Months later, we are still smarting from Brokeback Mountain’s loss to Crash. Instead of reanalyzing the many reasons why Crash won, I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane to see what other deserving best picture nominees have failed to win the Oscar in the past decade.

1996: The English Patient Beats Fargo
Did anyone actually like the English Patient? The English Patient is the equivalent of cinematic cough syrup. Everyone felt obligated to like it because it has all of the hallmarks of an Oscar epic. However, although the English Patient boasts stunning cinematography and strong performances, it is also incredibly dull. The director managed to take a riveting book and turn it into a snoozefest. In contrast, Fargo, “a homespun murder story,” was a well-told, quirky film that is hard to turn away from. Its unconventional plot and setting make it in many ways the anti-English Patient.

1998: Shakespeare in Love Beats Saving Private Ryan
I have no idea what happened in 1998. Saving Private Ryan is one of the greatest war movies ever. Shakespeare in Love is a decent romantic comedy. It is nowhere near as good as any of the other movies nominated: Elizabeth, Life Is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, and The Thin Red Line. Shakespeare in Love is about as good as Kate and Leopold. It was fun, but not Oscar-worthy.

2000: Gladiator Trumps Traffic
Although Gladiator is a TNT favorite, it is not a great movie. The story is manipulative and overdone. In contrast, Traffic tells an interesting story in a novel way. Traffic pioneered the intersecting political storyline style of Crash and did so in a much more subtle way than the recent Oscar winner.

2002: Chicago Beats Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

When compared to classic musicals like Singing in the Rain, Chicago does not stand up. The signing is decent but not exceptional and there are way too many dance numbers. The only reason Chicago won is because it was seen as ushering in a new era of musicals. Four years later, we are still waiting for another critically acclaimed major musical feature. Dreamgirls may be that film, but it is too early to tell. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was a much better movie and should have taken home the award. In fact, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers also was better than the bloated, Oscar winning Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

2003: The King Stomps Mystic River
I love the Lord of the Rings series. That being said, most LOTR fans can attest to the fact that The Return of the King is the weakest movie in the trilogy. The Return of the King has one of the longest endings of any movie in recent memory. It could have easily been cut in half. In 2003, the best film was not Return of the King but instead Mystic River. Mystic River boasted great performances by Sean Penn and Tim Robbins. In addition, unlike The Return of the King, Mystic River was a very well-edited film. It tells a compelling story, effectively and efficiently. Although Mystic River was 2 hrs and 17 minutes long, each minute was used wisely.

Final Thoughts:
It appears that the Oscar goes to the wrong film approximately every other year. Furthermore, the Oscar is also more likely to be misdirected in even years (Example: 1996, 1998, 2002, 2006). With this in mind, I look forward to having a worthy Oscar best picture winner in 2007.