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8 Academy Award Nominees and Winners Who Snubbed the Oscars

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Stacie Stauff Smith Photography / Shutterstock.com

During the first lines of Annie Hall, Alvy Singer explains his failed relationships with women through an old joke he attributes to Groucho Marx and Freud: "I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member." When the movie took home four Oscars the following year, Woody Allen was nowhere in sight on the dais. Although he has more nominations than any writer in history (fourteen — or twenty-three when you include best director and actor nods), not once has Allen attended the ceremony when he’s up for an award. Is it the old joke about not wanting to be a member of any club that would have him?

If so, he’s not the only one. Every year we hear a lot about who got snubbed by the Academy for a nomination, but what about the reverse? Since the 1930s, some of Hollywood’s brightest stars didn’t bother to R.S.V.P. when the Academy came calling. Here’s a list of nominees and winners who snubbed the Oscars.

1. Dudley Nichols

Nichols was a prominent screenwriter beginning in the 1930s. In a career that spanned over 35 years, his credits included movies like Bringing Up Baby, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and the movie that made John Wayne a star: Stagecoach. He won an Oscar for The Informer (1935), a script he adapted from a book about the Irish War of Independence. He became the first winner to decline the award, citing an ongoing writer’s strike. Perhaps as a reward for his loyalty, he was elected president of the writer’s guild a few years later.

2. Katharine Hepburn

Hollywood’s greatest leading lady was nominated for twelve Oscars and won four for leading roles--a record. She never attended the ceremony when she was nominated, although she proudly displayed her statues for visitors at her home in Connecticut. She broke her tradition of non-attendance in 1974 to present producer Lawrence Weingarten a Thalberg Award, where she had this to say: “I’m very happy that I didn’t hear anyone call out ‘it’s about time.’ I am living proof that a person can wait forty-one years to be unselfish.” Watch the video here.

3. George C. Scott

Is it possible to refuse even a nomination for an Oscar? Scott, most remembered for his roles as Patton and the looney General Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove, did just that when he was first nominated for The Hustler. He didn’t win that time, but he did for Patton in 1970. Scott literally telegraphed the Academy his intention to refuse the award before the ceremony, so when presenter Goldie Hawn ripped open the envelope and cried, “Oh my God! The winner is George C. Scott,” no one was surprised to learn he was home at his farm in New York. The former Marine didn’t mince words about the Oscars: "The ceremonies are a two-hour meat parade, a public display with contrived suspense for economic reasons." Watch the film’s producer accept the award for him here.

4. Marlon Brando

A couple years after Scott skipped the Oscars, Brando one-upped him by sending an Apache named Sacheen Littlefeather to refuse the Oscar he won for The Godfather. Littlefeather was booed and catcalled when she announced she was sent to protest Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans. Clint Eastwood wondered aloud a few moments later whether he ought not be presenting the Best Picture award because of all the slain cowboys in John Ford movies before him. It was later reported that Littlefeather wasn’t a Native American at all, and that she was in fact a Mexican actress named Maria Cruz. She explains her ancestry on her website. Watch the video of her speech here.

5. Terrence Malick

Writer/director Malick has never won an Oscar, but The Thin Red Line was nominated for seven of them in 1999. Despite an abundance of possibility, Malick skipped the ceremonies, in part because he was in the middle of a falling out with several of the film’s producers. In the end it was just as well--his World War II epic didn't win any of the awards it was nominated for. This year, Malick is nominated for best director for The Tree of Life.

6. Woody Allen

Although he’s never shown up on the night of his own nominations, Allen has made one appearance on the Oscar stage. In 2002, less than six months after the September 11th attacks, Allen appeared to introduce a montage of films that had been made in New York, telling the audience that the Big Apple was still a wonderful place to make movies. Watch his entertaining and sincere stand-up routine:

About the awards themselves, Allen had this to say: "I have no regard for that kind of ceremony. I just don't think they know what they're doing. When you see who wins those things -- or who doesn't win them -- you can see how meaningless this Oscar thing is."

7. Jean-Luc Godard

In late 2010 the Academy announced they would award the titan of French New Wave an honorary Oscar. They quickly discovered he was not an easy man to get in touch with. Despite attempts to contact him via “telephone, by fax, by emails to various friends and associates,” and “FedEx,” they never received a reply from Godard, who was just shy of eighty years old then. According to some sources, Godard doesn’t just have a contentious history with Hollywood--he also avoids flying because he can’t smoke on planes. Adding to the controversy was the suggestion in some quarters that Godard didn’t deserve the award because of perceived anti-Semitism. Although Godard never gave a reason for his non-attendance, his long-time partner had this to say: “Jean-Luc won’t go to America, he’s getting old for that kind of thing. Would you go all that way just for a bit of metal?”

8. Banksy

The anonymous British street artist was nominated last year for best documentary feature with Exit Through the Gift Shop, his tongue-in-cheek meditation on the value of art in society. Banksy agreed to attend the ceremony, but only if he was allowed to do so without revealing his identity. When the Academy refused to accommodate his request he didn’t show. A few days before Oscar night, the above Mr. Brainwash mural popped up in L.A., which seemed to suggest an equivalency between Hollywood and the Galactic Empire. Unfortunately for the history of Oscar controversies, the golden statue went to Inside Job instead.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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