Bottom”, “Sex Farm”, and my personal favourite, “Stonehenge”. All classics. Most times when people complain about comedies being snubbed at the Oscars, I found it unwarranted. Not every year gives us truly great comedies. But This is Spinal Tap is a truly great film which deserved some Oscar love.

7. Groundhog Day (1993)

groundhog_dayWhen Groundhog Day first came out, most people blew it off as an entertaining but disposable comedy. Those people couldn’t have been more wrong. Groundhog Day is a great film which is very funny but also features some fascinating ideas. In addition to Best Picture and Best Director, there are two awards that I feel Groundhog Day deserved to be nominated for. The first is Best Actor for Bill Murray. Murray is phenomenal in Groundhog Day; bringing in a lot of laughs while also having a great character arc. Murray completely sells the arc and can sell the emotional moments just as strongly as the comedy ones. It’s a great performance and is the best I’ve ever seen Bill Murray. The second award is Best Original Screenplay. Groundhog Day has an excellent high concept which has been ripped off countlessly since. More importantly, the script does a lot more than exploit the concept for laughs but actually crafts a very smart film which asks some big questions. I was shocked by all the unique ways screenwriters Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis were able to bring new ideas to the story. Like This is Spinal TapGroundhog Day is a brilliant comedy and one which deserved more Oscar love.

8. Heat (1995)


Heat is one of my all time favourite films. That may make me bias, but I do believe that this film is of exceptional quality and was worthy of several Oscar nominations. First and foremost, the film is a technical masterpiece and I’m genuinely shocked Heat didn’t pick up a few nominations in the technical categories. How the film was not nominated for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing is beyond me. The robbery shoot-out alone warrants nominations in both categories. The cinematography is also very slick and cool and Heat could have been nominated for that as well. Some may say the film is too long, but I say the film perfectly examines multiple different stories and characters while running smoothly for almost three hours, making it worthy of a Best Editing nomination. Michael Mann’s screenplay for Heat is excellent with interesting characters and an involving story crafted. Of course, it isn’t a very “showy” screenplay and I feel it has a more subtle greatness to it. Finally, both Al Pacino and Robert De Niro were worthy candidates for Best Actor nominations. The two are arguably the greatest actors of their time and they give amazing performances in Heat. Sure, they had both done better performances elsewhere but that’s no reason for both actors to be passed over. Of course, Heat, like other films in this list, was not considered a masterpiece on an initial release and it was only after time had passed that critics came to see just how great the film is. But even so, the sheer amount and diversity of awards Heat could have been nominated for justify its place on the list.

9. The Big Lebowski (1998)


Like many films on this list, The Big Lebowski was initially misunderstood by audiences. But it’s also important to consider that by 1998 the Coens had already established themselves as two of the most important filmmakers working. They’d built a substantial amount of critical praise with films like Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing, and their 1996 film Fargo won the duo Best Original Screenplay Oscars and was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Director. With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine the Academy, and critics as well, so quickly dismissing The Big Lebowski. Then again, it’s possible so much early success further hindered The Big Lebowski given inflated expectations. In any event, The Big Lebowski is a fantastic film and in my opinion the Coen brothers’ best work. Their are two obvious snubs here, in addition to Best Director and Best Picture. First is best screenplay. Loosely based on the works of Raymond Chandler, The Big Lebowski features a complicated plot which is made easy to follow, hilarious and unconventional dialogue, unexpected turns, and unforgettable characters. One of these unforgettable characters is “The Dude”, played by Jeff Bridges. This brings me to snub number two: Jeff Bridges not being nominated for Best Actor. While Bridges’ work isn’t your typical “Oscar performance”, he still leaves an everlasting mark and makes “The Dude” one of cinema’s greatest characters. Today, The Big Lebowski has a huge following and is one of the Coens’ most well regarded works.

10. 25th Hour (2002)


25th Hour is probably the least celebrated film in this list but that likely says less about the film’s quality and more about how few have seen it. Those of us who have seen 25th Hour  acknowledge it as the masterpiece that it is. Edward Norton gives one of his best performances as a convicted drug dealer living his last day before being sent to prison. Through the film, Norton must go through a wide spectrum of emotions as he confronts business partners, family, friends, and himself. It’s a moving performance and definitely deserved to be nominated. Brian Cox and Philip Seymour Hoffman also give strong performances worthy of consideration. 25th Hour also deserved a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The two monologues alone make the film worthy, but when one also considers how the film balances being a self-contained story while also dealing with larger societal issues it becomes clear 25th Hour should have been a lock. I also would have given a nomination to Terence Blanchard’s moving score. So why was 25th Hour passed over? As far as I can tell, there are two reasons. First, director Spike Lee can be a controversial figure and he isn’t too liked in the system. In fact, of his entire filmography, Lee’s films have only accumulated four Oscar nominations total (Best Documentary Feature for Spike Lee-4 Little Girls, Best Supporting Actor for Danny Aileo-Do The Right Thing, Best Original Screenplay for Spike Lee-Do The Right Thing, and Best Actor for Denzel Washington-Malcolm X). The second reason is the film’s subject matter. While on the surface the film is about a drug dealer, 25th Hour also examines New York post-911 and was released just fifteen months after the tragedy.  For many people, that was far too soon.

11. Zodiac (2007)

Zodiac_onesheet_advance-1-500x726David Fincher’s early works were not seen as masterpieces until years later (Se7en, Fight Club). That wasn’t the case with ZodiacZodiac was immediately met with tremendous critical praise and was included on several year end top ten lists. The film was expected to be a major Oscar contender. Instead, Zodiac was left in the cold. Let’s quickly run down some awards Zodiac was worthy of consideration for. Best Actor for Jake Gylenhaal’s turn as an obsessed journalist. Best Supporting Actor for Robert Downey Jr. as a journalist who slowly becomes burnt out on the case. Best Screenplay for how the film examined the case of the Zodiac killer. Best Art Direction/Production Design for the brilliant recreation of 1970’s San Francisco. Best Editing for the film’s ability to span years in movie time and almost three hours in real time while remaining incredibly tense. Best Costume Design for the period clothing. Best Cinematography for the film’s mysterious and slick look. Best Visual Effects for the CG backgrounds which blend in seamlessly. When you count Best Picture and Best Director, that makes ten potential nominations. Now I’m not saying Zodiac should definitely have been nominated in all of these categories and there was some tough competition that year (No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood were the front runners that year), but for it to not receive a single nomination is mind boggling. What’s even more perplexing is Fincher’s next film, the vastly inferior The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, received several nominations and a few wins too. Why the hate for Zodiac?

12. Shame (2011)


This is a very recent film so it hasn’t had the time to solidify its status as a classic, but I stand by my choice. Before I get into it, I want to say that I considered listing Steve McQueen’s and Michael Fassbender’s first collaboration, 2008’s Hunger. Ultimately I decided Hunger was such a small film with so many unknowns that it made sense that the film was overlooked. The same can not be said for Shame. When Shame came out, McQueen had already been acknowledged as a significant new talent and the film had a lot of critical buzz. In addition, Michael Fassbender had become a huge movie star and a respected actor with performances in X-Men: First Class and A Dangerous Method in that year alone. Fassbender himself is the Academy’s most blatant snub regarding Shame. Fassbender gives a towering performance as a man struggling with sex addiction and effectively balances being flawed but still sympathetic. The screenplay also deserves recognition for its excellent characters and for how it handles sex addiction in a mature fashion. Carey Mulligan also gives a great performance and would have made for a fine Best Supporting Actress nomination. The film’s cinematography is great, being both very professional but still invoking a sense of realism. I also love the score. So why was Shame passed over? Because it deals with sex addiction. It’s a topic few films deal with and even fewer present so bluntly. I imagine most Academy members were made uncomfortable by the film and since sex addiction isn’t really a hot topic there was no desire to push it for awards. What a shame that this caused a great film to be overlooked. As the years go by, Fassbender’s and McQueen’s careers will continue to blossom and Shame‘s reputation grows, this omission will be all the more blatant.

  1. That’s ridiculous!

  2. ckckred says:

    I’m stunned how The Shining wasn’t nominated for anything.

  3. r361n4 says:

    The Shining, The good the bad and the ugly, Heat, Lebowski, such a tragic list! Cool seeing all of these together, the academy sure does put its head up it’s own ass fairly often

  4. alysonkrier says:

    It’s still stunning every time I’m reminded that The Shining didn’t get any nominations. What was The Academy thinking that year?

  5. BrikHaus says:

    Scarface is the best comedy to never be nominated.

  6. […] Dan (@PGCooper) from PG Cooper’s Movie Reviews takes a look at 12 classic films that, despite being worthy of Best Picture and Best Director nods, received none at…. […]

  7. A big AMEN to Zodiac! That movie was overlooked and now pretty well forgotten … by all except those who saw it. Both Downey and Gyllenhaal were terrific.

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