Total Recall: Surprising Oscar Nominations and Snubs

We look at some of the Academy's most noteworthy recent snubs... and the less noteworthy films that were nominated instead.

Oscar Noms and Snubs

Watching the Academy Awards is a perfectly fine way to spend an evening, but let's face it: Half the fun of the Oscars is trying to predict who'll win, and the other half is bellyaching about who wasn't even nominated. It's in that spirit that we assembled this week's list -- looking back over the last few decades of Oscardom, plenty of worthy films have been honored, but just as many (if not more) have seen their contributions to cinema unfairly overlooked in favor of some rather questionable nominations. Obviously, this is meant to be a conversation starter rather than a complete list, but hey -- that's what the comments are for. Let's Total Recall!

The Clan of the Cave Bear
Oscar Nominee for Best Makeup
10%

1986

Oh Academy, where to start with 1986? You nominated two middling sequels (The Karate Kid, Part II, Poltergeist II), a notorious box-office dud (Pirates), and a goofy caveman movie (The Clan of the Cave Bear). Meanwhile, you snubbed a well-reviewed box office hit with an all star cast (Down and Out in Beverly Hills, starring Nick Nolte, Richard Dreyfuss, and Bette Midler) and a film that made Siskel and Ebert's list of the best movies of the decade, one that marked the arrival of Gary Oldman as one of cinema's most dependable actors (Sid & Nancy). But hey, when you get the chance to give some love to Peter Cetera, you've got to do it.

NOT NOMINATED FOR A SINGLE OSCAR:


Down and Out
in Beverly Hills
    

Sid & Nancy




Toys
Oscar Nominee for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design
26%

1992

Base your movie's visual aesthetic around the work of Rene Magritte, and you've kind of earned yourself a shot at Academy Award nominations for art direction and costume design -- so negative reviews notwithstanding, it's hard to begrudge Barry Levinson's notorious Robin Williams-led flop Toys its pair of Oscar noms. Along similar lines, while Jean-Jacques Annaud's adaptation of the Marguerite Duras novel The Lover was critically savaged, it's certainly lovely to look at, so we don't have a major problem with its nomination for Best Cinematography. All the same, it's hard to swallow those honors when some of the year's best movies -- heck, some of the decade's -- were snubbed in '92, including a cult classic (Reservoir Dogs), a powerfully acted crime thriller with an instant-classic theme song from Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg (Deep Cover), and a crowd-pleasing smash dramedy with a hit soundtrack (A League of Their Own).

NOT NOMINATED FOR A SINGLE OSCAR:


Deep Cover
    

A League of Their Own
    

Reservoir Dogs




Beethoven's 2nd
Oscar Nominee for Best Original Song
27%

1993

For the most part, the 66th Academy Awards were bereft of egregiously silly nominees, with the exception of the schmaltzy ballad "The Day I Fall in Love," the love theme from the barely-remembered doggie-com Beethoven's 2nd. Still, it's not unfair to ask what the Academy was thinking when it failed to nominate Robert De Niro's critically acclaimed directorial debut A Bronx Tale, a coming-of-age drama loaded with standout performances. It was a box office flop, you say? Fine: what about Groundhog Day, then? Not only is it a near-perfect romantic comedy, it also features one of Bill Murray's finest performances, and was a decent-sized hit to boot. (Oh, right. Comedies never get nominated.)

NOT NOMINATED FOR A SINGLE OSCAR:


A Bronx Tale
    

Groundhog Day




Waterworld
Oscar Nominee for Best Sound Mixing
43%

1995

Though it was an infamous flop upon its release, Waterworld has its retroactive defenders, who value the sheer audacity of Kevin Costner's expensive, expansive sci-fi epic. Still, it's kind of shocking in retrospect that Waterworld got a nod from the Academy, while both Get Shorty and Heat were sidelined come Oscar time. The former is a deft Hollywood satire featuring sharp performances from such old pros as John Travolta, Gene Hackman, and Danny DeVito, while the latter contains riveting set pieces and a much-ballyhooed showdown between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. You'd think either of these movies would have been nominated for something, but you'd be wrong.

NOT NOMINATED FOR A SINGLE OSCAR:


Get Shorty
    

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