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The Biggest Oscar Snubs: Part 2

All mentioned films in article
Not released
Not released

In the second part of our tour of the biggest Oscar snubs, we'll cover the period from 1980 to the most recent film snubs. As punters became hooked on event movies and Hollywood grew fat on the box-office and merchandise takings they generated, the people who voted for the Academy Awards became older and more detached from the teenagers and twentysomethings who now made up the bulk of the Western cinema audience.

Consequently, debates raged around nomination time about the AMPAS membership being out of touch with popular tastes. A growing number of voices also started to express concern about the scarcity of nominations for black and ethnic performers, as well as the reluctance to recognised world cinema in the major categories. Yet, the Oscars retained their status and nothing put extra dollars on a movie's gross like a nomination or a little golden man clutching a sword.

Snubs in the Blockbuster Era

The picture that had launched the blockbuster into the stratosphere was George Lucas's Star Wars (1977). But, while the first part of the original trilogy had done well at the Oscars, Irvin Kershner's The Empire Strikes Back was only recognised for its technical achievements. Mike Hodges's camp space classic, Flash Gordon, was bypassed entirely, as was Stanley Kubrick's lauded adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining. With the greatest respect to Jack Lemmon and Robert Duvall, Jack Nicholson's performance as Jack Torrance far surpassed their respective turns as Scottie Templeton in Bob Clark's Tribute and Bull Meechum in Lewis John Carlino's The Great Santini (all 1980). But Nicholson was far from alone, as Judy Davis was overlooked for Gillian Armstrong's My Brilliant Career (1979), along with Bob Hoskins for John Mackenzie's The Long Good Friday. Moreover, Woody Allen was shut out completely for Stardust Memories (both 1980), while the Academy took gesture politics a step too far in awarding the Best Foreign Film going to Vladimir Menshov's Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (1979) when it was inferior to both Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha and François Truffaut's The Last Metro (both 1980).

The perceived bias against blockbusters gathered momentum after Harrison Ford failed to make the Best Actor list as Indiana Jones in Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark, while Karen Allen was denied Best Supporting recognition as Marion Ravenwood. Similarly, William Hurt and a debuting Kathleen Turner deserved better after their sizzling exchanges in Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat, as did Faye Dunaway, who left everything on the screen as Joan Crawford in Frank Perry's Mommie Dearest. Acting of a subtler kind by André Gregory and Wallace Shawn also went unnoted in Louis Malle's My Dinner With André and this trend continued into the next year when Jeremy Irons (Moonlighting), Sean Penn (Fast Times At Ridgemont High) and Heather O'Rourke (Poltergeist) were all passed over. The Academy's notorious future phobia struck again, as Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982), George Miller's Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) and Nicholas Meyer's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) failed to cut the mustard where the main prizes were concerned.

A still from Scarface (1983) With Al Pacino
A still from Scarface (1983) With Al Pacino

At the 56th Academy Awards, there was little room for personal artistry, as Martin Scorsese and Barbra Streisand were respectively rebuffed for The King of Comedy and Yentl, along with the former's male leads, Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis, who easily gave two of the year's best performances, alongside Al Pacino's wonderfully wired display in Michael Cimino's Scarface. Philip Kaufman was also denied a Best Director nod for The Right Stuff, while Godfrey Reggio was cast out of the Best Documentary fold in spite of the audiovisual brilliance of the socio-politically provocative Koyaanisqatsi.

But the Academy proved particularly negligent the following year when it failed to notice the merits of Rob Reiner's This Is Spinal Tap, James Cameron's The Terminator and Martin Brest's Beverly Hills Cop. A little imagination might also have resulted in nominations for Robert Englund in Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street, M. Emmet Walsh in Joel and Ethan Coen's Blood Simple, Kathleen Turner in Ken Russell's Crimes of Passion, Danny DeVito in Robert Zemeckis's Romancing the Stone, Mia Farrow in Woody Allen's Broadway Danny Rose and Howard E. Rollins in Norman Jewison's A Soldier's Story (all 1984).

AMPAS hardly atoned the following year, when it failed to list either Terry Gilliam's Brazil or Akira Kurosawa's Ran for Best Picture. It also found no room at all for John Hughes's The Breakfast Club and denied Michael J. Fox a Best Actor nomination for Robert Zemeckis's Back to the Future (all 1985). The voters plumped for the wrong Dennis Hopper performance in 1987 when they gave him a Best Supporting nod for David Anspaugh's Hoosiers (aka Best Shot) instead of David Lynch's darker and more difficult Blue Velvet. Tom Noonan's equally unsettling turn in Michael Mann's Manhunter also went unrewarded, as did Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb in Alex Cox's Sid and Nancy, Melanie Griffith in Jonathan Demme's Something Wild and Jeff Goldblum in David Cronenberg's The Fly (all 1986).

In 1987, Hollywood's great and good had been so dazzled by Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor that their judgement was clouded when it came to the rest of the nominations. Regarded by some as one of the weakest years in recent screen history, the year threw up a plethora of mainstream crowdpleasers and the Academy decided to reward them rather than more adventurous films. How, for example, did they manage to miss the performances of Vincent D'Onofrio and R. Lee Ermey in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, and how was Oliver Stone not nominated for Best Director for Wall Street? David Mamet's House of Games somehow failed to land a writing spot, while Dire Straits frontman, Mark Knopfler (who had already been overlooked for Bill Forsyth's Local Hero, 1983) failed to make the shortlist for Best Score for Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride. This was another shunned Best Picture contender, as was John Huston's posthumously released James Joyce adaptation, The Dead, while the aversion to rewarding comic performances did for the chances of Danny DeVito in Barry Levinson's Tin Men, Steve Martin in Fred Schepisi's Roxanne and Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter in the Coen gem, Raising Arizona (all 1987).

A still from Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
A still from Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

This filtered through into the following year, as ex-Pythons John Cleese and Michael Palin were zilched for Charles Crichton's A Fish Called Wanda (despite Kevin Kline winning Best Supporting Actor), as was Leslie Nielsen for David Zucker's The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad, Divine for John Waters's Hairspray and Michael Keaton for Tim Burton's Beetlejuice. The block on blockbusters certainly cost Alan Rickman a Best Supporting shot for John McTiernan's Die Hard, while few would have complained had Tom Cruise and John Malkovich been up against him for Barry Levinson's Rain Man and Stephen Frears's Dangerous Liaisons. And one can only presume that the boys' club mentality prevented Penny Marshall from being considered for Best Director for Big (all 1988).

As if to demonstrate how increasingly insular the Academy was becoming, the receipt of the Palme d'Or at Cannes counted for nothing with the vote casters, as Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies and Videotape was confined to a single nomination for Best Original Screenplay. There was little love for Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally... or Tim Burton's Batman, which had attracted very different audiences in respectively taking the box-office by surprise and by storm. In more enlightened times, Spike Lee's landmark New Black Cinema drama, Do the Right Thing, might also made the Best Picture quintet. But it fell by the wayside, along with Kenneth Branagh's Henry V (a fate that had also befallen Laurence Olivier's 1944 version) and Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanours.

The category had been open to 10 features between 1933-44, but another two decades were to pass before the number was increased from five, with the result that plenty more snubs were doled out by the Academy. As cinema approached its centenary in the last decade of the 20th century, the Academy Awards remained the pinnacle of the screen year. Viewing figures for the annual telecasts were on the decline, but Oscar gossip now spread faster and further than ever before thanks to the World Wide Web. As a consequence, disputes about the nominations became more inclusive and vitriolic, as they were discussed on websites and in Internet chatrooms, where opinion was plentiful and cheap.

Despite Kevin Costner revitalising the Western with Dances With Wolves, the 1990s started with a slew of old-time gangster pictures. Yet there was no room at the top table for the Coen thriller, Miller's Crossing, or Jack Nicholson's Chinatown (1974) sequel, The Two Jakes. Paul Newman might also have considered himself unlucky not to have joined wife Joanne Woodward in being nominated for Merchant-Ivory's Mr and Mrs Bridge, while Anjelica Huston's Best Actress nod for Stephen Frears's The Grifters probably cost her a Best Supporting citation for Nicolas Roeg's Roald Dahl fantasy, The Witches (all 1990). Some felt Huston should also have been recognised for playing Morticia Addams in Barry Sonnenfeld's The Addams Family. But the acting stories from 1991 were the exclusion of River Phoenix for his work in Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho, while the omission of Boyz N the Hood and Thelma and Louise from the Best Picture category (even though John Singleton and Ridley Scott were both nominated for Best Director) reaffirmed the contention that Hollywood operated in a social vacuum.

Although room has been found in the Best Picture slot for Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991), the Academy continued to fight shy of rewarding voiceover work in animated features. Consequently, Robin Williams was denied a Best Supporting nod for his scintillating performance as Genie in Aladdin. More outrageously, Tim Robbins was overlooked for his pivotal turns in the self-directed Bob Roberts and Robert Altman's The Player, which became the latest Tinseltown dissection to miss out on a Best Picture nomination. In another year, Jack Lemmon might have pipped co-star Al Pacino (who won Best Actor for Martin Brest's Scent of a Woman) to a Best Supporting berth for David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, which remarkably failed to attract Adapted Screenplay attention. The bias against comic-book pictures also saw Michelle Pfeiffer nominated for Jonathan Kaplan's Kennedy assassination saga, Love Field, rather than for her work as Catwoman in Tim Burton's Batman Returns (all 1992).

A still from Little Women (1994)
A still from Little Women (1994)

As there was still no category for Best Animated Feature, Burton and Henry Sellick's A Nightmare Before Christmas had to settle for a Visual Effects nomination at the 66th Academy Awards, despite the excellence of Danny Elfman's songtrack and score. But, while there was much disgruntlement at the omission of Steve James's Hoop Dreams from the Documentary Feature category, the chuntering centred around the snubbing of Bill Murray in Harold Ramis's Groundhog Day, although there was also disquiet about Denzel Washington missing out for his turn opposite Best Actor winner Tom Hanks in Jonathan Demme's Philadelphia (all 1993), which somehow failed to make the Best Picture shortlist. Hanks won again the following year for Robert Zemeckis's Forrest Gump, but there was no recognition for Tim Robbins in Frank Darabont's The Shawshank Redemption, John Turturro in Robert Redford's Quiz Show or Johnny Depp in Tim Burton's Ed Wood. Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey were also overlooked for Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures, while fellow Antipodean, Gillian Armstrong missed out on a Best Director nod for her Louisa M. Alcott adaptation, Little Women (all 1994).

Despite Apollo 13 and Sense and Sensibility drawing Best Picture nominations, directors Ron Howard and Ang Lee were overlooked for their contributions, as the Academy allowed itself to be swept away by Mel Gibson's historically wayward epic, Braveheart. A number of public picks also failed to make the AMPAS grade, as Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise, David Fincher's Se7en and Clint Eastwood's The Bridges of Madison County enjoyed mixed fortunes. Among the performers to miss out, Ian McKellen and Nicole Kidman were the most unfortunate after their striking displays in Richard Loncraine's Richard III and Gus Van Sant's To Die For.

The same fate befell Eddie Murphy 12 months later, as his multiple performances in Tom Shadyac's The Nutty Professor were ignored. But this wasn't a good year for the classics, either, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes missed out on nominations for Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, while Kenneth Branagh failed to emulate Laurence Olivier by directing himself to glory in Hamlet. Fellow Brit Danny Boyle was also spurned for the cult classic, Trainspotting, while the Documentary Feature category was all the poorer for the absence of Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou's remarkable insect study, Microcosmos (all 1996).

A surprise victim of Hollywood prudery at the 70th Academy Awards was Ang Lee's socio-sexual study, The Ice Storm, which failed to pick up a single nomination. The same couldn't be said for James Cameron's Titanic, although there was no love for Leonardo DiCaprio in the Best Actor category. Ian Holm and Rupert Everett similarly missed out on Best Supporting nominations for their contrasting turns in Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter and P.J. Hogan's My Best Friend's Wedding (all 1997). Another excellent ensemble cancelled out each other's chances at the century's last Oscar ceremony, as Terrence Malick's overdue return to directing, The Thin Red Line, failed to scoop any acting nominations. But, such was the competition for Best Actor that neither Jim Carrey nor Jeff Bridges made the final selection for their sterling work in Peter Weir's The Truman Show and the Coen favourite, The Big Lebowski. Co-star John Goodman was also a shut out in the Best Supporting category, while Bill Murray was overlooked again, this time for Wes Anderson's Rushmore. The Academy also clearly had no time for Dogme 95, as Thomas Vinterberg's Festen was glaringly omitted from the Best Foreign Film category (all 1998).

A still from Topsy-Turvy (1999)
A still from Topsy-Turvy (1999)

Despite winning the Golden Globe for his turn as Andy Kaufman in Miloš Forman's biopic, Man on the Moon, Jim Carrey was again snubbed by the Academy. Also out of luck were Tom Hanks for Frank Darabont's The Green Mile, Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick for Alexander Payne's Election, and Emily Watson for Alan Parker's Angela's Ashes. However, the fierce competition for Best Picture saw Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich, Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr Ripley and Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia all miss out, with the latter pair also overlooked for Best Director, along with Darabont and Mike Leigh for the Gilbert and Sullivan biopic, Topsy-Turvy.

Conservatism and Comic-Books

It's become a familiar post-millennial refrain that Oscar has a problem with comic-book movies. The fact that it has taken until 2019 for a superhero picture to make the shortlist for Best Picture says it all. But the members of the Academy have always argued that their brief is to reward excellence in each category and that the films spun off from Marvel and DC titles simply haven't deserved to edge out the contributions made to features without a preponderance of computer-generated imagery.

But, while Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon failed to receive a nomination for its special effects, the big talking points in the spring of 2001 concerned acting snubs like the decision to overlook Michelle Yeoh from the Best Actress stakes, as well as her Hong Kong compatriot. Maggie Cheung, for Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love. The dismissal of Christian Bale's work in Mary Harron's American Psycho and Icelandic singer Björk's bravura display in Lars Von Trier's Dancer in the Dark also caused comment.

A quirk of timing denied Nick Park's Chicken Run (all 2000) a tilt at the new Best Animated Feature category. However, the fact that only three titles were cited meant that Richard Linklater's rotoscoped Waking Life and Hironobu Sakaguchi's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (which was the first feature to contain CGI characters) were not rewarded for their innovation. This year also saw AMPAS set its face against the franchise spun-off from J.K. Rowling's bestsellers, as Chris Columbus's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone had to be content with nominations in the craft categories. Elsewhere, Gene Hackman was denied the chance to follow up his Golden Globe win for Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, while Audrey Tautou was overlooked for her iconic performance in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie, as was Naomi Watts for David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (all 2001).

Another Globe winner to feel the cold wind of Oscar indifference was Richard Gere in Rob Marshall's Chicago, while Andy Serkis became the latest performer to be denied a nomination for voiceover (and motion capture work) for his efforts as Gollum in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The Kiwi missed out on a Best Director nod, while box-office behemoths like George Lucas's Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man had to make do with craft nominations. Among the actors to miss out were Nia Vardalos for Joel Zwick's My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Dennis Quaid for Todd Haynes's Far From Heaven, while a bit more boldness might have seen Maggie Gyllenhaal recognised for Steven Shainberg's Secretary (all 2002).

As always, there was plenty of grumbling about Best Picture and Director omissions. But there was less cavilling than usual in 2004, when the major beef seemed to be the inclusion of Gary Ross's Seabiscuit for the top prize at the expense of Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain. The slighting of Ian McKellen as Gandalf was the only blot on Peter Jackson's horizon, as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King swept the board. But teenagers Scarlett Johansson and Evan Rachel Wood might also have done something to counter complaints of Oscar complacency for their impressively mature performances in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation and Catherine Hardwicke's Thirteen (all 2003).

A still from The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King (2003) With Elijah Wood
A still from The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King (2003) With Elijah Wood

A Palme d'Or victory at Cannes counted for nothing when it came choosing the candidates for the Best Documentary Feature category, as Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 (which remains the highest grossing actuality of all time) was ignored. Michel Gondry's direction of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was similarly overlooked, as was Jim Carrey's poignant performance. Bruno Ganz was also sidelined, in spite of a powerhouse display as Adolf Hitler in Oliver Hirschbiegel's Downfall, while Liam Neeson failed to follow-up a Golden Globe nomination for Bill Condon's Kinsey. But the 77th Academy Awards were easy to nitpick, as Lars Von Trier's epically inventive Dogville went unnoticed, while the insistence on only nominating three titles for Best Animated feature left Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Team America: World Police and Robert Zemeckis's Polar Express (all 2004) out in the cold.

Despite being made exclusively on a so-called digital backlot, Kerry Conran's pioneering, but commercially misfiring Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) failed to land a Visual Effects citation. But the same was true of George Lucas's Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, which became the first title in the franchise to miss out on this nomination. Other blockbusters to get short shrift included Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, but blatant injustices were otherwise short on the ground. The same couldn't be said the following year, however, as Bill Condon's Dreamgirls was excluded from Best Picture and Director, in spite of racking up eight nominations in other categories. It also felt wrong that Richard Griffiths should be overlooked for his splendid performance in Nicholas Hytner's take on Alan Bennett's The History Boys, while Sacha Baron Cohen's audacious display in Larry Charles's Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan also had its adherents. Moreover, down Mexico way, it was argued that Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) should have been joined in the Best Director lounge by compatriots Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) and Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, all 2006).

The major furore at the 80th Academy Awards surrounded Romanian Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, which was excluded from the Best Foreign Film category in spite of winning the Palme d'Or. But, while lots of worthy and much-ballyhooed pictures like Ridley Scott's American Gangster and Mike Nichols's Charlie Wilson's War clamoured for attention during the award season, the major nominations were largely uncontroversial, although a little out-of-box thinking might have seen Sarah Polley being nominated for Best Director for Away From Her, John Travolta getting a Best Supporting nod as Edna Turnblad in Adam Shankman's musicalisation of John Waters's Hairspray and Mathieu Amalric being considered in the same category as locked-in victim Jean-Dominique Bauby in Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (all 2007).

A still from The Wrestler (2008) With Mickey Rourke
A still from The Wrestler (2008) With Mickey Rourke

In 2009, shadows hung over Gotham City again, as Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight was kept out of the Best Picture and Director categories, despite earning a comic-book record eight nominations. Heath Ledger was the posthumous winner of the Best Supporting Actor category, but this owed more to a sympathy vote than a new-found love of superheroes among the Academy electorate. Ledger's widow, Michelle Williams, was unfortunate to be bypassed for her fine work in Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy, while Sally Hawkins also deserved better in Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky. Leonardo DiCaprio was also unjustly marginalised for his performance opposite Kate Winslet in Sam Mendes's Revolutionary Road, while Benicio Del Toro might have prevailed in another year for his portrayal of Che Guevara in Steven Soderbergh's two-part biopic, Che. Elsewhere, Bruce Springsteen was denied a Golden Globe-Oscar double when his theme for Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler was absent from a three-track Best Song list that included two from Danny Boyle's Best Picture winner, Slumdog Millionaire (all 2008).

The snubbing of Chris Weitz's The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Todd Phillips's The Hangover revived the accusations that Academy members dwelt in an ivory tower. But crowdpleasers like Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, J.J. Abrams's Star Trek and David Yates's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince received token nominations, while there weren't too many complaints about the major awards, even though some felt that Charlotte Gainsbourg deserved to follow up her Cannes win for Lars Von Trier's Antichrist. An intriguing oversight, however, saw Shane Acker's 9 (all 2009) miss out in the Best Animated Feature category (along with Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo, 2008), even though the same-titled 2004 short on which it was based had been nominated.

And Still the Debate Rages

Disney's Tangled and Pierre Coffin's Despicable Me failed to make the list the following year. But the expansion of the Best Picture category to 10 titles did much to deflate debate about omissions. Nevertheless, Christopher Nolan's exclusion from Best Director for his outstanding work on Inception caused a kerfuffle. while a lesser fuss was made about Danny Boyle's omission for 127 Hours (all 2010). Rumbles were also heard about several of the co-stars of the acting nominees being hard done by, but the absence of real controversy seeped into the 84th Academy Awards, despite the failure of Paul Feig's Bridesmaids and David Yates's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 irking those who equated colossal grosses with creative distinction. Tilda Swinton should have been nominated for Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin and Michael Fassbinder gave a better performance in Steve McQueen's Shame than at least three of the actual nominees, while a case could also be made for Leonardo DiCaprio in Clint Eastwood's unusually nomination-free biopic, J. Edgar (all 2011).

One of the problems of expanding the Best Picture category and no other intensified the pressure on the Best Director spots and much was made of Ben Affleck being snubbed when Argo took the top prize. He was in good company, however, as Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master) and Tom Hooper (Les Miserables) were all overlooked. However, the failure of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises to snag a single nomination sent social media into meltdown, as fanboys raved about old fogeys imposing their outdated prejudices on Hollywood's premier award ceremony when they should have been showering prizes on the likes of Joss Whedon's Avengers Assemble and Gary Ross's The Hunger Games (all 2012). The disquiet was notably less voluble, however, over Maggie Smith failing to land a Best Supporting nod for John Madden's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) or Richard Gere missing out on Best Actor for Nicholas Jarecki's Arbitrage (2012).

A still from Captain Phillips (2013) With Tom Hanks
A still from Captain Phillips (2013) With Tom Hanks

Despite there being 10 slots available for Best Picture, there was no room for either Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale Station or John Lee Hancock's Saving Mr Banks. The stars of the latter, Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, also lost out in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor stakes, with Hanks also overlooked for Best Actor for Paul Greengrass's Captain Phillips. Robert Redford might also have been cited for another high seas adventure, J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost. But, having had their conscience pricked by Steve McQueen's Best Picture winner, 12 Years a Slave, the AMPAS denizens had no political compassion left to shed on Justin Chadwick's Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (all 2013), which was recognised only for the U2 song, 'Ordinary Love'.

This problem recurred the following year, as Ava DuVernay's Martin Luther King tribute, Selma, failed to land a Best Director nomination, despite being up for Best Picture (in a category reduced to eight contenders). But James Marsh suffered a similar fate for the Alan Turing biopic, The Theory of Everything. But, while Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor for his portrayal, fellow Brit David Oyelowo was overlooked as the inspirational Civil Rights leader. Timothy Spall was also spurned for Mike Leigh's Mr Turner, as was Amy Adams for playing another painter, Margaret Keane, in Big Eyes, which failed to break Tim Burton's long-running Best Director duck. The year's other regretable acting omission was Jake Gyllenhaal's failure to register for his sinister turn in Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler. But the Twittersphere was more exercised by the snubbing of Phil Lord's The Lego Movie (all 2014) from the Best Animated Feature category.

While the failure of J.J. Abrams's box-office record breaker Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens to convert any of its five technical nominations reignited the elitism debate, the omission of F. Gary Gray's Straight Outta Compton turned the attention to the Academy's shocking record on diversity, as all 20 acting nominations went to white performers. The LGBTQ+ line of argument was reinforced by the exclusion of Todd Haynes's Carol and Tom Hooper's The Danish Girl (all 2015) from the Best Picture line-up, But there were other headline omissions, with Kristen Stewart notably being denied the chance to follow up becoming the first American winner of the César for Best Supporting Actress in Olivier Assayas's Clouds of Sils Maria (2014). Moreover, Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin's Minions (2015) became the highest grossing animation to miss a Best Animated Feature slot.

This record was broken the following year when Pixar's Finding Dory was also ignored. But graver matters shaped the decision making at the 89th Academy Awards, as a 15 year-old acquittal for rape seemingly turned voters against Nate Parker and The Birth of a Nation. Nevertheless, this was the year that African-American artists staked an overdue claim to be nominated because of artistry rather than tokenism. Yet, despite the success of Barry Jenkins's Moonlight (which earned the Best Supporting prize for Mahershala Ali) and Viola Davis in Denzel Washington's Fences, the latter was not recognised as either actor or director, while Taraji P. Henson and Madina Nalwanga were desperately unlucky to miss out for their wonderful performance in Theodore Melfi's Hidden Figures and Mira Nair's Queen of Katwe (all 2016).

With nine slots available for Best Picture, there were bound to be a number of aggrieved directors at the 2018 ceremony. Martin McDonagh was perhaps the unluckiest, as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won two acting awards (for Francis McDormand and Sam Rockwell). But Steven Spielberg was denied again (his sole win came for Saving Private Ryan, 1998), while Tom Hanks, his male lead in The Post, hasn't been nominated since winning back-to-back Best Actor awards in 1994-95. Another year might have seen Jessica Chastain nominated for her confident display in Aaron Sorkin's Molly's Game. But Gail Gadot and, indeed, everyone concerned with Patty Jenkins's Wonder Woman (all 2017) could feel wronged by their inexplicable shut out.

Which brings us to this year's nominations. Despite there being eight Best Picture berths, there was no room for Barry Jenkins's If Beale Street Could Talk or Damien Chazelle's Neil Armstrong biopic, First Man. The crush for Best Director also left the pair on the outside looking in, with Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Peter Farrelly (Green Book) and the debuting Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born). No women directors made the cut, while Emily Blunt failed to follow in the footsteps of Julie Andrews by being nominated for Rob Marshall's Mary Poppins Returns.

Compatriot Claire Foy also missed out alongside Ryan Gosling for First Man, while Denzel Washington's son, John David Washington, was pipped to a Best Actor spot for Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman, even though co-star Adam Driver was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, at the expense of Timothee Chalamet for Felix van Groeningen's Beautiful Boy. Ethan Hawke is another critics' favourite to miss out on Best Actor in Paul Schrader's First Reformed, while Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther) and Toni Collette (Hereditary) were also spurned, as was fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman, who could easily have been nominated for Best Actress for Karyn Kusama's Destroyer or Best Supporting for Joel Edgerton's Boy Erased. Finally, Annie Lennox's first new tune in eight years, 'Requiem for a Private War', failed to chart in the Best Song category for Matthew Heineman's A Private War, which also saw Rosamund Pike overlooked for her gutsy display as an American war correspondent, Marie Colvin.

A still from A Private War (2018)
A still from A Private War (2018)

To find the nominees and winners of this year's Oscars be sure to check out Oscar 2019 where you can save or add films to your list!

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