Oscars, The Decade in Review

The Decade in Review: The Best and Worst Oscar Winners (Per Category)

Now that we know who came out victorious at the 82nd annual Academy Awards, I thought it was a perfect time to make the list of the best and worst Oscar winners of the decade per category. It wasn’t hard coming up with them since the Academy tends to reward lesss-than-worhty features all time, which makes it easier for the good ones to stick out.

In each category I’ve listed what I think are the best and the worst choices the Academy made, and a reason why they are on the list. I skipped the Documentary and the short categories and I have not seen enough to make a judgement.

Without further ado, here are my pick for the best and worst Oscar winners of the decade.

Best Picture

Best: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Worst: A Beautiful Mind

Like I said in the Lord of the Rings entry in my top 10 of the decade, I believe that the trilogy as a whole is the greatest cinematic achievement of the decade. The academy decided to award it until the last entry of the saga was released, and I was so happy to see it win, especially since the Academy didn’t really like fantasy movies.

The victory that perplexed the most most in this category was A Beautiful Mind’s. How can such a bland movie win the year that Moulin Rouge! (the best movie of the decade), Gosford Park, and Fellowship of the Ring were nominated. Thankfully since then the Academy went to give the BP award to unusual choices (not always the best, but unusual).

Best Director

Best: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

Worst: Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind

I thought about putting Peter Jackson in as the best winner, but I think that the direction in The Return of the King was the weakest (still very good though). Looking over the list of winners, the one that truly stands out for me is this year’s winner. Bigelow managed to make such an intense and tight war movie on such a low budget, and I rooted for her since I saw the movie in theaters.

In 2001 Robert Altman, David Lynch, Peter Jackson, and Ridley Scott were nominated for Best Director Oscars. And yet Ron Howard managed to win. Like the movie, his work is nothing special. He relied too much on the script, and there was nothing visually exciting about it, which is a shame when movies about people seeing things can be great visual experiences.

Best Actor

Best: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Worst: Sean Penn, Milk and Mystic River

Day-Lewis’ performance just puts almost every other nominee this decade to shame. It is simply the best male performance of the decade and one of the best of all time. This not something I can say about both of Sean Penn’s Oscar-winning performances. How he won in 2003 when Bill Murray was nominated for Lost in Translation and Johnny Depp got his first nom for Pirates of the Caribbean is beyond me. And in 2008, his performance was good, but there were two better nominees that year: Richard Jenkins in The Visitor and Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, who gave the performance of the year.

Best Actress

Best: Charlize Theron, Monster

Worst: Kate Winslet, The Reader

For the Best Oscar winner spot, it came down to Theron and Cotillard for La Vie en Rose. Both performances featured gorgeous actress not only changing their appearance, but also giving their everything into their role. In the end Theron won because her character had much more background for Theron to work with, and she never faltered in delivering a great performance

As for the worst, I thought about giving it to Reese Witherspoon. But then I thought that if I was able to bypass Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock on the grounds that they will never win another Oscar, why not her. So that only left Kate Winslet for The Reader. Her performance here is average, and I’m not talking about average for her, but average in the whole spectrum of acting. She was going to win an Oscar that year, but she won it for the wrong movie. She will no doubt win a couple more Oscars, and when people look back and see that she won for The Reader they will say “She won for this?”

Best Supporting Actor

Best: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Worst: Tim Robbins, Mystic River

I won’t say any more about Ledger’s performance, but it is truly the best one to win in the Supporting Actor category. As for Tim Robbins, it was a good performance, but it just wan’t Oscar-worthy and it is one of the few that still have me scratching my head.

Best Supporting Actress

Best: Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Worst: Reneé Zellweger, Cold Mountain

Looking at the winners for this category, most of them are performance that blew me away. However, all the 2007 nominees, with the exception of Ruby Dee, did just that. I was hoping that Cate Blanchett would win, but I can’t complain when Tilda Swinton is now an Oscar-winner. Her performance in the film may not be quite up to the standards of her previous work, or anything that she has done since, but it is still an incredible performance.

Zellweger’s performance in Cold Mountain is not that bad, but it is the kind of victory where they just want to award a popular and likable actress. But it is still one of the most embarrassing wins of the decade.

Best Original Screenplay

Best: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Worst: Milk

Eternal Sunshine has one of the best screenplays of all time. It is thoroughly original and very creative. Milk is the complete opposite. It is a formulaic bio-pic that brings nothing new to the table. And is it really original?

Best Adapted Screenplay

Best: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Worst: Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire

Much like the movie winning best picture, LOTR’s win here was just to reward the trilogy as a whole. Peter Jackson and Co. did an exceptional job of adapting three novels that, to me, are extremely boring, but with a great story in the center. Geofrey Fletcher’s work in Precious is not bad, but it is very meh and did nothing new to the original story.

Best Animated Feature

Best: WALL-E

Worst: Happy Feet

WALL-E is one of the most ambitious animated movies of all time, and it delivered. Happy Feet is cute and I would have agreed with its win were it not for the puzzling third act.

Best Foreign Language Film

Best: The Lives of Others

Worst: Departures

At first I was made that The Lives of Others beat Pan’s Labyrinth, but then I saw it. It is as good a piece of filmmaking as Pan’s and it is anchored by a great lead performance. Departures, on the other had, is not a well-produced movie with with a very simple plot.

Best Cinematography

Best: Memoirs of a Geisha

Worst: Slumdog Millionaire

Memoirs of a Geisha, despite its story-telling flaws is one of the most beautiful American movies of the decade, and the cinematography is the main reason why. The cinematography in Slumdog was nothing special and there were much better nominees that year.

Best Art Direction

Best: Moulin Rouge!

Worst: Chicago

Baz Luhrman let all of his budget show on screen, and that resulted in awe inspiring sets in Moulin Rouge! Chicago didn’t have bad art direction, but I’m not a an of the whole “looks like a stage musical” look in film.

Best Costume Design

Best: Memoirs of a Geisha

Worst: The Young Victoria

Colleen Atwood definitely did her research and designed some of of the most beautiful costumes I’ve ever seen. Even if you don’t like the movie, you can’t argue that the costumes are not to die for. Meanwhile, Sandy Powell put out some of the laziest period costumes in recent history.

Best Editing

Best: The Bourne Ultimatum

Worst: Crash

A lot of cuts does not mean good editing, but this is the case in The Bourne Ultimatum. Some of the shots are about one second long, yet the editor managed to make it all flow so perfectly and make it feel like it is not as long as its running time. Crash’s editing is good, but not Oscar-worthy.

Best Original Score

Best: Atonement by Dario Marianelli

Worst: Slumdog Millionaire bt A.R. Rahman and Babel by Gustavo Santoalalla

Dario Marianelli’s score is very creative and the “Elegy for Dunkirk” track is one of the most haunting of the decade. Meanwhile, Slumdog didn’t really have a score, it was just a bunch of songs and techno sounds. The Babel score showed that you can win an Oscar by plagiarizing.

Best Original Song

Best: “Falling Slowly” from Once

Worst: “Al otro lado del rio” from The Motorcycle Diaries

“Falling Slowly” is one of my favorite songs of the decade and plays in a pivotal part of the movie. “Al otro lado del rio” has crap lyrics and does nothing for the movie.

Best Makeup

Best: Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Worst: Frida

Despite the quality of the movie The Grinch has great makeup. Some might say that it is the best thing about the movie. What was Frida awarded for? For giving Salma Hayek a unibrow and a mustache?

Best Sound Editing

Best: The Incredibles

Worst: Pearl Harbor

The sound design in The Incredibles is very inventive and one of the best sound editing jobs Pixar has ever done. Pearl Harbor’s is nothing new and won because of how loud it was.

Best Sound Mixing

Best: The Hurt Locker

Worst: Slumdog Millionaire

The sound mixing team in The Hurt Locker were able to mix the sound effects and the score so that they have a full effect without never being too intrusive. Slumdog Millionaire won here just because it was a movie people liked and the seemed to just vote for it in every category it was nominated for.

Best Visual Effects

Best: Avatar

Worst: The Golden Compass

Avatar is the most obvious one, so I won’t talk about it anymore. However, The Golden Compass did not deserve to win here. The VFX are fine, but when compared to those in the third Pirates of the Caribbean or Transformers they look like they would have been state-of-the-art in the 90s. I’m sure that the only reason it won was because the other two split votes.

There you have it. What are your pick for the best and worst Oscar winner? Have your say in the comments.

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10 thoughts on “The Decade in Review: The Best and Worst Oscar Winners (Per Category)

  1. vesper says:

    This list is filled with clichés, the only thing that’s missing is Mo’Nique as the best supporting actress of the decade and Crash as the worst BP. Daniel Day Lewis, Charlize Theron I can agree with, but Heath Ledger? And you have the nerve to say Renee won only cause she was popular? DEADger only rode the hype of his early demise, Michael Shannon did the exact same crazy character with minimal screen time in Revolutionary Road that year and even Robert Downey Jr. had a stronger performance. But for the hell of it, my picks:

    Best Picture

    Best: The Departed
    Worst: Million Dollar Baby

    Best Actor

    Best: Phillip Seymour Hoffman – Capote
    Worst: Jamie Foxx – Ray

    Best Actress

    Best: Nicole Kidman – The Hours
    Worst: Hilary Swank – Million Dollar Baby

    Best Supporting Actor

    Best: Tim Robbins – Mystic River
    Worst: Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight

    Best Supporting Actress

    Best: Penelope Cruz – Vicky Cristina Barcelona
    Worst: Mo’Nique – Precious

  2. Jillian Leiby says:

    I personally think that Helen Hunt winning for As Good as it Gets is the worst. Just because she was up against Kate Winslet for the Titanic. I am just glad that Kate won one, I don’t really care what for.

  3. Andrew T says:

    I disagree with anyone who hates MILK and loves LORD OF THE RINGS.

    As far as talent and craftsmanship go, here are the real best and worst of the big 5.

    BEST PICTURE: The King’s Speech
    WORST PICTURE: Crash

    BEST DIRECTOR: Roman Polanski, The Pianist
    WORST DIRECTOR: Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind

    BEST ACTOR: Adrien Brody, The Pianist
    WORST ACTOR: Sean Penn, Mystic River

    BEST ACTRESS: Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose
    WORST ACTRESS: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men
    WORST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Tim Robbins, Mystic River

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Catherine Zeta Jones, Chicago
    WORST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jennifer Connely, A Beautiful Mind

  4. erna thomas says:

    worst best actress winners ever: 1. Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line 2. Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side 3. Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich 4. Natalie Portman in Black Swan 5. Charlize Theron in Monster 6. Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love 7. Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball 8. Jessica Tandy in
    Driving Miss Daisy 9. Mary Pickford in Coquette 10. Simone Signoret in Room at the Top

  5. Michael says:

    Best Picture-

    Best: Million Dollar Baby
    Worst: No Country for Old Men

    Best Director-

    Best: Ang Lee- Brokeback Mountain
    Worst: Joel and Ethan Coen- No Country for Old Men

    Best Actor-

    Best: Daniel Day-Lewis- There Will Be Blood
    Worst- Denzel Washington- Training Day

    Best Actress-

    Best: Nicole Kidman- The Hours
    Worst: Sandra Bullock- The Blind Side

    Best Supporting Actor-

    Best: Heath Ledger- The Dark Knight
    Worst: Chris Cooper- Adaptation

    Best Supporting Actress-

    Best: Mo’Nique- Precious
    Worst: Rachel Weisz- The Constant Gardener

    Best Original Screenplay-

    Best: Little Miss Sunshine
    Worst: Lost In Translation

    Best Adapted Screenplay-

    Best: Brokeback Mountain
    Worst: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

    • shobhit bhatnagar says:

      No country for old as worst “Best Picture” and Million Dollar baby is Best picture winner of decade!!!!! Are u serious ? NCFOM is one of the most influence and acclaimed movies of decade with brilliant screenplay and outstanding acting Though the story is little weird, It is well define in the direction of Coen Brother’s. Million dollar baby is not even close to it. It is considered as one of the top 10 Hollywood movies of decade by many critics And u r calling it “Worst Best Picture winner” . It may be ur personal opinion but it doesn’t make any sense .The worst best picture winner is undoubtedly a “Crash”. And i don’t believe ur fact that “Lost in Translation” is Worst Original Screenplay because worst original screenplay winner is Crash

  6. Anmol Titoria says:

    Best Picture:
    Best: The Hurt Locker
    Worst: Crash
    Best Director:
    Best: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
    Worst: Clint Eastwood ( Million Dollar Baby)
    Best Actor:
    Best: Adrein Brody (The Pianist)
    Worst: Denzel Washington (Training Day)
    Best Actress:
    Best : Nicole Kidman (The Hours)
    Worst : Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
    Best Supporting Actor:
    Best: Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Bastards)
    Worst: Tim Robbins (Mystic River)
    Best Supporting Actress:
    Best: Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind)
    Worst: Renne Zellweger (Cold Mountain)
    Best Original Screenplay:
    Best: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    Worst: Crash
    Best Adapted Screenplay:
    Best: The Pianist
    Worst: Slumdog Millionare
    Best Original Score:
    Best: Dario Marianelli (Atonement)
    Worst: Elliot Goldenthal (Frida)

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