Oscars 1999 winners

10 Most Controversial Oscar Winners of All Time

marisa tomei 10 Most Controversial Oscar Winners of All TimeBest Actor

It was no surprise when Roman Polanski’s 2002 Holocaust film, The Pianist, garnered multiple Oscar nominations, given that it was a wartime drama with all of the soulful camera angles and tormented performances that the Academy loves so much. Even so, Adrien Brody’s Best Actor win surprised audiences who were expecting a different winner; big names like Jack Nicholson and Daniel-Day Lewis were in the running, after all. A few even remarked that it was the role, not the actor, who truly won the award.

Brody’s performance has remained somewhat divisive, though itself continues to be remembered fondly — and maybe sometimes, the role is only as good as the surrounding film.

5. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – Best Picture, Best Song

Most people would know Slumdog Millionaire as the movie that served as star Dev Patel’s coming out party and the big Bollywood dance at the end. It ended up winning quite a few awards across the board (though notably none in the acting department); quite an achievement for a film where half the dialogue is in Hindi.

Three 6 Mafia Oscar 10 Most Controversial Oscar Winners of All TimeThe controversy mostly stems from either the lacking nuances typically seen in Oscar winners — it was up against favorites such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Milk — or from the divided opinion of the plot. It was touted as a ‘feel-good’ film, but some found it hard to feel any sense of goodness when the entire thing hinged on a set of coincidences and revolved around a shaky love story. “Jaiho” also received criticism for not quite being up to scratch, and snagging a Best Song award (supposedly) based on the success of the rest of the movie.

4. Joan Crawford Upstages Bette Davis, Rivalry Intensifies

Not your typical Oscar controversy, but a controversy nonetheless: it was common knowledge that actresses Joan Crawford and Bette Davis loathed each other, for unspecified reasons. 1962’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? famously brought them together portraying…two people who hated each other, and it involved vicious face kicks and intentional spinal sabotage on both sides during filming.

Meanwhile, Bette Davis was nominated for her role and Crawford was not, which didn’t go down too well, understandably. Behind closed doors, Crawford contacted the other four nominees, informing them that she’d be happy to accept the awards on their behalf if they were unable to attend. The winner turned out to be Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Work, which allowed Crawford to leave Davis in the wings while she went on and thoroughly upstaged her with her own acceptance speech.

DI Life Is Beautiful 2 10 Most Controversial Oscar Winners of All TimeJoan Crawford may not have actually won any awards that night, but the chance to one up her bitter rival was probably satisfying enough.

3. As Good as It Gets (1997) – Best Actor

Properly portraying a person with either a physical handicap or mental illness can be a huge challenge, so when it’s done right, Oscar nominations often follow. This was the case for Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets, who gave a solid performance as a man with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and a host of other problems. While not a poor performance by any means, critics were quick to point out that Nicholson had won the Best Actor Oscar in the past, and perhaps a relatively standard Jack Nicholson-esque performance as a man with strange mental issues didn’t quite qualify as monumental enough for repeat award, particularly since many of his character’s behaviors didn’t correspond with true OCD.

Regardless, this was the year of James Cameron’s Titanic; while its performances were nothing to be ashamed of, its sweep of the Oscar board fortunately didn’t include an undeserved Best Actor/Actress trophy.

Thematrixincode99 10 Most Controversial Oscar Winners of All Time2. Scent of a Woman (1992) – Best Actor

Al Pacino’s win for Scent of a Woman was his first since he was nominated two decades beforehand, and in one sense, it wasn’t a bad performance. He was up against big names such as Denzel Washington and Clint Eastwood, but their respective films just didn’t carry the necessary gravitas.

And yet, as critics have pointed out, Pacino’s performance was fairly obvious Oscar-bait: a disabled character (blind, in this case) in an intentionally-overacted performance filled with a recurring series of melodramatic moments for the benefit of the Academy. Still others have said that Pacino’s performance in Scent pales in comparison to what he’d accomplished with his work in The Godfather trilogy. Regardless of whether this was his strongest performance to date, Pacino fans (along with the man himself) were mostly just happy to see him break the dry spell.

1. Life of Pi (2012) – Best Director

Life of Pi managed to nab itself four important Oscars, including Best Director for Ang Lee. The notable controversy here was the fantasy adventure’s failure to nab the Best Picture award, which instead went to Ben Affleck’s Argo. While these two awards don’t always go hand in hand, it caused a bit of a stir, particularly since Argo was the more typical choice for directing accolades, while Life of Pi was more likely to garner awards for cinematography and special effects, thanks to its spectacular use of 3D.

Life of Pi also failed to impress in the acting department. A relative newcomer in the lead role combined with the general feeling that the film was overly reliant on visual effects (rather than its human element) was likely to blame. Up against it in the Oscars race was Steven Spielberg’s historical drama Lincoln, which certainly got these aspects right and was a strong contender for Best Picture. Nevertheless, stiff competition saw Spielberg’s Civil War-era biographical film garner only two wins: Best Actor (for star Daniel Day-Lewis) and Best Production Design. Sometimes, a film is just made in the wrong year.

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