How Brad Pitt’s 30-year Hollywood allure finally has him on the brink of Oscars glory

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Gather around, America, we need to have a chat. The Academy Awards are almost upon us, and it’s time to discuss our collective cultural weakness that has apparently only grown more intense over time: His name is William Bradley Pitt.

You might have seen him practically floating through award season, buoyed by a glowing narrative that has him poised to win the Oscar on Sunday for best supporting actor for his role in Quentin Tarantino‘s “Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood.” He has picked up the prize at every major ceremony, including the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice Awards and the Baftas. His acceptance speeches are met with delighted reactions from viewers and stars in the audience, especially when he references his single status. He went viral for wearing a name tag to the Oscar Nominees Luncheon. The pictures of a cordial reunion at the Screen Actors Guild Awards with his ex-wife Jennifer Aniston caused an internet-wide meltdown.

On one hand, that’s great for Brad Pitt. After a three-decade career, the 56-year-old actor remains a unifying fixture, an A-list movie star who brings joy to many. It’s also great for us, because honestly, we need a distraction from the onslaught of stress-inducing news about politics, climate change and other disasters.

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On the other – well. The Aniston pictures have a strange undertone, because as you may remember, she and Pitt were still married when rumblings of his famously controversial courtship with Angelina Jolie began. And Pitt is single after a very messy split from Jolie in 2016 that resulted in some ugly headlines.

The glare of the award season spotlight can easily darken, prompting minor to severe backlash against any given front-runner. Sure, there have been critical comments online. Some have tried to remind people of the Aniston-Jolie backstory, while others didn’t care for an eyebrow-raising joke from his SAG Awards speech that compared his failed marriages to his role in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”: “A guy who gets high, takes his shirt off and doesn’t get on with his wife. It’s a big stretch.” (It’s also implied in the movie that Pitt’s character, a laid-back stuntman, may have murdered his wife.)

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1/19 A Beautiful Mind (2001)

A Beautiful Mind is one of the mustier Best Pictures winners of the century so far. While its win was a coup for DreamWorks – the film was the studio’s third victor in a row– it was far from a deserving recipient, especially considering Ron Howard won Best Director over Robert Altman and David Lynch for Gosford Park and Mulholland Drive, respectively.

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2/19 Chariots of Fire (1981)

While Chariots of Fire is precisely the type of film the Academy usually takes under its wing, the fact it won was a big surprise, considering everybody present had expected Reds to win the top prize. The Warren Beatty film would have been a far worthier winner, too.

Rex Features

3/19 Cold Mountain (2003)

Cold Mountain lucked out by being nominated in what was a particularly weak year for Best Supporting Actress. Renée Zellweger recovered from failing to win for Chicago the previous year and, in doing so, earnt the unremarkable drama its “Oscar-winning” tag.

Rex Features

4/19 Crash (2004)

Viewers of the Oscars have grown used to unexpected victories, but none was more ill-judged than when Paul Haggis’ drama Crash beat Brokeback Mountain to Best Picture.

Rex Features

5/19 Dances with Wolves (1990)

It’s quite soul-destroying to think that Dances with Wolves scooped a total of seven Oscars in the same year that Goodfellas was nominated.

Rex Features

6/19 The Danish Girl (2015)

Alicia Vikander’s performance in The Danish Girl is by no means weak, but it was nothing on Rooney Mara’s affecting turn in Todd Haynes’ film Carol. Had Tom Hooper not won five years before for The King’s Speech, it seems unlikely that the drama would have picked up any nominations.

Rex Features

7/19 The English Patient (1996)

Put simply, The English Patient isn’t a very good film. Of the nine (nine!) Oscars it won, Juliette Binoche’s trophy for Best Supporting Actress was perhaps the most surprising. The French star herself could barely contain her shock.

Rex Features

8/19 Gladiator (2000)

This will most likely be this list’s most controversial placement, but let’s be honest: Gladiator is not the fantastic film it’s regularly hailed as. Ridley Scott’s overlong historical drama boasts plenty of swords-and-sandal bravado, but not much else.

Rex Features

9/19 Going My Way (1944)

The musical Going My Way may have been the biggest cinematic hit of its year, but it certainly wasn’t better that classic noir Double Indemnity, which it beat to win Best Picture. In fact, it’s nowhere near director Leo McCarey’s greatest film (he won six years previous for the Awful Truth and would be nominated again for The Bells of St Mary’s two years later).

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10/19 Grand Hotel (1932)

There’s a reason why Grand Hotel is the only film to ever win Best Picture without receiving a nomination in any other category. An entertaining film, sure, but nothing more.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

11/19 The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

It’s ironic that a film with the word “greatest” in its title has gone down as one of the worst winners in Oscars history. A prime example of when the Academy voted for spectacle over quality.

Rex Features

12/19 Green Book (2018)

To those who don’t care about awards ceremonies, Green Book is a crowdpleaser that boasts decent performances from Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. To everyone else, it’s the damp squib that somehow came out of nowhere to snatch Best Picture from under Roma’s nose.

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13/19 The Imitation Game (2014)

The Imitation Game won Best Adapted Screenplay, which begs the question: what the hell was this distinctly average film doing having any nominations at all?

Rex Features

14/19 The Iron Lady (2011)

Meryl Streep has won enough Oscars for the world to know she’s evidently one of the finest actors who’ll ever live. Her win for The Iron Lady, though, was one Oscar too many.

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15/19 Life is Beautiful (1998)

The year of 1999 marked one of the most remarkable Oscar ceremonies in history for the sole reason that the majority of its winners were terrible choices. Right up there was Roberto Benigni, who beat Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan) and Edward Norton (American History X) to win Best Actor for, of all things, Life is Beautiful.

Rex Features

16/19 The Pianist (2002)

It might finally be accepted that disgraced film director Roman Polanski shouldn’t be handed accolades, but back in 2003, this was still what the Oscars were doing. He won Best Director for The Pianist, an award the French-Polish filmmaker could have done without.

Rex Features

17/19 A Place in the Sun

A Place in the Sun is a fine little film, but fine little films shouldn’t be winning Oscars – especially when they see off competition from more deserving opposition. In this case, director George Stevens beat John Huston (The African Queen), William Wyler (Detective Story) and Elia Kazan (A Streetcar Named Desire) to the Director prize.

Paramount Pictures

18/19 Shakespeare in Love

You have to hand it to Shakespeare in Love, it played the Oscars campaign trail perfectly, overtaking war favourites Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line to win the evening’s biggest prize. This doesn’t mean its success has gone down as anything more than evidence of poor judgement from the Academy.

Rex Features

19/19 Slumdog Millionaire

It’s often good to hold your hands up and admit that a film is nowhere near as good as you recall. Sadly, Slumdog Millionaire is one of those. While its win no doubt put smiles on the faces of commuters reading the morning papers the next day, the shine has worn off its success in recent years. The rightful winner – The Dark Knight – wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture.

Rex Features

1/19 A Beautiful Mind (2001)

A Beautiful Mind is one of the mustier Best Pictures winners of the century so far. While its win was a coup for DreamWorks – the film was the studio’s third victor in a row– it was far from a deserving recipient, especially considering Ron Howard won Best Director over Robert Altman and David Lynch for Gosford Park and Mulholland Drive, respectively.

Rex Features

2/19 Chariots of Fire (1981)

While Chariots of Fire is precisely the type of film the Academy usually takes under its wing, the fact it won was a big surprise, considering everybody present had expected Reds to win the top prize. The Warren Beatty film would have been a far worthier winner, too.

Rex Features

3/19 Cold Mountain (2003)

Cold Mountain lucked out by being nominated in what was a particularly weak year for Best Supporting Actress. Renée Zellweger recovered from failing to win for Chicago the previous year and, in doing so, earnt the unremarkable drama its “Oscar-winning” tag.

Rex Features

4/19 Crash (2004)

Viewers of the Oscars have grown used to unexpected victories, but none was more ill-judged than when Paul Haggis’ drama Crash beat Brokeback Mountain to Best Picture.

Rex Features

5/19 Dances with Wolves (1990)

It’s quite soul-destroying to think that Dances with Wolves scooped a total of seven Oscars in the same year that Goodfellas was nominated.

Rex Features

6/19 The Danish Girl (2015)

Alicia Vikander’s performance in The Danish Girl is by no means weak, but it was nothing on Rooney Mara’s affecting turn in Todd Haynes’ film Carol. Had Tom Hooper not won five years before for The King’s Speech, it seems unlikely that the drama would have picked up any nominations.

Rex Features

7/19 The English Patient (1996)

Put simply, The English Patient isn’t a very good film. Of the nine (nine!) Oscars it won, Juliette Binoche’s trophy for Best Supporting Actress was perhaps the most surprising. The French star herself could barely contain her shock.

Rex Features

8/19 Gladiator (2000)

This will most likely be this list’s most controversial placement, but let’s be honest: Gladiator is not the fantastic film it’s regularly hailed as. Ridley Scott’s overlong historical drama boasts plenty of swords-and-sandal bravado, but not much else.

Rex Features

9/19 Going My Way (1944)

The musical Going My Way may have been the biggest cinematic hit of its year, but it certainly wasn’t better that classic noir Double Indemnity, which it beat to win Best Picture. In fact, it’s nowhere near director Leo McCarey’s greatest film (he won six years previous for the Awful Truth and would be nominated again for The Bells of St Mary’s two years later).

Rex Features

10/19 Grand Hotel (1932)

There’s a reason why Grand Hotel is the only film to ever win Best Picture without receiving a nomination in any other category. An entertaining film, sure, but nothing more.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

11/19 The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

It’s ironic that a film with the word “greatest” in its title has gone down as one of the worst winners in Oscars history. A prime example of when the Academy voted for spectacle over quality.

Rex Features

12/19 Green Book (2018)

To those who don’t care about awards ceremonies, Green Book is a crowdpleaser that boasts decent performances from Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. To everyone else, it’s the damp squib that somehow came out of nowhere to snatch Best Picture from under Roma’s nose.

Rex Features

13/19 The Imitation Game (2014)

The Imitation Game won Best Adapted Screenplay, which begs the question: what the hell was this distinctly average film doing having any nominations at all?

Rex Features

14/19 The Iron Lady (2011)

Meryl Streep has won enough Oscars for the world to know she’s evidently one of the finest actors who’ll ever live. Her win for The Iron Lady, though, was one Oscar too many.

Rex Features

15/19 Life is Beautiful (1998)

The year of 1999 marked one of the most remarkable Oscar ceremonies in history for the sole reason that the majority of its winners were terrible choices. Right up there was Roberto Benigni, who beat Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan) and Edward Norton (American History X) to win Best Actor for, of all things, Life is Beautiful.

Rex Features

16/19 The Pianist (2002)

It might finally be accepted that disgraced film director Roman Polanski shouldn’t be handed accolades, but back in 2003, this was still what the Oscars were doing. He won Best Director for The Pianist, an award the French-Polish filmmaker could have done without.

Rex Features

17/19 A Place in the Sun

A Place in the Sun is a fine little film, but fine little films shouldn’t be winning Oscars – especially when they see off competition from more deserving opposition. In this case, director George Stevens beat John Huston (The African Queen), William Wyler (Detective Story) and Elia Kazan (A Streetcar Named Desire) to the Director prize.

Paramount Pictures

18/19 Shakespeare in Love

You have to hand it to Shakespeare in Love, it played the Oscars campaign trail perfectly, overtaking war favourites Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line to win the evening’s biggest prize. This doesn’t mean its success has gone down as anything more than evidence of poor judgement from the Academy.

Rex Features

19/19 Slumdog Millionaire

It’s often good to hold your hands up and admit that a film is nowhere near as good as you recall. Sadly, Slumdog Millionaire is one of those. While its win no doubt put smiles on the faces of commuters reading the morning papers the next day, the shine has worn off its success in recent years. The rightful winner – The Dark Knight – wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture.

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Yet mostly, when it comes to Brad Pitt … well, few people seem to really care about anything negative. They just want to root for him. How did he escape the scrutiny?

It could be because he has such good will in the industry, operating behind the scenes as a producer for acclaimed movies such as best picture winners “12 Years a Slave” and “Moonlight.” Or, as celebrity oracle Elaine Lui wrote on Lainey Gossip when she dissected his SAG speech, “What’s the lesson here? A beautiful man can say anything.”

Or it might have something to do with our own psyches. For some deep-seated reason, people cling to the idea of Brad Pitt as they think they know him – or, though it’s impossible to know what goes on behind closed doors, as they want to know him: the strikingly attractive, humble Missouri native who just happened to become a superstar and has made serious mistakes but is trying to change. Maybe we just yearn for simpler times, and in our minds, that time is represented by a tanned and sculpted Pitt at his peak, named People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” not once, but twice.

“It has been so surreal – it’s like there’s this nostalgia for some kind of perceived stability from the 1990s when everything made sense,” said Christopher Schaberg, who co-edited a collection of essays that analysed Pitt. “I think there’s a really deep and weird expression of longing here. … We forget this is Hollywood, this is a celebrity, this is a lot of makeup and camera work. There’s a really weird urge to express authenticity around Brad Pitt.”

Schaberg, an English professor at Loyola University New Orleans, remembers when he brought up a potential book about Pitt. He was half-joking, but his colleagues loved the idea: Deconstructing Brad Pitt was released in 2014, co-edited by Robert Bennett.

“One of the things that’s always intrigued me is the way we want to see him as this idealized white male figure, but so many of his roles are self-destructive,” Schaberg said. But whether he’s actually destructive in “Fight Club” or falling into a serial killer’s trap in “Se7en“ or playing a breezy criminal in “Ocean’s 11,” it doesn’t matter. Even if it’s the Hollywood machine shaping a narrative with magazine covers and talk show appearances, “Brad Pitt is just a safe, neutral icon to kind of rally around right now.”

Not too long ago, that didn’t seem as if it would be the case. Pitt and Jolie’s sudden breakup in fall 2016 dominated the news cycle as reports emerged about an alleged altercation between Pitt and one of their children on the family’s plane. The Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services was called, and Pitt was cleared after an investigation. But the situation devolved into warring stories about Pitt’s alcohol issues, child custody and financial battles as Pitt and Jolie worked through their divorce, which reportedly still is not finalised.

Pitt essentially went into hiding until the following spring, when he sat for a GQ cover story to promote Netflix’s War Machine. He opened up about how his drinking became a problem; the pain of divorce and the call to child services; and how jarring it was for his kids to “suddenly have their family ripped apart.”

“It wasn’t the easiest conversation to go into, but he was willing to,” said author and journalist Mike Paterniti, who wrote the story. Pitt also revealed that before he got sober, he hadn’t gone a day since college where he didn’t drink or smoke. 

Brad Pitt jokes about failed marriages in SAG winners speech

“He felt like he had to explain himself,” Paterniti said. “It was his way of acknowledging that his behaviour was not commensurate with who he wanted to be as a person.” Pitt agreed to speak candidly about any topic for a lengthy Q&A, and there was no publicist in the room. “It felt like he had to reset the conversation around himself.”

Although Paterniti remembers some critics “didn’t buy into it,” the quotes were picked up by hundreds of publications and websites, which had a generally positive tone. Paterniti theorizes that the simple act of Pitt appearing to be candid continues to draw people to him; he has now opened up in multiple interviews about his sobriety or attending Alcoholics Anonymous. There’s something enticing about that level of honesty, Paterniti said, especially from someone who “happens to be Brad Pitt.”

As Pitt strolls merrily along to his likely first Oscar win (this is his fourth acting nomination), his many acceptance speeches have also reminded the public: Brad Pitt is funny.

At the Golden Globes, he said, “I wanted to bring my mom but I couldn’t, because any woman I stand next to, they say I’m dating.” He declared he would put his SAG trophy in his Tinder profile. At the National Board of Review gala, he explained his goals were “to be happy, stay healthy, not get into a financial situation where I have to do ‘Ocean’s 14.’ “ At the Baftas, co-star Margot Robbie read a speech in his absence that said he would name his trophy “Harry” because “he is really excited about bringing it back to the States with him.” (In the audience, Prince William and Duchess Catherine cracked up.)

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1/27 Alice in Wonderland (2010)

It’s only 108 minutes long, but Alice in Wonderland manages to feel longer than a Lord of the Rings extended cut. There are no laughs and there’s no enjoyment factor beyond, “Oh, look, it’s Johnny Depp being weird and quirky again!” It might be a visual marvel, but Alice in Wonderland shouldn’t have won an Oscar for Best Art Direction because anything that would encourage people to see this movie is wrong.

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2/27 Beetlejuice (1988)

Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice won an Oscar for the only category it was nominated in – Best Make Up. While the film was deserving of far more recognition, its status as an Oscar-winner may come as a surprise to many.

Rex Features

3/27 Death Becomes Her

Death Becomes Her might not have given Meryl Streep one of her 20 Oscar nominations, but it did win Best Visual Effects ahead of Alien 3 and Batman Returns. The award seems quite rogue given all we get is a stretchy neck and a woman with a hole in her body, but then it was the 1990s. For her part in the film, on-screen legend Streep described the shoot as tedious and “like being at the dentist”, and claimed it would be her “first, last and only” effects-driven movie.

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4/27 Dick Tracy (1990)

Warren Beatty spearheaded this live-action version of Dick Tracy, which featured an all-star cast including Al Pacino (pictured). Despite negative reviews, the film racked up an impressive seven nominations and won in three categories: Best Art Direction, Best Make Up and Best Original Song.

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5/27 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

JK Rowling’s extension of the Harry Potter universe is a far cry from the adaptation of her original wizarding book series. However, Fantastic Beasts won an Oscar for Best Costume Design with its first film – a win made even more surprising by the fact that, despite being nominated for 12 Academy Awards across eight films, the Harry Potter series never won a single one.

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6/27 The Golden Compass

This adaptation of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights might have a rating of 42 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but it still managed to win an Oscar for its visual effects. The Academy was impressed by the computer-generated animals and grand vistas of the Arctic. But the flashy CGI doesn’t take away from the fact the film makes one of the most fantastical books ever published utterly dull. So unpopular, this box-office bomb caused its studio, New Line Cinema, to merge with Warner Brothers.

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7/27 The Grinch

The Grinch might be the greatest Christmas film, but it’s still not a great film. Still, Jim Carrey’s furry green get-up did win it the Oscar for Best Makeup. Considering it took around eight hours to apply each day, you could say it was deserved. Jim Carrey told Graham Norton that a CIA operative had to be brought in to teach him specialist techniques for enduring torture and said the procedure “was like being buried alive every day”.

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8/27 The Exorcist

When taking into account the Academy’s inability to nominate horror films over the past few decades, it’s increasingly impressive to learn the film considered one of the most shocking of all time won two back in 1974. The Exorcist is a terrific film that deserved its wins for

Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound. It received a further eight nominations, including Best Picture.

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9/27 Happy Feet

Mumble the penguin might look more real than the animations that came before him, but he also looks more lifeless. Happy Feet was one of the first films to use motion capture technology instead of Walt Disney style hand-drawn animations. But who wants an exact replica when you can have big white eyes and toothy grins? Apparently the Oscars do, because they gave Happy Feet Best Animated Film. Granted, the scene where a baby Mumble raps ‘Close to the Edge’ is cute.

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10/27 Harry and the Hendersons (1987)

It’s doubtful that even the makers of Harry and the Hendersons expected their film about a family’s encounter with the cryptozoological creature Bigfoot to win an Oscar. But it did (Best Makeup).

Universal Pictures

11/27 The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game is as difficult to decipher as a heap of unbroken code. It features a number of historical inaccuracies, which range from the benign to the outright offensive. One scene shows a detective using Tipp-Ex in a time period where it hadn’t been invented yet. One plotline slanders Alan Turing’s memory by suggesting he covered up for a Soviet spy. But despite the film’s confusing diversions and ridiculous accusations, Graham Moore won for his screenplay.

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12/27 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1985)

While a far cry from the four Oscar wins awarded to Raiders of the Lost Ark, sequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – considered to be the weakest of Steven Spielberg’s original trilogy – took home the award for Best Visual Effects.

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13/27 Innerspace (1987)

Innerspace hasn’t endured as a must-watch classic like similar films that were released in the 1980s, but it has an Oscar win to its name – the science-fiction adventure, starring Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan and Martin Short (pictured), won Best Visual Effects.

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14/27 Men in Black

It does seem weird that Men in Black won an Oscar for makeup considering the two main characters aren’t wearing any. But when you think of all the oozing purple aliens they shoot at, it starts to make more sense. The action film also won an Oscar for Best Musical Score thanks to contributions from Will Smith himself (though we all know the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme tune is his only award-winning sound).

Sony Pictures Releasing

15/27 The Muppets

The plot of The Muppets is essentially: “One day a boy and girl fell in love and together they overcame an obstacle of some sort”. While the old films featured big-name celebrities, in the reboot there is a feeling of “will this do?” Jack Black is paraded out like he were Hollywood royalty, even though at this point in his career, he was probably accepting offers to turn Christmas lights on. It managed to win an Oscar for the song ‘Man or Muppet’. To be fair, there were only two others nominated in the category.

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16/27 Pearl Harbor

There’s nothing the Oscars loves more than a war film, so that explains why they would give a film as bad as Pearl Harbour three awards. Michael Bay’s movie manages to make his retelling of the Pearl Harbor disaster orientate around a self-indulgent love triangle. Bay has no excuse for the poor quality, the film cost more to make than the real Pearl Harbour cost the US government.

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17/27 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Back in 2007, we were all far too love-drunk on the image of Jonny Depp in eyeliner because somehow we convinced ourselves that Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was a good film. No one finds Johnny Depp in eyeliner attractive anymore so we can all be a bit more honest: it’s not good. The overly complicated, rambling sequel was nominated for four Oscars and ended up beating Superman Returns to win Best Visual Effects.

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18/27 Rango (2011)

Johnny Depp’s reptilian underdog Rango beat out a boot-wearing pussycat as well as a panda with an affinity for kung fu to win Best Animated feature at the Oscars.

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19/27 Song of the South (1946)

Song of the South has long had controversy heaped upon it with many believing the film’s African-American characters to be racist and offensive stereotypes. Because of this, it might come as a surprise to learn the film is an Oscar winner, taking home the Best Original Song trophy for “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”.

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20/27 Spider-Man 2

There haven’t been many Oscar nominations for superhero films, which makes sense because they often aren’t very good. Aside from Peter and Mary’s upside-down kiss in the pouring rain, Spiderman 2 is boring. Still, it managed to beat Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and I, Robot to win Best Visual Effects.

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21/27 Suicide Squad

After Suicide Squad won an Oscar “Suicide Squad has more Oscars than…” became a meme. Twitter pointed out that the Marvel anti-hero team-up has won more gold men than Gary Oldman and Willem Dafoe combined. To be fair it didn’t win Best Film, but Best Makeup. Regardless, that anyone managed to bear the unbearable Joker and the overly sexualised Harley for long enough to notice what anyone looked like is a miracle.

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22/27 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Sweeney Todd took home the best Art Direction Oscar, an impressive feat considering other Tim Burton films have been far more deserving of the prize, but failed to even be nominated.

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23/27 Tarzan

Toy Story 2’s ‘When She Loved Me’ is sad enough it could make Ross Kemp cry, but it didn’t get the Oscar in 2000. Instead, Tarzan won Best Music for Phil Collin’s ‘You’ll Be In My Heart’ – a song which lacks all the emotional resonance of drum hit ‘In the Air Tonight’. In an extremely bizarre decision, Collins’ soundtrack was inserted in rather than sung by the characters, because co-director Kevin Lima thought a singing Tarzan “would be ridiculous”. Because a man swinging from trees like a monkey isn’t ridiculous?

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24/27 U-571

A French-American submarine films tarring Matthew McConaughey and Jon Bon Jovi isn’t a film you’d ordinarily assume would win an Oscar, but U-571 proved an exception. It won Best Sound Editing.

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25/27 The Wolfman

Rick Baker won Best Makeup and Hair for his work turning Benicio Del Toro into a ferocious wolf. After multiple director changes and other backstage drama, Joe Johnston’s much-troubled production nearly didn’t get made. Humankind would have been better off if they hadn’t managed to resolve their issues. The Wolfman is poorly paced and divulges into CGI overload for an action-heavy climax that is too grizzly for its own good.

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26/27 The Young Victoria

This film is about as passionless as the Victorian era itself. Watching it is to spend an hour and three-quarters waiting for it to start. The Young Victoria was meant to reimagine the Queen as a young woman full of life, but director Jean-Marc Vallée ends up replacing all of Emily Blunt’s smouldering mischievousness with drab reserve. Luckily, two-time Oscar winner Sally Potter saved the period drama by winning yet another costume design award.

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27/27 Ex Machina (2015)

Nobody expected the fantastic Ex Machina to win anything at the Oscars, but when it was named as the victor in the Best Visual Effects category, it went down as the best twists of the evening. It beat Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Martian, The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road

1/27 Alice in Wonderland (2010)

It’s only 108 minutes long, but Alice in Wonderland manages to feel longer than a Lord of the Rings extended cut. There are no laughs and there’s no enjoyment factor beyond, “Oh, look, it’s Johnny Depp being weird and quirky again!” It might be a visual marvel, but Alice in Wonderland shouldn’t have won an Oscar for Best Art Direction because anything that would encourage people to see this movie is wrong.

Rex Features

2/27 Beetlejuice (1988)

Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice won an Oscar for the only category it was nominated in – Best Make Up. While the film was deserving of far more recognition, its status as an Oscar-winner may come as a surprise to many.

Rex Features

3/27 Death Becomes Her

Death Becomes Her might not have given Meryl Streep one of her 20 Oscar nominations, but it did win Best Visual Effects ahead of Alien 3 and Batman Returns. The award seems quite rogue given all we get is a stretchy neck and a woman with a hole in her body, but then it was the 1990s. For her part in the film, on-screen legend Streep described the shoot as tedious and “like being at the dentist”, and claimed it would be her “first, last and only” effects-driven movie.

Rex Features

4/27 Dick Tracy (1990)

Warren Beatty spearheaded this live-action version of Dick Tracy, which featured an all-star cast including Al Pacino (pictured). Despite negative reviews, the film racked up an impressive seven nominations and won in three categories: Best Art Direction, Best Make Up and Best Original Song.

Rex Features

5/27 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

JK Rowling’s extension of the Harry Potter universe is a far cry from the adaptation of her original wizarding book series. However, Fantastic Beasts won an Oscar for Best Costume Design with its first film – a win made even more surprising by the fact that, despite being nominated for 12 Academy Awards across eight films, the Harry Potter series never won a single one.

Rex Features

6/27 The Golden Compass

This adaptation of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights might have a rating of 42 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but it still managed to win an Oscar for its visual effects. The Academy was impressed by the computer-generated animals and grand vistas of the Arctic. But the flashy CGI doesn’t take away from the fact the film makes one of the most fantastical books ever published utterly dull. So unpopular, this box-office bomb caused its studio, New Line Cinema, to merge with Warner Brothers.

Rex Features

7/27 The Grinch

The Grinch might be the greatest Christmas film, but it’s still not a great film. Still, Jim Carrey’s furry green get-up did win it the Oscar for Best Makeup. Considering it took around eight hours to apply each day, you could say it was deserved. Jim Carrey told Graham Norton that a CIA operative had to be brought in to teach him specialist techniques for enduring torture and said the procedure “was like being buried alive every day”.

Rex Features

8/27 The Exorcist

When taking into account the Academy’s inability to nominate horror films over the past few decades, it’s increasingly impressive to learn the film considered one of the most shocking of all time won two back in 1974. The Exorcist is a terrific film that deserved its wins for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound. It received a further eight nominations, including Best Picture.

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9/27 Happy Feet

Mumble the penguin might look more real than the animations that came before him, but he also looks more lifeless. Happy Feet was one of the first films to use motion capture technology instead of Walt Disney style hand-drawn animations. But who wants an exact replica when you can have big white eyes and toothy grins? Apparently the Oscars do, because they gave Happy Feet Best Animated Film. Granted, the scene where a baby Mumble raps ‘Close to the Edge’ is cute.

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10/27 Harry and the Hendersons (1987)

It’s doubtful that even the makers of Harry and the Hendersons expected their film about a family’s encounter with the cryptozoological creature Bigfoot to win an Oscar. But it did (Best Makeup).

Universal Pictures

11/27 The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game is as difficult to decipher as a heap of unbroken code. It features a number of historical inaccuracies, which range from the benign to the outright offensive. One scene shows a detective using Tipp-Ex in a time period where it hadn’t been invented yet. One plotline slanders Alan Turing’s memory by suggesting he covered up for a Soviet spy. But despite the film’s confusing diversions and ridiculous accusations, Graham Moore won for his screenplay.

Rex Features

12/27 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1985)

While a far cry from the four Oscar wins awarded to Raiders of the Lost Ark, sequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – considered to be the weakest of Steven Spielberg’s original trilogy – took home the award for Best Visual Effects.

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13/27 Innerspace (1987)

Innerspace hasn’t endured as a must-watch classic like similar films that were released in the 1980s, but it has an Oscar win to its name – the science-fiction adventure, starring Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan and Martin Short (pictured), won Best Visual Effects.

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14/27 Men in Black

It does seem weird that Men in Black won an Oscar for makeup considering the two main characters aren’t wearing any. But when you think of all the oozing purple aliens they shoot at, it starts to make more sense. The action film also won an Oscar for Best Musical Score thanks to contributions from Will Smith himself (though we all know the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme tune is his only award-winning sound).

Sony Pictures Releasing

15/27 The Muppets

The plot of The Muppets is essentially: “One day a boy and girl fell in love and together they overcame an obstacle of some sort”. While the old films featured big-name celebrities, in the reboot there is a feeling of “will this do?” Jack Black is paraded out like he were Hollywood royalty, even though at this point in his career, he was probably accepting offers to turn Christmas lights on. It managed to win an Oscar for the song ‘Man or Muppet’. To be fair, there were only two others nominated in the category.

Rex Features

16/27 Pearl Harbor

There’s nothing the Oscars loves more than a war film, so that explains why they would give a film as bad as Pearl Harbour three awards. Michael Bay’s movie manages to make his retelling of the Pearl Harbor disaster orientate around a self-indulgent love triangle. Bay has no excuse for the poor quality, the film cost more to make than the real Pearl Harbour cost the US government.

Rex Features

17/27 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Back in 2007, we were all far too love-drunk on the image of Jonny Depp in eyeliner because somehow we convinced ourselves that Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was a good film. No one finds Johnny Depp in eyeliner attractive anymore so we can all be a bit more honest: it’s not good. The overly complicated, rambling sequel was nominated for four Oscars and ended up beating Superman Returns to win Best Visual Effects.

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18/27 Rango (2011)

Johnny Depp’s reptilian underdog Rango beat out a boot-wearing pussycat as well as a panda with an affinity for kung fu to win Best Animated feature at the Oscars.

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19/27 Song of the South (1946)

Song of the South has long had controversy heaped upon it with many believing the film’s African-American characters to be racist and offensive stereotypes. Because of this, it might come as a surprise to learn the film is an Oscar winner, taking home the Best Original Song trophy for “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”.

Rex Features

20/27 Spider-Man 2

There haven’t been many Oscar nominations for superhero films, which makes sense because they often aren’t very good. Aside from Peter and Mary’s upside-down kiss in the pouring rain, Spiderman 2 is boring. Still, it managed to beat Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and I, Robot to win Best Visual Effects.

Rex Features

21/27 Suicide Squad

After Suicide Squad won an Oscar “Suicide Squad has more Oscars than…” became a meme. Twitter pointed out that the Marvel anti-hero team-up has won more gold men than Gary Oldman and Willem Dafoe combined. To be fair it didn’t win Best Film, but Best Makeup. Regardless, that anyone managed to bear the unbearable Joker and the overly sexualised Harley for long enough to notice what anyone looked like is a miracle.

Rex Features

22/27 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Sweeney Todd took home the best Art Direction Oscar, an impressive feat considering other Tim Burton films have been far more deserving of the prize, but failed to even be nominated.

Rex Features

23/27 Tarzan

Toy Story 2’s ‘When She Loved Me’ is sad enough it could make Ross Kemp cry, but it didn’t get the Oscar in 2000. Instead, Tarzan won Best Music for Phil Collin’s ‘You’ll Be In My Heart’ – a song which lacks all the emotional resonance of drum hit ‘In the Air Tonight’. In an extremely bizarre decision, Collins’ soundtrack was inserted in rather than sung by the characters, because co-director Kevin Lima thought a singing Tarzan “would be ridiculous”. Because a man swinging from trees like a monkey isn’t ridiculous?

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24/27 U-571

A French-American submarine films tarring Matthew McConaughey and Jon Bon Jovi isn’t a film you’d ordinarily assume would win an Oscar, but U-571 proved an exception. It won Best Sound Editing.

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25/27 The Wolfman

Rick Baker won Best Makeup and Hair for his work turning Benicio Del Toro into a ferocious wolf. After multiple director changes and other backstage drama, Joe Johnston’s much-troubled production nearly didn’t get made. Humankind would have been better off if they hadn’t managed to resolve their issues. The Wolfman is poorly paced and divulges into CGI overload for an action-heavy climax that is too grizzly for its own good.

Rex Features

26/27 The Young Victoria

This film is about as passionless as the Victorian era itself. Watching it is to spend an hour and three-quarters waiting for it to start. The Young Victoria was meant to reimagine the Queen as a young woman full of life, but director Jean-Marc Vallée ends up replacing all of Emily Blunt’s smouldering mischievousness with drab reserve. Luckily, two-time Oscar winner Sally Potter saved the period drama by winning yet another costume design award.

Rex Features

27/27 Ex Machina (2015)

Nobody expected the fantastic Ex Machina to win anything at the Oscars, but when it was named as the victor in the Best Visual Effects category, it went down as the best twists of the evening. It beat Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Martian, The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road

Leslie Bennetts, a longtime Vanity Fair journalist who authored the famous Aniston profile post-divorce in which the actress proclaimed Pitt had a “sensitivity chip” missing, said Pitt’s knack for humour, self-deprecation and candidness has played a key role in how he has shaped his perception in the past several years, especially after his split with Jolie.

“That could have been a career-ending image if it gained traction, especially in the current climate – but instead, whether it’s a genuine reflection of his real personality or handling this in a smarter way than most men, he’s defused the whole thing,” Bennetts said. “He has done something that is very rare with men in public life, which is own his mistakes. Fully. He’s said, ‘I had things to deal with and I dealt with them.’”

Bennetts vividly recalls the overwhelming interest in the Pitt-Aniston split, and wasn’t surprised by the extreme reaction to the SAG Awards photos of the two exes sharing a nice moment backstage. The images led to a deluge of headlines, generally along the theme of “Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt’s Hug at the 2020 SAG Awards Is the Only Thing That Matters” (E! Online published that one). The response, Bennetts said, proved the “incredible persistence of our sort of fairy tale fantasies that are as simple-minded as those of a typical romcom.”

Ultimately, it goes back to why these celebrity stories hit a nerve: People see themselves in them. They want to believe that a couple who seemed like soul mates can reunite even after a devastating breakup. They want to believe that Pitt, despite the wealth and fame and scandals, is just a nice guy from the Midwest who has never forgotten his roots. And even if people had issues with Pitt’s past behaviour, they believe in his redemption.

“Brad has handled this awards season masterfully,” said Kate Coyne, executive editor of People magazine. “Even if you haven’t seen the movie, but you heard him make these ongoing jokes about Tinder profiles and his much-remarked upon personal life – he’s been funny, he’s been charming. You look at him and go, ‘That is a movie star.’”

Washington Post

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