Just look at those smug guys up on stage, wearing their tuxedos and hoisting their Oscars. Little do they know that a dark cloud hangs over them. It's the post-oscar curse, and it means that even a nomination can cause their next film to turn into a career-destroying turd.
It's not a "curse" in the Egyptian mummy sense, but rather a combination of Napoleonic egos, studio shenanigans and sheer bad luck. Here are their cautionary tales:
From 1972-1982, Francis Ford Coppola was not only at the top of his game, he was at the top of anyone's game. Ever. Between The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II and Apocalypse Now, Coppola's films had won so many Oscars that he could smelt them all down to make the most critically acclaimed suit of armor in all the land.
After the rigors of Apocalypse Now, one would think that Coppola would've taken a break--after all, this was the film that caused him to famously quip, "We had access to too much money, too much equipment and, little by little, we went insane."
Instead, Coppola went to Vegas--or at least a $26 million movie version of it--and bet the farm on "Technicolor weird-ass musical."
Coppola's gamble was called One from the Heart, a surrealist Las Vegas love story fueled by the music of Tom Waits. Instead of filming on location, Coppola built replicas of Vegas on sound stages. The set shot One from the Heart's original $2 million budget into the stratosphere, leaving Coppola to pick up a more than $20 million tab when the film earned only $600,000. And to add insult to injury, the film got terrible reviews.
One from the Heart left Coppola on the verge on bankruptcy from the late 80s to early 90s. To keep ahead of his creditors, Coppola directed films he would've otherwise passed up, including The Godfather, Part III and the "Robin Williams as a giant 10-year old" flick, Jack.
That's right, One from the Heart was responsible for freaking Jack.
Now let's make it extra clear: Even if the man just filmed himself pooping on a glass coffee table every year after 1982, Coppola would still go down as one of the most important filmmakers ever. But still, you have to wonder what crucial part of himself he lost after Apocalypse Now. In the last 27 years, the most memorable thing he's directed was that Michael Jackson ride at Disney World. And, hey, we're not complaining. Captain EO fucking ruled.
If The Godfather, Part III had been three hours of that, he'd have a few more gold statues on his mantle right now.
In 1972, English director John Boorman oversaw the backwoods thriller Deliverance. Audiences delighted in the film's dueling banjos, the handsomely hirsute duo of Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight and perhaps the most celebrated anal rape scene in cinema history.
The above is "aesthetically significant," according to the Library of Congress.
The film's Southern-fried sodomy went over surprisingly well with the stodgy Academy, and Boorman rode Ned Beatty's bare bottom to a Best Picture and a Best Directing nod.
High off his newfound critical clout, Boorman next made his 1974 mind-fuck vanity project Zardoz, which starred Sean Connery traipsing around a post-apocalyptic wasteland in a loincloth and suspenders.
That wasn't a euphemism. This is what the movie is about.
Comparing Deliverance to Zardoz is like comparing apples to oranges that have been hollowed out and turned into bongs. A critic would have to, more or less, invent a new language to describe its plot, so we're just going the film's preview speak for itself:
Yes, that was a huge floating head saying, "The gun is good" and puking rifles to a crowd of diapered men on horseback. Once you bought your ticket, you got to hear the head finish the sentence ("... The penis is evil.")
The product of a grossly negligent studio system (and what must have been an entire roll of Bounty soaked with lysergic acid), Zardoz tells the tale of a sexual dystopia, topless psychics and immortals who can't achieve erections.
Sean Connery's character, the "brutal exterminator" Zed, is the hero of the piece precisely because he can get a boner. Again, 100 percent serious here.
Boorman's later films never received the praise of Deliverance, and while we can't pin all of his troubles on Zardoz, you can't put Sean Connery in a wedding dress and expect much good to come of it.
Or can you?
After winning Best Director for The French Connection and being nominated for The Exorcist, William Friedkin tried for a hat-trick with 1977's Sorcerer. According to Friedkin, the movie's sorcerer was "an evil wizard [,] and in this case the evil wizard is fate." Evil wizard? Dungeons & Dragons fans everywhere were ready to line up, preferably in costume.
But, in a blatant case of false advertising, Sorcerer contained no sorcerers. The movie followed four criminals hired to deliver nitroglycerin to a South American oil rig, with the assistance of no magic at all.
Karma's backlash against the film was brutal. A hurricane decimated the set. Spooked villagers blamed the filmmakers for causing a historic drought and threatened to detonate a $1 million prop bridge. Friedkin caught malaria and lost 50 pounds. The $15 million budget soon ballooned to $21 million.
If fate truly is an evil wizard, as Friedkin believed, then that wily wizard did everything in his power to fuck up the production of Sorcerer.
A poster for Sorcerer, inadvertently capturing a villager trying to blow up the set.
Friedkin's troubles continued upon the film's US release. Audiences expecting mystical weirdness a la The Exorcist walked out of theaters. This prompted ads warning that Sorcerer was "NOT A FILM ABOUT THE SUPERNATURAL." Audiences confused by subtitles in the opening scenes also walked out. This prompted lobby placards declaring "SORCERER IS AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM."
Oh, and a little film called Star Wars opened a month earlier. This prompted no one to see Sorcerer.
Despite good reviews, the film recouped only $9 million and severely damaged Friedkin's status as an A-List director. None of his later films proved as memorable as his Oscar-nominated work, unless you count Al Pacino's gay S&M thriller Cruising. Which we do.