As we gear up for the Oscars on Sunday, February 9th, let’s take a look back at some of the biggest scandals, upsets and controversies in Academy Awards history.
Although Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Oscar in 1940 (for “Gone with the Wind”) she was forced to sit at a segregated table. Her Oscar is also missing, and no one has any clue what might have happened to it.
In 1973, Marlon Brando was a lock to win Best Actor for his role in “The Godfather.” But the famously eccentric actor send activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his place to reject the honor and bring attention to the way Hollywood portrayed Native Americans.
When the Oscars decided to go host-free in 1989, Rob Lowe stepped up to do a bizarre musical skit alongside Snow White. It was so incredibly terrible that Rob Lowe almost didn’t recover. Don’t believe me? Watch below!
Marisa Tomei was an extreme long shot to win Best Supporting Actress in 1993 for her role in “My Cousin Vinny.” For years, people suspected that presenter Jack Palance had made a mistake; however, the movie–and especially her fast-talking expert testimony during a pivotal scene–have since become something a cult classic.
There are plenty of folks who still think that “Shakespeare In Love” did not deserve so much Oscar gold. The 1999 film swooped in to beat out “Life Is Beautiful” (which, to be fair, has not aged well) along with what is considered to be one of the greatest war films ever made: “Saving Private Ryan.”
Remember when Angelina was the wild-eyed, goth bad girl of Hollywood? In 2000 (twenty years ago!) Angie brought her brother and lookalike James Haven as her date to the ceremony. They kissed on the lips during the red carpet crush, and as she accepted her award for Best Supporting Actress, she exclaimed, “I’m so in love with my brother right now!”
In 2003, we all knew that director Roman Polanski was a wanted criminal following his 1977 confession to raping a 13-year-old girl. That didn’t stop him from taking home Oscar gold, however, nor from continuing to rack up awards for his work since then. However, Polanski can never come back to the US to accept his awards if he wants to avoid being arrested.
On one hand, you have Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain,” a tender and heartbreaking film about two gay men whose love could never be. And on the other hand, there’s Paul Haggis’ “Crash,” a ham-handed movie about racism that pretty much every critic hated. So how did “Crash” win Best Picture? We may never know….
While this ranks as a minor controversy, it still tickles me every time I think of it. Poor John Travolta was flummoxed by the name “Idina Menzel” and totally botched it as the Broadway star took the stage to perform her iconic song “Let It Go.”
In 2017, “La La Land” seemed like the kind of movie that the Academy loves to reward. The love letter to Hollywood did pick up some statues, but there was one it had to give back. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidentally announced that “La La Land” had won Best Picture, but the winner was actually “Moonlight.”