(USA TODAY) -- Another year, another Oscars ceremony, another controversy.
This year it's Woody Allen vs. The Farrows Who Loathe Him, a particularly icky family tragedy. But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is no stranger to political controversies over Oscar, and that's not even counting the more subjective artistic arguments. With the help of Barry Monush, Oscars expert at the Paley Center for Media in New York, let's take a look at the impact of these kerfuffles, using a four-star system of High, Medium, Low, and No Impact.
Citizen Kane: 1941-42
It's a brilliant, brutal portrait based on megalomaniac press magnate William Randolph Hearst, who mounted a ruthless campaign against the film.
He tried to buy it from boy wonder filmmaker Orson Welles to burn the negative, intimidated theaters from showing it, banned it from his papers, and questioned Welles' patriotism and private life. It worked, but not entirely: Nominated for nine Oscars, Kane won one, for best screenplay, which Welles shared with Herman Mankiewicz. And every time the film or Welles was mentioned at the ceremony, the crowd booed.
Impact: Low. "Welles still won," says Monush. Citizen Kane is today considered a masterpiece and Welles something of a genius, while Hearst's reputation was irreparably damaged by the film and by his own behavior.
The Brave One: 1956-57
Robert Rich won for best motion picture story (an old category) but he didn't show up to claim it. Reporters scurried to find him as people claiming to be "Robert Rich" came out of the woodwork. In fact, he was screenwriter
Impact: Medium. The Rich/Trumbo win embarrassed Hollywood and the academy, and marked the beginning of the end of blacklisting in the film industry.
Jane Fonda, known as "Hanoi Jane" for her anti-Vietnam War activism, won the best actress Oscar and the watching audience held its breath, wondering if she would launch into a rant. She didn't. "There's a great deal to say, and I'm not going to say it tonight." The sigh of relief from the audience was audible.
Impact: Low. "It was the industry's way of saying, we know she's controversial but we still think she's great. And she did the right thing by holding back," Monush says.
Charlie Chaplin: 1972
He was one of the most important filmmakers of all time and yet between 1929 and 1972 he never won an Oscar,even though he was beloved by Hollywood and movie audiences. But the U.S. government and the FBI hounded him. His politics leaned left, his personal life was messy (paternity suit), and his three wives were teens when he married them. As a Brit, he could be banned from the USA, and eventually he exiled himself for two decades. He had won an honorary award in 1929 (for The Circus) but only in 1972 did he return to accept an honorary Oscar for his career achievements, awarded after the best picture of that year was awarded. To this day, the standing ovation remains the longest on record.
Impact: Low. "The applause was thunderous. Nobody in the academy held anything against him," Monush says.
The Godfather: 1972-73
Marlon Brando won best actor but did not show up. Instead, in an unexpected and mysterious protest of the industry's stereotyping of Native Americans in Westerns, he sent someone named Sacheen Littlefeather (not her real name), dressed in buckskins and feathers, to refuse for him on behalf of Indians. She made a brief speech after she was prevented from reading Brando's 15-page rant letter on the topic.
Impact: High. "It was jaw-dropping, the most outrageous evening. It made everyone look bad, and didn't do much for Indians, either. It made a real issue a farce," Monush says.
Hearts and Minds: 1974-75
Bert Schneider won for best documentary for his film, Hearts and Minds, about the futility and mendacity of America's conduct of the Vietnam War. Unlike Fonda, he did not hold back. He even read a telegram from the enemy North Vietnamese thanking the American anti-war movement "for all they have done on behalf of peace." Co-hosts Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope were outraged, disavowed academy responsibility and apologized afterwards. This in turn annoyed third co-host Shirley MacLaine, who said her pals Sinatra and Hope did not speak for her.
Impact: High. Everybody looked bad. "Do we need this back and forth at the Oscars? It was all inappropriate," Monush says.
Vanessa Redgrave, as famous for her Palestinian sympathies as her acting, won best supporting actress for the film set in Nazi Germany, after a campaign against her by the Jewish Defense League. They argued she should not win because of her politics and sent picketers to the ceremony. In her acceptance speech, Redgrave denounced anti-Semitism, fascism and racism, but also saluted the academy for refusing to be "intimidated by a few Zionist hoodlums." Boos and applause followed.
Later, Paddy Chayefsky and Charlton Heston chastised her. Chayesfsky, who won the Oscar for best screenplay for Network that year, said he was "sick and tired of people exploiting the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal propaganda." Heston, who said he voted for Redgrave, said he thought it was "as much an error to interject what amounted to political commentary into her acceptance remarks as it was an error for people to oppose her nomination on political grounds."
Impact: High. "If she had handled it like Jane Fonda, it would have been less controversial. It rankled everyone," Monush says.
My Cousin Vinny: 1992-93
This one is truly an urban myth, believed to have been started by film critic Rex Reed.Marisa Tomei won the best-supporting actress Oscar but supposedly it was a mistake after a confused presenter, Jack Palance, read the wrong name off the front of the envelope instead of the inside. This claim was disproved, the academy denied it vigorously, and Tomei called it "hurtful." The Price Waterhouse accountants also said that their agreement with the academy called for one of them to step on stage and say a presenter misspoke in case such a mistake were ever made.
Impact: None. "It never happened, it could never happen,"
Elia Kazan: 1999
The director of such classics as On the Waterfront and East of Eden had already won one Oscar (
Impact: High. People still get emotional about what Kazan did, but in the end the academy awarded the art. "They weren't rewarding his politics, they were rewarding his films, especially Waterfront."
Bowling for Columbine: 2002-2003
Director Michael Moore won the Oscar for best documentary and accepted with a tirade against "fictitious" President George W. Bush and his "fictitious" war in Iraq. Boos and cheers followed.
Impact: Medium: "Even if I agree with all he said, was it really the time to do it? I thought he'd have more support but I realized then how many conservatives there are in the academy. It was a mix," says Monush.
The Pianist: 2002-2003
Roman Polanski won for best director (the Holocaust drama also won two other Oscars) but could not be there to accept because he's a fugitive, wanted in the U.S. for fleeing after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old. His nomination (his third) sparked debate in Hollywood and he was considered an underdog. When he won, most in the audience stood in ovation.
Impact: Medium. "It's the ultimate example of Hollywood saying, yes, we know he did something wrong, but we want to honor the work," says Monush.
Zero Dark Thirty: 2012-2013
Even before the movie about killing Osama bin Laden was made, some Republicans in Congress called for an investigation into whether the Obama administration leaked classified information to filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal. After the film was released, some academy members called for a boycott because the film contained scenes that allegedly could lead to greater acceptance of torture. Bigelow, the first woman to win best director (for 2008's The Hurt Locker), is snubbed. Zero got five nominations but won only one, for sound editing.
Impact: Medium: "She wasn't even nominated, so maybe it did have some impact," says Monush.
Blue Jasmine: 2013-2014
Woody Allen is accused by his ex-lover, Mia Farrow, and two of their children of molesting his daughter 21 years ago when she was 7 and he and Farrow were going through a toxic breakup. Now that his latest film, Blue Jasmine, is up for three Oscars, the Farrows have used social media to raise the unproven allegation again, apparently to damage him, the film and maybe even its nominated lead actress, Cate Blanchett.
Possible impact: None, Monush predicts. Mudslinging usually doesn't work. "I'm looking forward to seeing Cate Blanchett win."