Hindsight is 20-20. Ok, now that we got that out of the way, let’s be a bit less politically correct. Some actors, writer and directors, they come out, they are lauded for whatever reason, then as time goes by we realize something quite substantial… they suck. Maybe an actor got lucky with a role, or a director’s movie touched audiences because it related to what was happening in the world at the time. For whatever reason, Oscar chose them, and history has to deal with them.
You see sometimes, just sometimes, Oscar gets it wrong, and they were never that great to begin with. It starts out small… a bad big-budget movie here, a surprisingly awkward cameo on Will & Grace, and then an out and out blunder with their next big drama. Or with a beloved movie: they win the Oscar, and then DVD sales aren’t as good as expected. They are left off the lists of greatest movies in their genre, or of their decade. And we look back at what might have been for other, more deserving films (John Madden and Shakespeare in Love, I’m looking right at you).
When you win an Oscar, public opinion says that you must now go on and do better, more challenging work. Charlize Theron can’t go back to getting naked in a “2 Days in the Valley” sequel, as much as we may all want to see that. No, she’s forced to ugg it up again and again, to prove that the Oscar win wasn’t a fluke (hence why we were inflicted with the mediocre, and depressing North Country). Yes, there are exceptions to the rule; after all, Nicolas Cage became an action star (and a bit certifiable… Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, anyone?) after he won his Oscar, but, he did come back into the fold with a string of well-received performances (Adaptation, Lord of War). The point is, when you win an Academy Award your subsequent movies are expected to be good, and you are expected to be great in them.
So what happens when that great career never materializes? History notes your achievement, but it never promotes you. For example, we will always remember Robert De Niro famously gaining 65lbs for his role as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, and winning a much-deserved Oscar for it. But how many of you really remember that Whoopi Goldberg won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Ghost? Yeah, she’s a good comedian, but an Oscar winner? The star of “The Associate”? And “Eddie”? And “Sister Act 2″? There has to be more to this. Winning an Oscar means more than getting to cash in on big budget movies for five or ten years. You should be required to make great movies, with great directors. You should be expected to strive for dramatic excellence. And if you’re not, you should be asked, if not forced, to give your Oscar back.
Yes, that’s right, if you follow up your Oscar with a string of crappy movies, and not even make an effort to make an effort in anything worthwhile, you should forfeit your rights to the Oscar, and the award should be re-voted on, to determine the new winner. Just like with Miss America, if they fail to live up to their title, it gets stripped and given to the runner-up. Wouldn’t this make the Oscars better? Wouldn’t this remove some of the atrocities in Oscar history? Wouldn’t this shake-up the power in Hollywood, and give past accolades and due back to where it belonged the entire time. No more will we have to stifle our laughter every time we see the graphic “Marisa Tomei, Oscar Winner”. No longer will Julianne Moore be considered the best actress never to have won an Oscar, because Kim Basinger forfeits her win for L.A. Confidential due to the craptastic line-up of Bless the Child, I Dream of Africa, Elvis Has Left the Building and Cellular.
We can make it better; we can make right, what once went wrong.
Will my dream ever become a reality? No, probably not. Awards are voted on, and the winner is the winner. And truth be told, if I won an Oscar and had studios throwing money at me to be in their crappy movies, I’d probably say yes to all of them. And there’s no way in hell I would give up my Oscar, even if I did make Scooby Doo 4 or Captain Corelli’s Mandolin 2: Revenge of the Obo. So let the bad actors and the crappy movies win Oscars. Let them have their moment. And you know what we’ll do? We’ll make fun of them.
So forthwith, here is the top ten list of the actors, writers and directors that no longer deserve to be known as Oscar winners. The group that owes the Academy their Oscar; a group I like to call: “Oscar I.O.U.’s”.
10. Cher, Best Actress – Moonstruck
This is a slightly cheap shot, since by all counts Cher is a singer and not an actress. But she hasn’t made a good movie since Moonstruck, and no, Mermaids doesn’t count. The main reason she’s on this list, though, is because she made a movie called Faithless, which stands as one of only a handful of movies that I have walked out on in a theater. It’s an infamous list to be on, as I’ll sit through just about anything if I paid for it (Case in point: I sat through The Big Hit, Don Juan De Marco and The Island of Dr. Moreau… twice, just to name a few no star stinkers.). So for Cher to make a movie that bad, she’s gotta pay the price by returning her Oscar.
9. Callie Khouri, Best Original Screenplay – Thelma & Louise
Another cheap shot (the last one on this list), but there’s some truth to it. Callie Khouri wrote The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, the signature chick flick of the last twenty years, and easily the most derisive date movie since Sleepless in Seattle (Are men even aloud to see a Meg Ryan romcom if they haven’t been castrated? I’ll look into it.). Thelma & Louise was a terrific script and a great movie, but until she atones for her date movie sins, she owes the Academy her little golden boy.
8. Joe Pesci, Best Supporting Actor – Goodfellas
Now we’re into the real list. Joe Pesci is not someone you consider to be a bad actor. Point of fact, in the right role, he’s tremendous. Marisa Tomei would not have won ther Oscar for My Cousin Vinny without Pesci providing expert comedic support. And he crushes any Scorsese movie he’s in right out of the park. But let’s take a look at his oeuvre after the Goodfellas win: The Super, Lethal Weapon 3 (a.k.a. Lethal Weapon: The Paycheck), Lethal Weapon 4 (a.k.a. Lethal Weapon: Somebody Shoot Leo Getz Already!), Jimmy Hollywood, Gone Fishin, and my personal favorite, 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag. How do you go from Raging Bull and Goodfellas to 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag? He should have just turned in his SAG card when he walked off that set.
7. Shakespeare in Love, Best Picture
Hey wait a minute, didn’t I say no more cheap shots on this list? Oh well, I guess there’s room for one more. The reason I think Shakespeare in Love should turn in its Oscar is simple, it violates the rules for winning a Best Picture Oscar. Those rules being two-fold, one, it has to be the best film of the year (it wasn’t, Saving Private Ryan was), and two, years down the road the film should be considered the apex of cinema for that particular year. In twenty years no one will remember how cute and clever Shakespeare in Love was, but we will still remember the opening battle scene from Saving Private Ryan. That film was not only the best film of 1998, but also arguably the best war film ever made. So why did Shakespeare in Love win the Oscar? It won because Miramax infamously bought the award by paying $15 million in campaign funds to sway the minds of voters (it also gave out a truckload of free shwag, the premiere way to get on an Academy voter’s good side). If you have to buy your Oscar, you do not deserve it.
6. Kim Basinger, Best Supporting Actress – L.A. Confidential
I stated her case pretty well earlier in this piece, but let’s delve a bit further. Kim Basinger probably never deserved an Oscar to begin with. I think her win was a bit like the Marisa Tomei win in that voters thought it would be cute to vote for the hot girl in 9 ½ Weeks, but were shocked when they realized what they had done. So we know she made some bad movies after her win, but let’s take a look at her pre-Oscar films: The Getaway, The Marrying Man, Wayne’s World 2, The Real McCoy, Cool World, Blind Date, My Stepmother is an Alien, and the infamous Pret-a-Porter. The fact is she got lucky, and if she’s not gonna give her Oscar back to the Academy, she should probably give it to her director, Curtis Hanson. And not just for casting her in L.A. Confidential, but also for casting her again in 8 Mile, the only good movie she’s made in the last eight years.
5. Angelina Jolie, Best Supporting Actress – Girl, Interrupted
Hear me out on this one. Angelina is considered a good actress, and she is. She is considered one of the world’s greatest beauties, and arguably, she is. But what she isn’t, is a bankable actress. And nor is she a good chooser of material. Let’s take a look at her film list since her Oscar win: Original Sin, Life or Something Like It, Beyond Borders, Taking Lives, Shark Tale, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and Alexander. She makes bad movies. What makes her any different than, say, Cuba Gooding Jr.? Just because she has those lips, and those tips, and that Brad Pitt, doesn’t mean she deserves to keep her Oscar. She needs to stop wrecking homes and start concentrating on getting a better agent. It’s only a matter of time before people stop caring about her love life, and start paying attention to the fact that she hasn’t been in a three star movie since Playing By Heart in 1998.
4. Kevin Costner, Best Director – Dances with Wolves
His follow up to Dances With Wolves: The Postman. Nothing more needs be said.
3. Whoopi Goldberg, Best Supporting Actress – Ghost
See above for her post-Oscar choices (which is case enough for the I.O.U.). This is exactly like the Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting win; the Academy enjoyed her comedy, and finally found a way to repay her for the laughs (Though to clarify, I do think Robin was excellent in the movie). I appreciate the sentiment, but we could have given that Oscar to Annette Benning in The Grifters for god sakes, but instead the Academy wanted to honor the comedienne for her entries into the comedy pantheon, Burglar and Jumping Jack Flash. At least Robin Williams had been nominated a couple times before he won.
2. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Best Original Screenplay – Good Will Hunting
If you are a writer or a director and you win an Oscar, you have only one responsibility: make another movie. It doesn’t matter if it takes you fives years to do, or if it turns out bad, you have got to produce something else, or take the risk that history will judge your win as a fluke. So… tell me again what this writing team has produced since their surprise win in 1997? Oh yeah, that’s right… NOTHING! Sure, it was cute to see them on stage together, whooping and hollering and bringing their mothers as dates, and forgetting to thank Kevin Smith, who was the sole reason the movie ever got made. But their Oscar could have gone to Paul Thomas Anderson for his landmark film Boogie Nights. And PTA has gone on to write two acclaimed films since then (Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love), which I remind you, is two more than Matt and Ben. Supposedly, later this year the wonder twins are set to write a new movie together about crusading lawyers, but until an usher takes my ticket and their latest script comes to life on the big screen, I’ll be campaigning for the forfeit of their Oscars.
1. Cuba Gooding Jr., Best Supporting Actor – Jerry Maguire
Chill Factor, Snow Dogs, Boat Trip… this triumvirate of cinematic glory is otherwise known as “The Holy Crap Trilogy”, because when you watch any of them you find yourself saying “Holy Crap, didn’t this guy win an Oscar a few years ago?” For all the good he did as a black actor, for all the good he did with Boyz n the Hood, for all the good times he brought as Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire, Cuba should still be deported from Hollywood for the crap he’s inflicted on audiences. And if after sitting through The Holy Crap Trilogy you still don’t think he should forfeit his Oscar, remember, he was the worst part of Pearl Harbor, which is beyond hard to do.