The 10 Biggest Oscar Snubs of 2009

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionE-mail page to friendE-mail page to friendPDF versionPDF version
No votes yet

CHICAGO – Stories are released every year about the gap between the Oscars and public opinion. It’s a chasm that seems to be growing with every passing year.

For the 81st-annual Academy Awards, this legendary group had a chance to close that gap and nominate two films for best picture that were critically acclaimed and commercially successful: “The Dark Knight” and “WALL-E”. But they blew it.

The two films did land a combined fourteen nominations, but were excluded from Best Director and Best Picture, proving that the Academy still has a long way to go when it comes to actually recognizing the best of the year. But they were far from the only mistake revealed on Thursday morning, January 22nd, 2009.

Before we discuss the serious snubs, Best Foreign Language Film is too much of a joke to be considered eligible. The likely winner, Waltz With Bashir, is very deserving, but the process is so flawed that it makes the inevitable win for Ari Folman’s excellent film a slightly hollow one. The fact that the Academy still employs a process that makes one of the best foreign films of the year (Let the Right One In) ineligible and ignores one of the most critically acclaimed choices like Gomorrah from even making the short list is mind-boggling to me. It’s not snubbing, it’s utter nonsense.

Picking ten snubs from this year’s list of nominees was shockingly easy. In fact, there wasn’t a single category that didn’t have a worthy contender on the outside looking in. And how do you rank them? What’s more painful - Sally Hawkins, Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky, or Rosemarie DeWitt still being unable to put Oscar nominee next to their name? Instead, we’re picking the biggest snub per category with the big eight and then two notable omissions from the other categories rounding out a top ten (well, top eleven if you’re being picky).

Dear Zachary
Dear Zachary.
Photo credit: Oscilloscope

10. “Dear Zachary” for Best Documentary

Kurt Kuenne’s amazing dissection of pure evil and immeasurable good didn’t even make the short list for a category that’s almost as messed up as Best Foreign Language Film. Man on Wire will probably and predictably win but there were so many other choices they could have made to join it then the ones they did. Trouble the Water was powerful, so that’s a great nod, but it is mind-boggling to me that Werner Herzog gets snubbed for one of the best nature documentaries of the last few years, Grizzly Man, but nominated for a film that even he would admit wasn’t nearly as good, Encounters at the End of the World. But all of it pales in comparison to the most powerfully emotional experience that I had in 2008 - Dear Zachary. Like Foreign Language Film, this will be a category that I use for a bathroom break.

Winner Bruce Springsteen for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture for
Winner Bruce Springsteen for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture for “The Wrestler” on stage during the 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2009
Photo credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC

9. “The Wrestler” by Bruce Springsteen for Best Song

This is perhaps the most head-scratching snub of the day. It’s clearly not an anti-Boss thing, as they gave him the award for “Streets of Philadelphia”. No, I think there’s a deeper problem here. I think this category is broken. Maybe after giving the trophy to Three Six Mafia (deservedly, I might add), something snapped. How else do you explain the THREE nominations for “Enchanted” in this category last year (snubbing Eddie Vedder’s great work on “Into the Wild” and tunes by John Mayer, Rufus Wainwright, and Bob Dylan) and now this disaster? Don’t get me wrong. The two songs from “Slumdog Millionaire” are both good and it will be ridiculously cool to see M.I.A. perform on the Oscars. And I love the track from “WALL-E” by Peter Gabriel. But did they forget the other two nominees? How about “The Wrestler” and “Dracula’s Lament” from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”? Come on. It’s not too late. Just pretend there were five all along. We’re gonna need a laugh after all the “Reader” and “Frost/Nixon” clips anyway.

Let the Right One In
Let the Right One In
Photo credit: Magnolia

8. “Let the Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist for Best Adapted Screenplay

I know it will be a cold day in movie hell when a foreign horror movie gets a nomination this prestigious, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t snubbed. The script for Tomas Alfredson’s stunning study of vampirism and adolescence is easily better than three of the chosen nominees and arguably second only to Simon Beaufoy’s stunning work on “Slumdog Millionaire”. No offense to the talented people chosen for this category, but could it have been any more predictable? Take the award-winning plays, the F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation, and something called “The Reader” has to be a great adapted screenplay, right? “Let the Right One In” is a challenging, daring examination of childhood isolation through the lens of the vampire mythology. It’s a wonderful screenplay that was probably not even considered. It will stand the test of time far more impressively than “Frost/Nixon” or “The Reader”.

Anonymous's picture

The Dark Knight and WALL - E

The Dark Knight and WALL - E “timeless masterpieces” ……….hahaha what a joke, your opinion is now rendered invalid. Please don’t write anything on film ever again, thank you. How can they be timeless masterpieces when they have only been out for less than a year. Only time will tell so please don’t write silly comments like that in future.

Anonymous's picture


The Dark Knight does not have the qualities of a Best Picture. Sure it had one great performance, surrounded by a couple mediocre ones. The writing was not that great. So I agree with the previous post. There are some great critics in Chicago, but its plane to see that you are not one of them.

Now I will agree with you that Wall-E is a great, and pretty a much flawless picture, well for the first half. but it still lacked the qualities that a best picture should possess.

Anonymous's picture

I have to disagree with your

I have to disagree with your opinion there. The Dark Knight does in fact have all the qualities of a Best Picture barring one - it is a genre film and worse yet, it’s a superhero film. And that was enough for the academy members to ignore it in the major categories. It’s nothing but prejudice and it’s exactly that sort of narrow minded thinking and inability to look past the genre that makes prompts people to say that it does not have the qualities of a Best Picture.

It’s wrong to say that Ledger’s performance is surrounded by mediocre ones. Yes Ledger was brilliant, but that does not automatically make everyone else mediocre in comparison. They all did a very good job, Aaron Eckhart in particular was sublime.

I suppose despite my arguments, it was always going to be a fools hope for TDK to get a Best Picture nomination. But, Nolan deserved that Best Director nomination, more so than anyone from last year. When you look at a film for its directing, you’re looking at every single department from acting to sound mixing, because a director’s job is to bring all these departments together to function like a well-oiled machine (and I’m a director myself, so I know exactly how that machine needs to work). The only other films from 2008 that are in the same class as TDK in this respect are Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire.

Anonymous's picture

The Dark Knight

I must politely defend the Dark Knight’s writing, as it deserves a nomination for best adapted screenplay. Granted, its dialogue does not exactly ring with Tarantino’s deceptively natural and sublime fusion of poetry and prose, but TDK utilizes forces of antagonism in deliciously brilliant and complex ways. For example, as a villain, the Joker requires much more of Batman than simple right/wrong, good/evil decisions. Ledger’s character traps him in situations where he must wage an ethical war within himself before reacting and pulls this off not once, but multiple times throughout the film. This is a terrifically intellegent, mature script. It takes the traditional superhero genre and elevates it to a gorgeous morality play. It is grossly underrated, and the fact that this slice of cinematic beauty did not earn a Best Picture nomination is a travesty.

Anonymous's picture


What qualities did Wall-E not possess?

James's picture

I think that the main

I think that the main problem is the voting process…there is no larger monster called “The Academy”, it is thousands of individual votes. They pick their top five in every category, in ascending order (1st is best 5 is least best) and then submit them. Halfway through the counting process, the nominations are released based o n the first half of the ballots recieved. This is so that nobody knows until that night exactly who won. The process is retarded.'s picture

The members who vote...

James wrote:
I think that the main problem is the voting process…

Is the problem the process or the members who vote? The academy’s demographic is much older. I’d argue that the members who vote skew to the 50-plus age range.

It also seems like they figured Heath Ledger getting “The Dark Knight” supporting nomination and “WALL-E” getting nominated for best animated film was enough. It’s not fair to exclude one nomination because of another.

I’ve been on juries before (including for the 2008 Chicago International Film Festival) and I understand the thinking, but it’s still not right. As a jury member, you shouldn’t do it.

Anonymous's picture

I’m sorry James, but your

I’m sorry James, but your post is “retarded.” That is not even close to the actual process. Read this:

Joey Nolfi's picture


LET THE RIGHT ONE IN’s lack of a nomination was not a snub…Sweden did not submit it.

BrianTT's picture

Submission Not Needed For Adapted Screenplay

In the intro, I suggest that the process for Best Foreign Film, which requires country submission is deeply flawed when I write..

“The fact that the Academy still employs a process that makes one of the best foreign films of the year (Let the Right One In) ineligible…”

…acknowledging that it couldn’t be nominated for Best Foreign Film because of the submission process.

However, it could have been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Films are regularly not submitted for Best Foreign Film and nominated in other categories. Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her was not submitted by Spain and, consequently, not nominated for Best Foreign Film but WON the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

User Login

Free Giveaway Mailing


Advertisement on Twitter

archive Top Ten Discussions