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Poll: Did Roman Polanski really deserve to win the Oscar?

September 28, 2009 |  3:26 pm

There was something weird about Roman Polanski winning an Oscar for best director of 2002 for "The Pianist." His movie didn't win best picture. "Chicago" did. Usually, those awards go together.

Roman Polanski news

Do you think Polanski really prevailed just because the academy wanted to use the occasion to formally forgive him for his 1977 sex scandal? If they were so inclined to do so, the timing was perfect. Just as final ballots were mailed to academy members, Polanski's rape victim appeared on TV shows to announce she'd forgiven him and she gave Oscar voters permission to cast their ballots for him.

Writing in the L.A. Times, Samantha Geimer said, "I believe that Mr. Polanski and his film should be honored according to the quality of the work. What he does for a living and how good he is at it have nothing to do with me or what he did to me. I don't think it would be fair to take past events into consideration."

Often Oscar voters dole out awards as hugs rather than as honest declarations of movie greatness. Katharine Hepburn didn't deserve to win best lead actress of 1967 for "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" — in which she had an unremarkable supporting role — but academy members wanted to console Spencer Tracy's de facto widow soon after his death. Elizabeth Taylor got a golden statuette for best tracheotomy of 1960 and because Hollywood finally forgave her for swiping Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds. Taylor won her statuette for "Butterfield 8," which she hated so much that she denounced it with profanity that can't be published here.

Nicole Kidman didn't deserve to win an Oscar for one big hambone scene in a plastic nose in "The Hours," a film so awful that it was blasted (correctly) as the worst of 2002 by Time, New York Daily News and Newsday. But she won best actress for a terrible supporting role because Hollywood wanted to give a comforting embrace to the recently cast-off wife of the town's box-office king.

Also vote in our poll: What do you think is Roman Polanski's greatest film?

Photo: Francesca Ruggieri / European Pressphoto Agency

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The comments to this entry are closed.


I agree with those who liked "The Hours" ...

I can't speak for the legal matter because there are several details I do not understand about the situation. All I can say about what he did is that it's disgusting and he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

That being said, with respect to Polanski's win in 2003, it was completely deserved. "The Pianist", in my opinion along with "The Hours", was one of the best movies of 2002. The key to everything that was amazing about "The Pianist" lied in Polanski's visionary direction and many of the images from that movie still stay with and haunt me to this day. The scene in the Warsaw ghetto where the Nazi's encounter a man in a wheelchair who will not stand for them is pretty much burned into my memory. If I were an Academy member and had been looking at the list of nominees for directing in 2003 (Rob Marshall, Roman Polanski, Stephen Daldry, Martin Scorsese and Pedro Almodovar) I most likely would have voted for Polanski. By praising the film we are not condoning the raping of children. If we were wouldn't that make parent's who read "Alice in Wonderland" to their children, people who would condone such a thing since Lewis Carroll was a known pedophile?

To what "hey decora" said about Spike Lee's recent work, Lee has done plenty in recent years. "25th Hour" was a modern and overlooked masterpiece and "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" was a genius documentary. His past work including "Jungle Fever", "She's Gotta Have It' and especially "Do the Right Thing" should have been recognized at the times of their releases.

With respect to what Tom was saying in the post, the points he raises are legitimate. Hepburn's performance in "Dinner" was good, but did it deserve to beat Faye Dunaway ("Bonnie & Clyde"), Anne Bancroft ("The Graduate") and Audrey Hepburn ("Wait Until Dark")? Kidman's performance was very good as well in "The Hours" but did she really deserve to beat Julianne Moore's sublime performance in "Far From Heaven"? I think not. While I disagree with Tom in his attitude towards the Polanski win, I don't think it's something to get in a huge clusterf--k about.

What the hell has Spike Lee done lately to deserve ANY award (other than maybe a Razzie)?

Roman Polanski, as well as Adrien Brody, deserved to win Oscars. The Pianist should have won Best Picture. Should Roman Polanski be prosecuted? YES

Scorcese should've won that year for GANGS OF NEW YORK. Is it his greatest film? Probably not, but out of the competition nominated that year, his was the best achievement.

In March 1977, the 44-year-old Polanski fed a 13-year-old girl champagne and a sedative, forced himself on her and ANALLY raped her, according to the girl's grand jury testimony. He was convicted of a lesser charge — statutory rape — because he agreed to plead guilty.

Since when is raping a 13 year old girl okay in any country. This guys is a child molester and should be put away just like all child molesters.

There was some mixed issues in this article: Nicole´s Oscar?? The absurd "choices" in the poll?? and the "voters" attitude to forgive Polansky?? : The Pianist is excellent, better movie than Chicago, why can´t we think that finally the winner won for his work and not for his name???

Yes, Polanski deserved the Oscar for "The Pianist," one of the greatest films of the past two decades. The legal issue is entirely separate. What he did (and let's remember, he admitted it, so there's no doubt) was a terrible crime against an innocent child. Yes, there are a lot of extenuating circumstances at this point, but I resent the power directors' idea that because of his great artistry, Polanski is above the law. He is not. Let the chips fall where they may.

This is such a mean and unnescesary article. Why can't we just let people win and be happy for them. Nicole Kidman is a grown woman, I'm sure she can handle when someone says she sucks, butI still dont think it's right to questions people's oscar wins. I'm going to stop reading Gold derby. This was just stupid.

"The Hours" was the best picture nominated in 2003 and it should have won with "Chicago". That's obvious. And Kidman was great and her performance was lead! Yeah - she had the same screen time as Streep and Moore but she played Virginia Woolf and the picture was actually about her and her work, work that changed Moore's life and was about Streep's life. Have you seen this picture, Tom? Because when I read your comments I really doubt it.
Polanski deservedly won with Marshall but he should have won many times before and in 2003 Daldry should have taken this award.
I agree that Hepburn shouldn't have won, though.

Tom, normally right there with you regarding your assessments but your opinion about Nicole Kidman in "The Hours" is ridiculous and just wrong. Even if you didn't like the movie, which is totally fine, her performance was fantastic regardless. It was really supporting so the Lead Actress award was a stretch but it was an excellent perf. Where is your passion against Reese Witherspoon for "Walk the Line"! Oh and I haven't seen a Polanski film so I can't judge.

"The Hours" is a masterpiece. End of.

Scott said " I am sure the French would not have any problems with a grown man having sex with a 13 year old, but we Americans do!" What about Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presly Scott? Do Americans have a problem with them?

About female actress's I find it hard
to be impressed except by British
older ones who are incredible.
Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman for instance are divinely beautiful yet don't get the message across as actors.

That's a loaded question? multiple choice? about a man's brilliant work.
It has nothing to do with American Film it's about American Justice and his criminal behavior.. what manipulation.
The victims rights were protected; yet
how much did it cost taxpayers in pursuit of this man who escaped the country as a French citizen? and
hid all over the world,
Well rosemary's baby your ass is grass the Rangers don't take being laughed at and neither does it's tax payers.

How dare Debra Winger make such a public statement on behalf of the film festival while condemning her own country.! Continued luck with your brilliant career Mr. Polanski it is with regret you showed no respect or responsibility toward The United States of America.
Now let's add up the tab, oh yea please don't tip the victim.

I believe in proportional punishment. If a priest who has forcibly raped children for years gets off with a small fine paid by somebody else and politicians get to retire with a fat pension after sex with Senate pages Polanski should get paid for actually doing time in jail and for the court reneging on their deal after the time was served. And justice for all...Yeah Right!

Why is O'Neil writing disgusting comments about people he probably doesn't know? Because he's a media bully, that's why. What else is new? If the media doesn't like you--as they univerally despised Michael Jackson--they will make your life a living hell. That's how bullies behave in grade school, and that's how bullies behave when they become adults.

"So what" if, as you say, "Polanski's rape victim appeared on TV shows to announce she'd forgiven [Polanski] ..." The crime was against humanity, including the child. She can in no way absolve Mr. Polanski's debt to society any more than I can. In certain states authorities do not even need the cooperation of the minor or the minor's parents to charge and prosecute the older participant. All that is necessary is proof that a relationship contrary to existing laws took place. The police can also file charges if they determine the crime took place and that no one else will press charges. Mr. Polanski did not receive the Oscar in a vacuum. Quantum chaos has no problem with this outcome, one of many subsequent to the forgiveness of the young lady. Look at it in this exagerated way: If every Jew in the world forgave Hitler in March of 1945, it wouldn't change his debt to society, even if Ava gave him an award for the best moustache.

Perhaps he did deserve to win.

I never saw the Pianist.

Most movies that win the Oscars are movies the normal audience doesn't care about.

I don't understand why the French are trying to prevent a child molester from being punished. He ran from the law, and now he is arrested for his crimes. Simple as that. I am sure the French would not have any problems with a grown man having sex with a 13 year old, but we Americans do!

Have you even seen Knife on the water??

The film is not in question the mans actions thirty two years ago are and now justice is having a say, fair call too, does the production of a few great films excuse the man I think not, nor all those who have been violated and have not seen justice. So after that he can move on people need an = at any noted marks. Ironically Beauty and the beast of the human soul is what feed’s the pain we all feel inside that makes fitting endings a play within the play.

they need to give an oscar to spike lee and a lot of other people .. then we can talk about how 'fair' the system is

Word to what Scott said. Used to be a time, Mr. O'Neill, you were a valuable resource for the history and context of these awards. Now, all you seem to do is judge people and criticize people based on your personal prejudices.

Your opinions really aren't the be-all, end-all you seem to believe they are. Leave Mr. Polanski alone, I think he's earned the respect he's gotten and just because the case that wouldn't die in L.A., the case even the victim wants dismissed, has reared up again doesn't mean you need to reopen things no one's thinking about. You don't think he deserves his Oscar, fine, but no one cares about what movie won a decade ago.

Not only was his Oscar a gimme, but it should be asked whether Polanski isn't facilitating his own capture & return. He has been very busy for years, laying preparations for a triumphal return to Hollywood ... before he becomes too geriatric.

We're talking about a highly dramatic personality, and there is a Scene here that he would very much like to play the lead role in (as Himself).

Although slightly repellant in several ways, Polanski will stick his neck out for 'the right experience' ... as he proved in 1977 ... and as he may now be proving again. He wants the attention, the recognition, and he could be gambling now, in somewhat the same way he gambled with Samantha.

If this conjecture is accurate, Mr. Polanski himself will find it necessary to acknowledge it, when the moment is right.




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