WTF Oscars nominations! 18 films you won’t believe were up for Academy Awards
When we think of the Academy Awards, we imagine filmmaking of a certain standard. Quality, prestige, influence, renown… These are all words we typically associate with the Oscars. Yet every now and then, films possessing none of these attributes sneak their way onto the lists of nominees. Who would’ve thought that a movie about an eccentric crocodile poacher would receive a nod from the esteemed Academy for best original screenplay? We certainly wouldn’t have placed bets on a mermaid-based rom com getting a nomination, but as we well know, the Oscars can be full of surprises. Here are 18 films you won’t believe were up for Academy Awards – some of them even won!
This ludicrously lowbrow film about a fictional Vietnam War drama being shot on location earned Robert Downey Jr. a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the 2009 Oscars race. In case you couldn’t tell, Downey Jr. appears on the right in the picture above. Yes. In blackface. Who said #OscarsSoWhite? In the end the Oscar was awarded posthumously to Heath Ledger for his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight.
Fifty Shades of Grey
Question: How did the much chastised Fifty Shades of Grey wind up with an Oscar nomination? Answer: It earned it… In case you didn’t get that excellent pun, the erotic romance film from Sam Taylor-Johnson has been nominated for this year’s Academy Award in the Best Original Song category for The Weeknd’s sensual track “Earned It”. We still think Ellie Goulding had the bigger hit with “Love Me Like You Do”, though.
Someone once said that this was not only the worst film ever, but the worst thing ever. The majority of people who’ve seen the colourful mess of a Batman movie would likely agree, although not those contrarian Academy voters, it would seem, as the Val Kilmer-led superhero movie nabbed a grand total of three nominations at the Oscars in 1996, for Best Cinematography, Best Sound, and Best Sound Editing.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
We’d assume any production even associated with the Jackass brand to be kept at arm’s length from the Oscars, so this one raised some serious eyebrows when it was announced. The comedy picked up a nomination for Best Makeup and Hairstyling in 2014 for its seamless transformation of Johnny Knoxville into the titular grandpa.
This wasn’t just nominated in its category (and a major category at that); it actually won! That’s right, woman of many talents Cher grabbed the award for Best Actress in 1988 for her performance as a Brooklyn woman who falls in love with a very young Nicolas Cage, who plays the brother of her fiancé.
Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas
It seems unbelievable that a film starring Jim Carrey and Taylor Momsen would be up for an Academy Award, but it happened back in 2001, when the live action reimagining of Dr. Seuss’s Christmas classic was nominated in not one, not two, but three categories; Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, and Best Makeup, which it very deservedly won.
Star Wars: Episode I
Yes. The one with Jar Jar Binks. The Phantom Menace actually picked up three nominations in the 2000 Academy Awards, for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. Meanwhile, we thought Liam Neeson deserved an Oscar for managing to keep a straight face.
Beverly Hills Cop
The first of two Eddie Murphy comedies we can’t believe got Oscar nods (but are glad they did), this cop caper was nominated for best screenplay in 1985. Which is totally fair enough; it earned $234 million at the North American domestic box office, making it the highest-grossing film of 1984 in the U.S.
In spite of its 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Norbit was actually nominated for an Oscar. The critically and popularly panned comedy in which Eddie Murphy plays Norbit, a retiring wallflower type who was abandoned as a child at a Chinese restaurant-cum-orphanage, and his overbearing, overweight fiancée Rasputia, and orphanage owner Mr. Wong. The film was up for the Academy Award for best makeup and hairstyling in 2007.
On the subject of downright ludicrous film premises, let’s talk about Junior; that age-old tale of a male gynaecologist who ends up becoming the world’s first pregnant man. We’re not kidding. Anyway, the silly comedy starring Arnold Schwarzenneger, Danny DeVito and Emma Thompson was up for an Oscar in 1995, but it was for Best Original Song – Patty Smyth’s “Look What Love Has Done” – so doesn’t really say much about the actual film’s quality or lack of it.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
While we think the live action Transformers series should go down in history for worst sound mixing of all time, the Academy actually nominated this second instalment of the Michael Bay franchise for Best Sound Mixing in 2009. What do we mere viewers know, eh?
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
It seems crazy with hindsight – and probably also seemed crazy at the time – that Johnny Depp was actually nominated for Best Actor in the 2004 Academy Awards for his role as Captain Jack Sparrow. Not only that, this original instalment of the swashbuckling series actually had four more nominations at the Oscars that year, for Best Makeup, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Visual Effects.
Death Becomes Her
This fantastical black comedy film from Robert Zemeckis in which Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn vie for Bruce Willis’s affection is absolutely nutty, and received mixed reviews from critics in its day. Nevertheless, it was nominated for and won best visual effects at the 1993 Oscars ceremony. Well deserved for what they did to Goldie Hawn.
A young boy saved from drowning by a beautiful mermaid falls in love with her 20 years later when she returns to seek him out in this fantastic tale about a fantastic tail. Out of the water, she has legs, and in the water, she has fins. Even more miraculous than that, though, is that this was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 1985 Academy Awards.
My Cousin Vinny
For her breakthrough role in this courtroom comedy starring Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei prevailed over Miranda Richardson, Joan Plowright, Vanessa Redgrave and Judy Davis to win the award for Best Supporting Actress at the 1993 Academy Awards. Now, we think Marisa Tomei is just great. It seems American film critic Rex Reed wouldn’t agree with us though, as he created the myth that presenter Jack Palance had announced the wrong name after opening the envelope, and that Tomei was not in fact the real winner of the accolade.
It may have been one of the biggest flops in movie history, but Kevin Costner’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi epic Waterworld can nevertheless hold onto the claim that it earned an Oscar nomination for Best Sound Mixing in 1996. As evidenced by the picture above, it garnered no such nods for hair and makeup.
Yup, that’s two time Oscar winner and star of American Horror Story Jessica Lange wearing naught but pearls and a loincloth. It wasn’t the esteemed actress’s performance that grabbed the 1977 Oscar nominations for this low grade remake, but rather the cinematography and sound. The film even went on to win the Academy’s Special Achievement Award for its visual effects.
This cult favourite about a living legend Australian bushman was popular enough to spawn two sequels, but we’ve certainly never thought of it as Oscars material. We now take it all back upon learning it was up for Best Original Screenplay at the 1987 Academy Awards, where it was pipped at the post by Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters.
The 88th Academy Awards, hosted by Chris Rock, will be held at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on February 28th. Check out the full list of this year’s nominees here.