Some Oscar winners may be undeserving due to poor acting, poor direction or just overall creative poverty. I chose Braveheart for a different reason: the wanton disregard for historical accuracy.
Braveheart opens in 1280, over scenes kilt-wearing Scots, with the death of King Alexander III bringing unrest and an invasion by Edward I, King of England. A young William Wallace is playing around in a village like the poor bedraggled peasant he is, watching atrocities such as the local English lord exercising Ius Primae Noctis, his legal right to have first go on any comely local girls on their wedding night.
Except, all of that is bollocks. King Alexander III died in 1286 to no unrest; Edward I didn’t claim the throne until 1296, one year before Wallace’s rebellion; Wallace was not a mud smeared peasant but a member of the Scottish aristocracy and Ius Primae Noctis has never happened. And no one wore kilts for three more centuries, and even when they did, they weren’t worn anything like they were in the film. One historian compared this to a “film about Colonial America showing the colonial men wearing 20th century business suits, but with the jackets worn back-to-front”.
For the most part, I don’t have a problem with historical accuracy in films. Reality isn’t as exciting as fiction, and it makes sense to over-dramatise and compress events. But most of the inaccuracies in Braveheart are like the examples above; wrong not because it adds to the story, but simply because they couldn’t be arsed finding out what really happened. The film as a whole is disgustingly lazy and to reward this mess with an Oscar was a travesty of justice, particularly considering it was up against Apollo 13, Sense and Sensibility and Il Postino. I can only assume Mel Gibson used the money saved on a library card to bribe the judges.
By Emer Sugrue
There is little as devastating as watching a once revered figure head topple from their place of veneration in your mind. A mother who’s caught secretly puffing on a cigarette lies at one end of the spectrum, while a once esteemed politician engaging in some brown envelop transfers may lie at the other. The Academy Awards bestowing 11 golden men on James Cameron’s sea-sick tale of a woman who was too selfish to share her float lies somewhere in the middle.
While I am not the type to defend the sanguine sentimentalism of Good Will Hunting (I’m not even going to mention The Full Monty’s nomination because that was clearly someone just having a laugh), Curtis Hanson’s brilliantly crafted L.A. Confidential was surely the far more deserving Best Picture win.
I’ve developed a simile to help explain what has happened here. James Cameron and his penchant for commercially successful films that employ fancy effects and partial nudity, to mask vapid characters and clichéd stories, is the school goody-two-shoes of our tale. He has brown nosed his way into the warm lap of the Academy by way of an attractive cast and Kate Winslet managing to never change her facial expression. (There was also that scene where she stood on her toes, that must have won him a few points too.)
One would have hoped that the Academy wouldn’t fall victim to such cheap tactics but like the desperate politician searching for a quick buck to pay for his fourth holiday home, the Academy is far from infallible.
Having a once revered figure fall from dignity can often have devastating effects. It can erase your idealism and make you cynical. I myself have developed a deep dislike of cruise ships, I have also never seen Avatar. Oscars this is what you’ve done.
By Anna Burzlaff
While it would be a stretch to call Forrest Gump a bad film, you would have to be the king of exaggeration to call it great. Like a rice cracker dipped into a glass of water, Gump is potentially the least offensive film the States has ever created since the Hollywood classic The American Flag Waving while a Man Stands Idle, which is actually a pretty apt description of Gump itself. It’s a film that pats itself on its ideological back with its sentimental version of the American dream, rewriting history to show that anybody can be a somebody.
Which would be fine if it just existed and every conversation that started with “Do you remember Forrest Gump?” ended with someone else saying “No”. Instead its baffling six Oscars has cemented it as a masterstroke of film-making and in the process prevented the Best Picture Oscar from going to Pulp Fiction. Which is potentially fair enough. When was the last time you heard anyone talk about Pulp Fiction, apart from yesterday and every day before that?
Still, to say this is a disappointment gives the Oscars too much credit. It’s not hugely surprising that the film that proclaims “Isn’t America dynamite?” won over a film that features a woman accidentally snorting heroin. The Oscars have their priorities. You’d just hope that picking the best film would be one of them.
By Conor Barry
The Academy have made many mistakes in their time. Every year, the list of nominees comes out and people grumble that a film didn’t make the list, or won’t win because of the Academy’s bias. Often those people are right, but none of that really applies to Avatar winning the Best Cinematography Award.
The main problem with this win is the sheer lack of sense involved. It won for Best Cinematography, but I would say more than half of that film isn’t live action at all, and it’s a damn long film. Most of it is visual effects made possible by someone pushing a load of buttons, not true cinematography with cameras and angles and all of that. And Mauro Fiore won the award, but he definitely wasn’t responsible for all that button-pushing himself. In fact, my good friend Wikipedia tells me he only photographed 30% of the film. Ah here.
Sure, it was visually stunning on the big screen, but watch it at home and it quickly loses a lot of what made it amazing. And if you totally took away all of the animation and effects, there’s really nothing special about the camerawork, or the film as a whole. It’s impossible to compare it then, to the other nominees like Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince or The Hurt Locker.
Avatar almost entirely crumbles when you take away all the effects, actually. The story was nothing special. The relationship at the core of the film was like something you’d see in any old teen rom-com, and even the actual avatars weren’t that well imagined. The whole story is like some bizarre cross between Pocahontas and Star Trek, with not a whole lot added in between.
Maybe next time the Academy won’t be so dazzled by the button pushing and forget what they’re actually trying to award, but Avatar definitely slipped through the cracks.
By Aoife Valentine