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20 of the Worst Oscar-Winning Films From the 1930s to 2000

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harold said:
Meh. That's really personal taste, isn't it? While I'll agree that Return of the King completely did not deserve to win Best Picture by any objective criteria, I wouldn't say that the awards since then have been dominated by fantasy films. I would say instead that there have been a lot of fantasy films produced since then, but they aren't all that heavily represented in the awards categories outside of the technical awards.

Witness was good, but it was an extremely standard script - to the extent that it is most often used as a template to teach basic screenwriting: here's the first act, here's the second act, here's the reversal, here's the third act, resolution, denouement.

Hindsight will often give a different perspective on films, as films gain or lose popularity over time. There's many very popular films of the 60s which are embarassingly difficult to watch for a modern audience (Thomas Crown Affair, anyone?) but because they were voted on when they were contemporary and current they may get the awards even though they don't hold up over time.

What's important to keep in mind is that films are nominated (and then voted) by people in the Academy, who work in all aspects of filmmaking, not just the ones we, as viewers, typically think of as having primacy (writing, directing, acting). So all aspects of a film are being considered, but also the author should keep in mind that it's an industry award. So films will be awarded not for their own merit but for a host of other salient to industry concerns/perspectives: the recipient is "due" an award is a common one (and most often cited by the Academy members I know when explaining the Return of the King win: the filmmakers were so admired for making a popular series of films largely outside of the Hollywood system, with their own created-for-the-purpose special effects company and without huge star actors, that they got the award not for RotK - generally the weakest of the three films - but for the trilogy and all the admired work that went into it), as well as financial performance, various behind-the-scenes issues that the filmmakers had to navigate (a strike, for instance, or the changing of a studio head), and a sense of "fairness" which may reduce other nominees' chances of getting an award ("oh, Spielberg already won one before, we can't give him another so soon"). That last one is the usual reason for a split between Best Director and Best Picture.

As in any election or other democratic process, the foibles and emotional preferences of the people doing the voting have a larger impact over results than objective or intellectually-reasoned argument. In a large enough election - assuming enough people vote - such foibles should be cancelled out or minmized by the conflicting foibles of other groups. But with the Academy, you don't have any other groups. It's all industry insiders.
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