Genre films have long gotten the shaft from the Academy, partly because there is something inherently disrepectful, perhaps, about them. If “the people” like them they must not be that good. They aren’t “important” enough, and “important” meaning, politically or socially relevant in a way other than the film made the most money that year. In fact, as has been pointed out in many a comment on this site, the Oscar Best Picture winners aren’t about box office profits entirely.¬† The Oscars were set up in the first place to generate interest in Hollywood films in order to make more money on them, but over the years, they’ve become an institution that honors “important” movies. The critics have a different idea of “important,” which means that AMPAS still gets no respect. Either which way, as we take a look back to 1975, it seems ludicrous that Robert Shaw wasn’t nominated for Jaws. Why wasn’t he nominated? Probably the same reason The Dark Knight will struggle to be taken seriously; there are enough fantasy elements in there as to not seem “important.”
So people will say, what about Lord of the Rings? But that trilogy was all fantasy, not partial fantasy mixed with drama. The genre prejudice has plagued the history of Oscar voting, and remains an irony because, no matter how hard they’ve tried to honor the “important” films, the critics still believe the Oscar voters to be lowbrow, or to have bad taste, or to be driven by money. Funny, isn’t it? Too high brow is often shunned, too lowbrow is equally shunned. Somewhere in the middle is the “important” films that get noticed.
Although Spielberg arguably should have been nominated for Best Director, you can’t really argue with their choices for that category:
Milos Foreman, Cuckoo’s Nest (winner), Federico Fellini for Amarcord, Stanley Kubrick for Barry Lyndon, Sidney Lumet for Dog Day Afternoon, and Robert Altman for Nashville. Got to love the directors branch, eh?
In 1975, Robert Shaw didn’t acknowledged. Instead, the Supporting Actor nods went to George Burns, who won for The Sunshine Boys, Burgess Meredith for The Day of the Locust, Chris Sarandon for Dog Day Afternoon, Brad Dourif for Cuckoo’s Nest, Jack Warden for Shampoo.