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When Oscar's Best Picture Really Isn't (And Why)

Jack Wild, left, and Mark Lester played the Artful Dodger and Oliver Twist in <em>Oliver!</em> — the movie that was supposedly the Best Picture of 1968.
Larry Ellis
Express/Getty Images
Jack Wild, left, and Mark Lester played the Artful Dodger and Oliver Twist in Oliver! — the movie that was supposedly the Best Picture of 1968.

Spartacus, Some Like It Hot, Psycho and Singin' In The Rain are some of the most recognizable films of their eras. But shockingly, not one of these four classic films was nominated by the Motion Picture Academy for Best Picture.

Other highly rated, never-nominated films include Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, Rear Window and North by Northwest. And though Hitchcock's movies are often studied by film students, he also never won as a director.

But the most egregious example of all, NPR's film critic Bob Mondello tells Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz, is that the musical Oliver! won best picture in 1968. 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Mondello says is arguably one of the greatest films of all time, wasn't even nominated.

So how is this possible, and why do these first-rate films get left out?

Age Disparity

"The Academy tends to shy away from things that are either overtly sexual or really violent," Mondello says. This could be because the Academy's voters are often much older than the film studio's target audience, which creates a disconnect.

"Movies are made for 18- to 26-year-olds; basically, that's the prime audience," Mondello says. "The people that are voting for the Oscars include Mickey Rooney, Shirley Temple, Kirk Douglas. This is not to say that they aren't forward-thinking and fabulous and youthful at heart, but they're not the same as the audience for the picture. So a lot of things that we think ... are new and exciting, they may not think that that's as cool. They might go for something more traditional."

Actors Like Actors

Note this, too, about Rooney, Temple and Douglas — they're all actors. And actors make up a large segment of Academy voters.

"Because they're the biggest chunk of the Academy, they also wield a lot of influence," Mondello says. "And they, in fact, tend to go for actor's pictures. You'll see something like Kramer vs. Kramer gets a nod over Apocalypse Now. Because Apocalypse Now is a director's picture — it's Francis Ford Coppola showing off, and he's fabulous ... but Kramer vs. Kramer is sort of a domestic drama — that shows off actors, and actors get into that a lot."

Those are just a few of the reasons Vegas oddsmakers have been favoring a low-budget war flick over a blockbuster peopled by digitized Na'vi. How will posterity judge the victor? That's another question entirely.

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