If you ever take time to look back at some of the films that never received Oscar nominations over the years, you end up finding titles that are quite shocking in their seemingly deliberate omissions. These are titles that most people not versed in Oscar history likely thought had plenty of Oscar love. Perhaps that assumption was the intended result from academy executives who find embarrassment now that so many notable titles were overlooked.
While academy members may find it embarrassing in retrospect, they don’t address that great films are still being overlooked now. In fact, you could say this year’s Oscars had some of the most shocking omissions in recent memory.
Take a look back at some of the titles robbed of any Oscar nominations over 80 years ago. And then look at one title that may be remembered 80 years from now as being one of the most egregious Oscar omissions of the 2010s.
“City Lights” (1931)
You might be surprised to learn that Charlie Chaplin was a victim of being overlooked at the Oscars 83 years ago. There hasn’t been any wide analysis as to why “City Lights” didn’t get nominated for a single Oscar in 1931. The more obvious reason may be because it was defiantly silent in a time when talkies were a dominating force in the industry. A less obvious answer may be because Chaplin had already received an honorary Oscar a couple of years earlier for “The Circus.”
Yes, if you’ve won before, you can sometimes count on not winning again for a long time afterward. Other than a couple of nominations afterward, Chaplin didn’t get another Oscar until 40 years later for lifetime achievement.
“Frankenstein” and “Dracula” (1931)
1931 appeared to be a particularly bad year for the Oscars overlooking movie gems. With the increase in movies starting about this time due to the talkie onslaught, it’s possible there was a little overcrowding. Little did the voting academy know how it would be 80 years later when so many movies release in close succession, they cancel one another out.
Horror movies in the talkie realm were still a new idea in 1931, so it may explain why Universal’s “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” didn’t have a single Oscar nomination. The academy likely didn’t realize then that Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi were setting an acting precedent for big-screen horror that still gets copied and analyzed today, if also a little maligned.
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951)
You can call this the true granddaddy of sci-fi and maybe a good explanation why it never received a single Oscar nomination. Sci-fi was still a fringe type of genre in films during the immediate post-World War II years. This one had big ideas, and perhaps too big. Other than emerging concerns of outside threats and being in the middle of a war in Korea, it seemed to rub Oscar voters the wrong way.
Or, perhaps it was just out of fear of the film being more truthful about the state of the world at the time than anyone cared to admit.
“The Misfits” (1961)
This film is still haunting to watch 53 years later because it was the last film for both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. They give performances here that nearly top anything they did before. However, it’s the nuanced supporting performances from Montgomery Clift and Eli Wallach that were especially robbed of any acting nominations. Despite the eerie sense of dread about the future fates of the lead actors in the film, it stands as one of the all-time oddest Oscar snubs.
“Short Term 12” (2014)
In future decades, Oscar historians may show a pattern of history repeating, especially for films that demand attention for bringing something undeniably different. While “Short Term 12” may appear to be a small indie that could have come and gone out of art theaters like all the other small films, this one had something special. That was due to two strong female leads acting in a film addressing a subject all too rare in films: Helping at-risk youth.
With Brie Larson and Kaitlyn Dever at the helm, the story behind their own characters floored just about every critic. Why Oscar voters ignored it may have to involve as much analysis as the above films and countless others from 1939’s “The Women” to 2013’s “Enough Said.”
So far, only Forbes bristled over “Short Term 12” being ignored without offering any reasons why.
Will we ever know any science behind why the Oscars ignore such obviously great films? Some might say it’s just from an overcrowded film universe, or just whoever manages to have the bigger marketing budget. While that may be true, there seems to be complicated prejudices and other unknowns at the heart of it all.
While films about mental illness and films with good female characters sometimes become criminally overlooked, it seems disheartening the Oscars don’t try some way to fix things so films that are worthy get recognized. Now that you know the Oscar track record from the past and how it may continue indefinitely into the future, it’s going to be up to movie fans to spread the word about ignored films through the connected online world.