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Here Are Some of the Strangest Oscar Nominations of All Time

Fake names, rescinded nominations, and snubs, oh my!

91st Oscars title card.

From pseudonyms getting nominated, to nominations being rescinded, to outright snubs, being nominated for an Oscar isn’t always as straightforward as it would seem. Here are some of the strangest nominations in the 94 years of the Academy Awards.

Before anyone asks, no, Rin-Tin-Tin the dog was never nominated for an Oscar. It was actually used by a producer to point out the ridiculousness of Hollywood awarding itself, as he thought it would lead to studios just voting for their own movies, even if it meant voting for Rin-Tin-Tin as Best Actor.

A writer by any other name

A surprising number of writers have been nominated for Oscars under false names. Fargo, Adaptation, and Greystroke: Legend of Tarzan all had nominations for writers who used pseudonyms or were straight-up fictional characters.

High Society (1955) is another interesting case where two movies of the same name being released at the same time actually led to a mistake where one was given the other’s nomination; Edward Bernds and Elwood Ullman were nominated for Best Story for a musical they had not written. They had the nomination rescinded when they realized the mistake. Truly a class act.

Issues with release

Part of the rules of the Oscars is that the films nominated must have been released in theaters in the past year. Unfortunately, not everyone remembers that part.

Originally up for Best Documentary at the 1969 Oscars, Young Americans’ nomination was rescinded when it was revealed to have been shown at a Theater in 1967, thereby making it ineligible for the Oscars.

Similarly, Tuba Atlantic (2010) was nominated for Best Live Action Short Film but was rescinded when the Academy realized the short had originally aired on television.

I guess the Academy is a stickler when it comes to submitting late work.

Issues with category

Whiplash and Hamlet both stirred up controversy with being nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, only for critics to argue that there was little to no adaptation involved; Hamlet used every word of the original Shakespeare and Whiplash was an original screenplay that had been adapted into a short as proof of concept. Ultimately, both films maintained their nominations.

The same could not be said for Hondo (1953), which was stripped of its Best Story nomination because it was originally based on a short story called “The Gift of Cochise.”

This controversy isn’t unique to the struggle between original and adapted screenplays, either. As technologies advance and categories become blurred, there is increased critique over nominations in technical awards.

Some argued against Avatar’s nomination for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction due to the large amount of CGI and motion capture work. This led to debates as to who should get the credit: the teams on set or the teams doing the work on computers.

The Best Foreign Film category has also faced much criticism over the years, such as for excluding foreign films on the basis of them being in English. This led to the Academy renaming it Best Foreign Language Film, but that decision has also has faced criticism due to Parasite winning both Best Foreign Language Film and Best Film.

The Best Original Song and Best Original Soundtrack categories have also had many issues over the years with nominations. Moulin Rouge’s “Come What May” could not be nominated for Best Original Song because it had originally been composed for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet. Despite the fact that the song was cut and was the only original song in Moulin Rouge, it was still not nominated, though the movie notably received nominations and awards in many other categories.

The Godfather’s original soundtrack also had its nomination revoked when composer Nino Rota revealed he had reused part of his score from Fortunella, a 1958 Italian comedy. He did win for The Godfather Part 2.

Related: 2022’s Sight & Sound Top 100 Movies Poll Demonstrates Film Culture Is Online Culture on The Escapist

Borderline bribery?

Some films get their nominations revoked due to inappropriate use of networking in an attempt to secure votes. Bruce Broughton was nominated for Best Original Song for Alone Yet Not Alone (2013). Unfortunately, according to Mentalfloss, he “had emailed [some of the other 239] members of the branch to make them aware of his submission during the nominations voting period.” This led to his nomination being rendered ineligible.

13 Hours (2016) similarly got its nomination for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing rescinded due to “telephone lobbying.” Both nominees railed against the decision, considering it to be an act of retribution against smaller nominees that didn’t have the marketing budgets of other films and awards campaigns.

Not nominated

Perhaps the strangest nominations are the ones that didn’t happen.

A Charlie Chaplin movie known as The Circus (1928) had four nominations rescinded because the Academy feared it was too good and would win in every category. They instead gave him a special award “for writing, acting, directing and producing The Circus.”

Not Best Picture

Movies nominated for Best Picture are meant to be the cream of the crop, but that’s not always the case. There was a Twitter thread in April of 2022 that had people highlighting movies that they felt should have won but weren’t even nominated. Among the list were The Ice Storm, Heat, Mood for Love, Zodiac, Boogie Nights, and countless others.

Not Best Director

Despite the director being “in charge” of the movie, there have been many times when they have not received credit where credit is due. It’s an unspoken tradition that the Best Pictures frequently receive Best Director nominations and vise versa. That’s how we got Bong Joon-ho making his two Oscars kiss. However, that is not always the case. Ava DuVernay (Selma), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), and Greta Gerwig (Little Women) all made headlines when they were snubbed despite their movies being nominated for best picture. I guess the Academy thinks that those films directed themselves?

It’s not just women, either. Spike Lee’s relationship with the Academy has been strained from the start. Despite his debut movie being considered an incredible film, Do the Right Thing was ultimately not even nominated for Best Picture or Best Director. Even more insulting were the heaps of awards given to Driving Ms. Daisy that very year.

Not Best Actor/Actress

I can’t even get into all of the performances by actors and actresses that have gone overlooked by the Oscars. I will say that Toni Colette delivered one of the most heart-wrenching performances of her distinguished career in Hereditary. Yet, like many other amazing horror movie performances, her work was overlooked by the Academy.

Great movies with zero Oscar nominations

Sometimes people don’t realize how great a movie is until years, or even decades later. Sometimes people do know but the Academy doesn’t, leading to a lack of nominations.

King Kong, Scarface, and The Shining were not nominated in any categories for their amazing work. The Shining is a particularly poignant case because both Kubrick and Duval were nominated for Razzies for the movie. Which, if that hasn’t aged poorly, then nothing has.

In either case, this goes to show that a movie’s quality or cultural impact isn’t necessarily measured in awards.

What is the strangest Oscar nomination, in your opinion? What’s the worst Oscar Snub? Comment below!

(featured image: ABC)

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Kimberly Terasaki is a Creative Writing graduate, fanfiction author, and intersectional feminist. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan. She appreciates all constructive criticism and genuine discussion.