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I'm not exactly alone when I point out that the Oscars are stupid. They've really always been stupid, mostly because they tend to confuse pretension with actual artistic achievement. Look at it this way: if the Academy Awards really meant anything they would reliably recognize the greatest talent in the industry at any given time. And while it's true that giants like John Ford and Billy Wilder finished their careers with armfuls of Oscar statuettes, the list of overlooked greats is far longer. So here is my list of the ten most egregious lifetime omissions in Oscar history:
Anthony Mann. Almost certainly the greatest director most people have never heard of, Anthony Mann was, quite simply, a genius. Winchester '73 completely remade Westerns and changed the genre forever. He also made the near-Shakespearean The Man From Laramie and many others. The catch is most of his work was in 'B' movies and Oscar don't like 'B' movies. Mann was never even nominated. Shame, shame, shame.
Stanley Kubrick. I'm not a huge fan personally, yet the reality is there isn't any big director working today who won't tell you Kubrick influenced them, and Dr. Strangelove is a genuine and totally original classic. Sure he won for Best Visual Effects on 2001, but he should have won at least one award for Best Director. More shame.
Orson Welles. This is a little of a judgement call because Welles really didn't make that many movies. On the other hand, he's FRICKIN' ORSON WELLES. He never won an Oscar for acting. Never won for directing. He was a co-winner for the script of Citizen Kane but I refuse to count that.
Margaret Booth: I'm being very tough in including Margaret Booth because for most of her career she was a 'Supervising Film Editor' and there's no Oscar for that. That's sort of the point though, the Academy Awards should be telling us who's doing the most important work in the industry and Margaret Booth more or less ran MGM for thirty years. Louis Mayer deferred to her judgement in almost everything movie-related and every production at the studio had to get her approval on final cut. And MGM, remember, was only the biggest studio in the world.
Buster Keaton. Okay, now I'm being really, really tough on the Academy because Keaton's greatest output occurred before 1927, that is before the Oscars even existed. I refuse to accept that excuse however, Keaton was such a genius they should have somehow given him an Oscar before there were Oscars. He was that good, making movies with strong narratives that were impeccably mounted, utterly cinematic, kinetic, and hilarious. Keaton did win a Lifetime Achievement Award but I'm not counting 'Lifetime Achievement Awards' because these are only handed out when the honouree is about to die and everyone has finally realized just how badly they screwed up. Double, double shame.
Edward G. Robinson. I defy anyone to watch The Sea Wolf or Double Indemnity and not admit Edward G was a great actor. Yet he never won an Oscar.
Barbara Stanwyck. I think you could win a lot of bets by asking people how many Oscars Barbara Stanwyck won during her career. Answer: zero.
Robert Mitchum. Besides not liking 'B' movies, the Academy rarely looks fondly on crime movies either. That's one reason Mitchum's work was overlooked. It's not a good enough reason.
Cary Grant. Ask any actor and they'll tell you there is nothing harder to perform than comedy, and light comedy is hardest of all because it's not about much of anything. Grant spent most of his career in light comedy and made it look easy which is a measure of how good he really was. I personally calculate the number of actors in history who could have made Bringing Up Baby funny at exactly one.
Alfred Hitchcock. There is no director ever who is more copied than Hitchcock. In many ways his name is synonymous with directing yet while he was active his work was considered frivolous and 'popular' so therefore not worthy. No matter what happens for the rest of time, the Academy can never make up for snubbing Hitch. Triple, triple, triple, extra shame.