As we wait patiently for the 2015 Oscars nominations to be announced, you have to wonder if there's going to be any dark horse contenders this year. After all, the unknown Goodbye to Language won out at the Film Critics Awards, and who knows if that'll shake things up? Although the Academy tends to play it safe, every once in a while it'll inject an unusual nomination into the mix.
"Unusual," of course, doesn't always necessarily denote "bad." If that were the case, I would utterly unemployable. Instead, "unusual" is a broader term that encompasses a variety of qualities, be it simply a performance that bucked tradition, some praise that was entirely undeserved, or a song that casually urges parents to "Blame Canada" for all society's problems. Unusual is what you make it out to be, and sometimes it breeds something far more interesting than the "safe" choices. After all, how well does multiple Oscar winner Titanic fair after all these years? After almost a comical amount of success, it's been overdone so hard that it's become nothing more than a bloated parody of itself.
Take a stroll with me down memory lane and revisit a handful of memorably weird nominations from the past few decades.
1. King Kong (1976) for Best Visual Effects
Ah yes, the film that nearly ended Jessica Lange's career before it began. Moreover the actual visual effects don't fare much better than the wonky 1930's version of King Kong.
2. The Godfather Part III for Best Picture
Ah yes, the film that nearly ended Sophia Coppola's career before it began. Though I think it may get less hate today, the third Godfather film is a classic case of "Third Movie Syndrome," i.e., it pales in comparison to the first two. Also, isn't there, like, casual incest between first cousins? No thank you.
3. Beauty and the Beast for Best Picture
I'm being smug here, because Beauty and the Beast remains my all-time favorite Disney film, and, although it didn't win, it was the first-ever animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. I'm sorry, tell me again how Ariel is your favorite Disney Princess...?
4. Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny for Best Supporting Actress
Given that My Cousin Vinny is a hardcore comedy, Tomei's Academy Award nomination (and subsequent win) is just further recognition of her talents. Still, it's a bit eyebrow-raising, since Oscars are typically doled out to super serious dramatic actors versus, you know, a woman who teases her hair big and sing-songs about her biological clock. Props.
5. Anna Paquin in The Piano for Best Supporting Actress
Hear me out. Paquin's not the first child nominee, she's not the first winner, she's not youngest nominee ever, and, I mean, Quvenzhane Wallis was just on the red carpet, like, last Thursday. Mainly, this nom (and win) is amazing in retrospect, because you didn't already know about it. Your brain is probably ringing to the tune of, "Wait, baby Sookie Stackhouse won an Oscar?!" Also, how cute is her little beaded hat and on-stage anxiety attack? AND THAT ACCENT?
6. "Blame Canada" from South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut for Best Original Song
Yes, the South Park movie had an Oscar nomination. Not only that, but it was performed at the Academy Awards with manic exuberance by the late, great Robin Williams. "Legendary" is too gentle of a word to describe it. It lost out to the song Phil Collins penned for Tarzan, which later led to a very spiteful (albeit hilarious) South Park joke at his expense.
7. Three 6 Mafia's "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle and Flow for Best Original Song
I'm just so glad this won.
8. Norbit for Best Make-Up
Remember Norbit? No? Well, a large part of it is basically just Eddie Murphy in drag wearing a fat suit. That's not the revolutionary high-end of make-up artistry. That's just, you know, ANY Eddie Murphy film.
9. Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder for Best Supporting Actor
The whole blackface thing is subverted for comic effect here (like, he's playing an Australian actor playing a black actor), and I'm not going to touch whether or not that's an effective subversion. In any case, as funny as Tropic Thunder was, this is definitely a screwball pick for Downey Jr. Ultimately it didn't matter, because this was the year Heath Ledger passed away, and nobody was going to steal that Oscar away from his Joker performance.