Capra. Wilder. Polanski. Lucas. Spielberg. Scorsese. Household names of directors that have notoriously been shafted. All of them have made pictures (in some cases, several) that have been nominated for a mountain of Oscars, yet still somehow managed to surrender the most coveted statuette of all, the Best Picture Academy Award. Take a look:

11 Academy Award Nominations:

1939: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington — Lost to Gone With the Wind (15 nom’s).
What a jewel this is. Still powerful and relevant 68 years later, perhaps even more so now than ever. One of the greatest acting performances of all time by one the greatest actors of all time. Stewart didn’t even win! What a year this was for the motion picture industry before Hollywood turned to even more escapism during W.W.II: Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Mice and Men, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, Goodbye Mr. Chips…could this be the greatest year for American cinema? Your thoughts are welcome as always.

1942: The Pride of the Yankees — Lost to Mrs. Miniver (13 nom’s).
A heartfelt biopic about a phenomenal player and an even more phenomenal human being, Lou Gehrig. Voters, however, understandably went with the moving dramatic picture which helped rally Americans for our W.W.II British allies as both countries were getting bombed to bits.

1950: Sunset Blvd. — Lost to All About Eve (14 nom’s).
Two classic movies about rich, bitchy women. Perhaps not-so-ironically, there was a highly publicized feud between the hellcats regarding the acting nominations. The vote split, and they all lost.

1974: Chinatown — Lost to The Godfather, Part II (also 11 nom’s).
Tough luck for Polanski, who would have to wait 28 years later while exiled in a foreign country for his first Oscar win. Unfortunately for everyone else, this year was like entering a horse in a race against Man O’ War.

1977: Star Wars — Lost to Annie Hall (5 nom’s).

1985: The Color Purple — Lost to Out of Africa (also 11 nom’s).
Spielberg’s oft-shunned masterpiece of Alice Walker’s prize novel is quiet possibly one of the most underrated film adaptations ever made. This was Spielberg’s first attempt at historically consequential material, yet controversies surrounded the project due to a Jewish director interpreting African-American literature. The Color Purple remains a poignant, powerful, and beautiful work of art, which was truly and unjustifiably dissed during the 1986 Academy Awards (0 for 11).

1998: Saving Private Ryan — Lost to Shakespeare in Love (13 nom’s).
Please see the archives for a previous column regarding these two films. Incidentally, Spielberg-directed movies have been nominated for 105 Academy Awards. 105!!! That’s about an average of 5 Oscar nominations per film. And that’s including The Twilight Zone!

2004: The Aviator — Lost to Million Dollar Baby (7 nom’s).
Sorry, Scorsese, Eastwood made a hell of a movie this year. “Bring in the milk!”

And now, the three films with the most Oscar nominations to nonetheless lose the best picture race:

12 nominations:

1981: Reds — Lost to Chariots of Fire (7 nom’s).
Warren Beatty won the Best Director Oscar for his 3 hour and 14 minute intelligent epic about the infancy of Communism and the Russian Revolution. Alas, if it weren’t for that damned and over-parodied theme song by Vangelis, the commies might’ve gotten away with it too…

13 nominations:

2001: The Fellowship of the Ring — Lost to A Beautiful Mind (8 nom’s).
Don’t feel too sorry for Peter Jackson and company; they reaped their harvest in record-breaking fashion two years later when the third installment of the Rings trilogy swept all eleven of its nominations. If there’s a film to feel sorry for, it’s the movie which tied The Fellowship for the most nominations without winning best picture:

(drum roll, please…)

1964: Mary Poppins — Lost to My Fair Lady (12 nom’s).
Possibly Walt Disney’s (63 Oscar nominations to his person) crowning achievement, at least in cinematic terms. A remarkable, magical, and unforgettable film from “Sister Suffragette” to “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” Poppins hasn’t lost even a pinch of sugar in over 40 years. If it’s been a while since you’ve vaulted into a sidewalk painting, check it out again. There’s more depth beneath the colorful surface than you probably remember. One listen to such forgotten numbers such as “The Life I Lead,” “A Man Has Dreams,” and especially, “Feed the Birds,” might — just might — make you reevaluate your life’s urgencies…a spoonful we all could swallow once in a while.