In preparation for this year's potential travesties, Digital Spy takes a look back on ten of the Academy's most outrageous blunders.
1953: Best Picture
It's difficult to decide which is more aggravating - being nominated and losing out to a less deserving competitor, or not even being nominated in the first place. We've got nothing against The Greatest Show on Earth, a flamboyant bit of escapism which features Jimmy Stewart as a mysterious clown, but it's nothing more than entertaining. The non-nominated Singin' in the Rain has entertainment value in spades on top of wit, heart, stirring dance numbers and a unique kind of cinematic energy that has made it one of the most acclaimed and beloved American films of all time. Well played, Academy.
1959: Best Director
The fact that Hitch never won an Oscar is one of the best known pieces of weird Academy history, but he did manage five 'Best Director' nominations during his career. Not one of them was for unnerving psychological thriller Vertigo, which is regarded by many as his best and was named the greatest film of all time in a Sight & Sound poll last year. Vincente Minnelli was indisputably a master of the movie musical and produced some iconic gems, but Gigi (which took both 'Best Picture' and 'Best Director') is as insubstantial as it is charming.
1969: Best Director
We're making progress, in the sense that Stanley Kubrick was at least nominated for his genre-redefining work on 2001: A Space Odyssey, but he still lost out to Carol Reed for his somewhat less memorable work on musical adaptation Oliver!. 2001 was probably too divisive and opaque to ever have had a shot at 'Best Picture' - which Oliver! also took home - but Kubrick's direction is so plainly the driving force behind its strange power that Reed's deft handling of Dickens can't help but pale in comparison. Admittedly, Kubrick was a no-show and the award he did win for 2001's visual effects was accepted on his behalf, but that's nether here nor there when you're talking about a directorial effort as spectacularly accomplished, ambitious and significant as this.
1977: Best Picture
No single year has more perfectly encapsulated the scope of the Academy's ability to get it wrong than 1977. Let's be clear: setting aside the sequels which have cast an inevitable shadow, there's nothing remotely wrong with Rocky. It's an endearing, unpretentious rags-to-riches story, and who doesn't love one of them? But calling Rocky the best film of the year when its competitors included Taxi Driver, All The President's Men and Network is actually just mental. We'll go through that one more time: Travis Bickle. Woodward & Bernstein. "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore." All piqued to the post by Sly and his fists of fury.
1991: Best Picture
In 2010, it came as a pleasant surprise when James Cameron's Avatar - aka Dances with Wolves in space - didn't win the 'Best Picture' gong as was widely predicted, losing out to Kathryn Bigelow's rigorous The Hurt Locker. Unfortunately, the actual Dances with Wolves won its own undeserved Oscar less than two decades prior, beating out Martin Scorsese's exemplary crime epic Goodfellas in both the Picture and Director categories. Marty would eventually go on to win his own undeserving Oscar, after losing out to lesser competitors for years on end, and so the cycle of injustice continues.
1994: Best Supporting Actor
While Steven Spielberg's haunting Holocaust drama Schindler's List is generally thought of as having dominated the Oscars in 1994, it was a non-entity as far as the acting categories were concerned. Liam Neeson losing out to Tom Hanks's Philadelphia lead turn was somewhat understandable - this was one of Neeson's first major leading roles, while Hanks was a known quantity with a textbook awards performance. It's harder to swallow Ralph Fiennes's mesmerisingly frightening performance as psychopathic SS captain Amon Goeth being overlooked in favour of The Fugitive's Tommy Lee Jones, who forms half of a compelling opposites-sides-of-the-law duo with Harrison Ford but does nothing half as memorable as Fiennes.
1995: Best Director
Quentin Tarantino was deservedly rewarded for his Pulp Fiction screenplay, and if forced to pick a single element of that film to honour you'd more than likely pick the writing over the overall execution. Sure, there are things wrong with Fiction's brash, homage-laden structure, and in other years you can imagine his loss feeling fully justified. Hell, you can imagine it feeling fully justified if it had been Woody Allen, Tarantino's fellow nominee for Bullets Over Broadway, who had won. But no. Robert Zemeckis, the man behind the unashamedly schmaltzy and resolutely unchallenging Forrest Gump, who took home the prize. If you need us, we'll be over here quietly seething.
2002: Best Actress
We're back in the 'not even nominated' camp with Naomi Watts, who should by rights have won every award going for her extraordinary breakthrough role as fragile aspiring actress Betty in David Lynch's nightmarishly stunning thriller. Since Lynch got a nod for 'Best Director', the Academy clearly weren't unaware of Mulholland's existence, and the omission becomes even more aggravating when you consider that this was a year in which Renee Zellweger managed to get a nod for Bridget Jones's Diary.
2006: Best Picture
Even Jack Nicholson couldn't conceal his astonishment as he read out the name of 2006's 'Best Picture'. Ang Lee had already been honoured for his directing work on quietly devastating cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain, and pundits had been predicting its win in the big category for weeks. Instead, the Academy took a "spread the wealth" approach, and gave the prize to a film that shouldn't even have been nominated in Paul Haggis's sledgehammer-subtle morality drama Crash, which reminded us all that racism is still a bad thing via a series of largely implausible intertwined events. Dogmatic melodrama will always be somebody's cup of tea, but Brokeback is so overwhelmingly superior in every aspect that it's hard not to read bigotry into this particular stupid Academy decision.
2012: Best Actor
We're not taking anything away from Jean Dujardin, whose charming, poignant and physically accomplished performance as a fading silent star in The Artist was easily the most deserving of those nominated. But Michael Fassbender gave the best male performance of the year as sex addict Brandon in Steve McQueen's stark, emotionally brutal Shame, and we're not sure we want to live in a world where he goes unrecognised. It's pretty clear where he went wrong - the Academy are notoriously uncomfortable with NC-17 material, and this was an exposing performance in every possible sense - but there's absolutely no sane reason for him to have gone entirely unrecognised.
Which Oscar injustices hurt the most for you? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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