DVD Reviews

Oscar Wins and Oscar Snubs


This Sunday night, Hollywood plays host to cinema’s most exciting and most anticipated award ceremony of the year – The Academy Awards. This year the race is most certainly on as American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club, Captain Phillips, Her, Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street go head to head to battle it out to be crowned the Best Film of 2013.  Of course, as with anything Hollywood, there are a lot of politics and there will no doubt be some serious injustices but it will be entertaining nevertheless. With Ellen DeGeneres at the hosting helm, expect some hilarious one liners, huge song and dance numbers and so much glitz and glamour you will need your sunglasses.

In honour of the great Academy Awards, known by most as the Oscars, I thought it would be fitting to bring your attention to some of the great directors whose Oscar winning films are sitting amongst our collection as well as highlighting some of the world’s greatest actors and directors who have never won an Oscar – prepare to be shocked.

Firstly, bring on the winners!

Robert Zemeckis – Forrest Gump

forrest_gump_xlgForrest Gump tells the story of  a young boy called Forrest (Tom Hanks) who is just a little bit different to everyone else. Throughout his life  the world throws amazing and difficult situations at him and he manages to somehow succeed in everything he does. Some of his greatest achievements are becoming a Vietnam War hero, teaching Elvis to dance, becoming a football champion, becoming a ping pong champion and becoming a millionaire by investing in a brand new, unknown company called ‘Apple’. He falls in love with a girl called Jenny who he has known since he was a little boy – Jenny who comes from a broken family ends up having a very difficult adult life and Forrest is always there for her when things go wrong.  All he wants is for Jenny to be happy so when she returns to him, one day out of the blue, he takes her in and cares for her through ill health. Forrest Gump is a beautiful, epic tale of love, loss and adventure and follows an amazing man as he travels the world, achieves greatness, shakes hands with Presidents and falls in love with his childhood best friend.

James Cameron – Titanic

Titanic_posterTitanic tells the fictional story of a beautiful, rich woman who falls in love with a poor, lower class man while on board the Titanic, which tragically sank as it sailed across the ocean to America. The film opens with a crew of people in the present day who are searching for a famous jewel called The Heart of the Ocean in the wreckage of the Titanic. They uncover a safe, inside which is a beautiful sketched drawing of a naked woman wearing the famous jewel. The news travels quickly and an elderly woman declares that the woman in the picture is her and the jewel was given to her by her fiancé. She tells the story of how she was so sick of her life being oppressed by society and expected to act a certain way that she tried to throw herself over the railings of the boat, only to be rescued by the charming, handsome and penniless Jack Dawson. Jack is free, he has no home, no ties, no money and Rose is instantly taken by him. They fall in love as he shows her a life of freedom that they could have together when they make port in America only to be torn apart when the ship hits an iceberg and plunges to the bottom of the icy cold ocean.  Titanic is an epic romantic adventure which accurately and realistically depicts the events of that tragic voyage which saw hundreds of people perish in the icy waters.  It combines real footage of the actual Titanic wreckage with outstanding digital effects to create a realistic and mesmerising action packed film fuelled by romance.

Sam Mendes – American Beauty

american_beauty_xlgAmerican Beauty tells the surreal story of a well-to-do American family, all of whom are loathsome of their perfect life but desperately try to keep up the façade of the American Dream. The father, Lester, works in a job he hates for a boss he despises and is being made to justify to the company why he should be laid off. His daughter Jane, is battling various teenage difficulties, mostly hating the way she looks and grumpily despising her  Mother, Carolyn, who is a Real Estate agent. Lester ends up falling in love with his daughters best friend which pushes him to quit his job, get fit, smoke weed and buy a fast car – basically becoming a teenager again in order to impress her. Carolyn ends up having a rampant affair with her Real Estate rival, Buddy King. The family falls apart as Jane grows tired of her friends flirtations with her father and falls in love with the boy next door. Lester and Carolyn emotionally tear each other limb from limb until a fatal gunshot brings them all crashing back down to reality. Mendes has a very unique and artistic style of directing that makes every scene of the film have purpose, the characters are beautifully developed and impeccably acted so it is no surprise that American Beauty has gained such notoriety over the years.

Joel and Ethan Coen – No Country for Old Men

409121.1020.AThis sprawling thriller is based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name and takes place in West Texas. A man, Llewelyn Moss stumble across a drug deal gone wrong while out hunting, he opens a truck and finds a satchel containing 2 million dollars.  He takes the satchel and realises that in doing so, he has landed himself in a lot of trouble. Tommy Lee Jones plays a cop who is tracking a killer named Anton Chigurh who kills people with a hard jet of air to the head. Chigurh is tracking Moss who is now on the run with the satchel of cash, he crosses the border into Mexico where he meets Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) who offers to protect him from Chigurh in exchange for the money. He stays strong, declines his offer and continues to hide. This thriller will have you encapsulated from the very beginning to its final, heart stopping moments.

Well worthy of is Oscar win and a beautifully scripted and directed movie.

Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire

slumdog-posterThis epic tale of love conquering all comes from Scottish director Danny Boyle who tells the story a young boy Jamal Malik reaches the top prize on the show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire however, Jamal is not educated, he is a boy from the slums of India and it is through his experiences in his life that he has come to know the answers to the questions in front of him. The story starts when Jamal and his older brother are children living in the slums, which get raided during the Bombay riots. Their mother is killed and they find a young girl, Latika who they know from the slums, all alone who they rescue and run away with.  They are found by a man called Maman who trains children to become beggars for him but they soon discover that he is blinding children to make them more effective when begging. They run away again this time leaving Latika behind. Jamal and Salim spend the next few years making a living byu travelling on top of trains and stealing things from passengers. They act as tour guides at the Taj Mahal and steal people’s shoes. Latika on the other hand is being sold off as a prostitute and the boys attempt to rescue her. After a fateful shooting, the boys are torn apart as Salim lives on the wrong side of the law and Jamal is forced to surrender Latika to him. With nothing but luck on his side, year later Jamal attempts to rescue Latika from whatever horrific situation Salim has put her in. He goes on the quiz show to attract her attention, to let her know he is waiting for her and is there to save her. It’s a beautiful story with amazing music and exceptional direction. Emotional, devastating, honest and brutal it will have you reaching for the tissues one minute and punching a wall the next.

So these are our winners of the last few years, obviously it goes way back to the 1920’s but these are all films we have available for you to borrow!

Now for the actors and directors who have never won an Oscar, despite numerous nominations!

  1. Stanley Kubrick – despite various nominations for best film and best director throughout his years making movies, the only win he received was for the special effects team on 2001: A Space Odyssey. One of the world’s greatest most influential directors was snubbed every time.
  2. Leonardo DiCaprio – he played young Jack in James Cameron’s Titanic and since such a rise to fame and appearing in endless great movies, delivering a powerful performance each time he is yet to be credited by the Academy. Could this be his year? Check out his portrayal of a child with learning difficulties in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape if you are unsure of his talents.
  3. Alfred Hitchcock – Again he was nominated time and time again but failed to offered the golden statue, hard to believe isn’t it? What with Psycho and everything…
  4. Charlie Chaplin – a powerhouse of the silent era came home empty handed year after year apart from a Best Music win for Limelight which went to his crew!
  5. Christopher Nolan – Unlike Kubrick, Hitchcock and Chaplin, Nolan’s time is not up yet. He has most definitely proved himself as a director to pay attention to and it’s only a matter of time before he does something to impress the Academy.
  6. Brad Pitt – Now he may have done some pretty rubbish films in his years (lest we forget the atrocity that was Mr & Mrs Smith) his performances in Moneyball, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Twelve Monkeys and Fight Club are significant enough for me to think he probably deserves a golden statue. Alas, the Academy disagree.

So there you have it, it just goes to show that winning an Oscar doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, I mean, who will remember Michel Hazavanikius fifty years from now? Consistently brilliant performances and ground breaking direction will go down in history, but one excellent movie may not. Persistence pays off, even if you don’t have a golden statue to prove it.

Further Reading in the Information Store

As well as having the above mentioned titles in our DVD ZONE shelved at 791.43, there is an e-book on the catalogue called The Oscars by John Atkinson which chronicles the development of the Academy from the 1920’s. You can access it here.


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