Vin Diesel recently declared Furious 7, opening this week, to be the first movie in the hugely successful franchise to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
"Universal is going to have the biggest movie in history with this movie," Diesel told Variety. "It will probably win Best Picture at the Oscars, unless the Oscars don't want to be relevant ever."
Big words from a big guy! But is he on to something? Could Furious 7 really take home an Academy Award?
The chances, sadly, are slim to none despite how upset movie fans have been over the Academy's refusal to consider action movies for anything other than Special Effects or Sound Editing nods. This is confounding since populist flicks like Furious 7, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Dark Knight gross far more than "prestige" stuff like Colin Firth Movie No. 28 or Mumbling Oscar Bait About A Disease No. 42. Blockbuster action movies also command far more cultural cachet long after they arrive, whereas most recent Best Picture winners fizzled into the ether as quickly as they came. Can you even remember any of last year's nominees? No! Nobody can.
So, here are five other Vin Diesel vehicles (get it?) in no particular order that should have received the Best Picture treatment but, for whatever reason, did not. Some choices may surprise you, but don't worry, they're definitely more memorable than what actually won that year.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
What Actually Won: Shakespeare in Love
Steven Spielberg's World War II classic was the contender for the big award back in 1999 until Shakespeare in Love swooped in and stole the show like some kind of thespian pretending to be someone she's not. It was a huge upset, but the E.T. director's bloody verisimilitude and Tom Hanks' everyman shtick apparently wasn't enough to sway Oscar voters. Maybe it was the hammy frame story involving the modern day, older veteran. Or maybe it was Vin Diesel's turn as Private Caparzo that, while brief, intimidated voters into choosing the more willowy film about cross-dressing actors instead. Vin was just too much for them, and this was before he wore wifebeaters while punching out space aliens for a living. At least that's one theory.
Fast Five (2011)
What Actually Won: The Artist
Speaking of bald sweaty guys punching things, the fifth Fast and Furious shifted the franchise's gears from simple drag racing to elaborate heists in Brazil. The switch in focus and setting proved incredibly successful and entertaining, and forget the Oscar — the genius addition of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to the cast still deserves some kind of Nobel or Pultizer (yes, Pulitzer). Vin and Dwayne throwing each other through walls (apparently made from paper) is something that cinema has been waiting for since The Great Train Robbery, and like that film Fast Five's heist surprised audiences not by pointing a gun straight at the camera, but by dragging an 8-foot-tall, 10-ton bank vault down a Rio freeway and making it look plausible. Pure spectacle, pure fun and something people actually still talk about, unlike The Artist.
Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
What Actually Won: Million Dollar Baby
Vin Diesel's Riddick series fills a niche that hasn't been catered to since Arnold's Conan the Barbarian movies. And that's basically who Riddick is: a barbarian in space who just wants to be left alone to mangle things while grunting on occasion. But dammit, he keeps getting pulled into these crazy plots involving world-destroying cultists and Oscar winner Dame Judi Dench as some kind of soothsayer made of wind. Do you think she'd just act in anything? Of course not, which is one of the reasons why Chronicles of Riddick deserved the statuette. Other reasons include the Macbeth-ish scheming of Karl Urban and Thandie Newton's characters to dethrone their leader, and Riddick's tragic arc from reluctant anti-hero to king of the planet conquerors — epic stuff! Million Dollar Baby shares a similar sense of tragedy and irony but suffers from a severe lack of prison breakouts that involve running away from killer sunlight. Eastwood really should have thought that through.
The Pacifier (2005)
What Actually Won: Crash
Vin Diesel stretches his comedic muscles (boooo!) as a Navy SEAL who has to babysit a bunch of kids because he failed to protect their father. The Pacifier is interesting because it's all over the place. While it breaks stereotypes — Look, guys can nurture kids too! Look, the son quit sports to join the school musical! Look, women save the day! — it also has a couple of Asian actors pretend to be embarrassing ninjas. So, there's that. Then, there's the duck that may be a symbolic stand-in for the dead dad who resents Vin for taking over his family (seriously!). There's also the biographical aspect as this role is closer to who Vin actually is: a song and dance man. He's talked for years about how badly he wants to do a Guys and Dolls remake, but the Peter Panda Dance may be the closest thing he gets to musical stardom. Sure, he looks a little out of breath from all that the complex choreography, but really? Anything should've won that year instead of the loathsome, forgettable Crash.
The Iron Giant (1999)
What Actually Won: American Beauty
One of the last major examples of 2D animation in film and arguably the best one on this list. Brad Bird, director of Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol and The Incredibles, crafted a wonderful ode to Norman Rockwell, '50s sci-fi and Cold War paranoia and it wouldn't have worked nearly as well without Vin Diesel's voice work as the titular robot. As a sculpture-eating, laser-blasting, self-sacrificing terror from beyond, Vin captures the awe, menace, warmth and innocence of the full-metal extraterrestrial perfectly. And he does a far better job at the all-American "You are who you choose to be" theme than Kevin Spacey's bitter suburban dad in American Beauty. Also, The Iron Giant is secretly the best Superman movie and, as you might expect, good Easter viewing too. James Gunn must've watched this and called Vin soon after to cast him as the equally lovable Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy.