The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1966
I liken 1966 to 1999. I think it’s because the film that won Best Picture that year is a very — stagy — film. Not that it’s a bad film, but — it goes back to that old cinematic vs. theatrical distinction. By and large, I usually prefer films to be cinematic, because, cinema is a different entity than plays. Which, also — here’s the difference, if you don’t get it — Martin Scorsese movie, like, The Departed — cinematic. There are irises, zoom ins, tracking shots, all of it. (Also, another great example people will recognize quickly — Fight Club — very cinematic.) Doubt — theatrical film. Revolutionary Road — theatrical film. Films that feel like plays. Because, very often, they were. They’re often directed by actors or actual playwrights. Ya follah?
And therein lies the rub. When your favorite film of the year (or at least, of the nominees. One you feel is deserving of winning Best Picture) is a very stagy film — more so than the usual standards — and a fellow nominee is a very cinematic film, but you just didn’t love it as much — what do you do? Bringing it back to a primordial level — say you always sided with good, but, in one instance, evil actually was right. (I’m not calling one thing out and out “evil” — though I will say, you don’t want a movie to be like a play, just like you don’t want a play to be like a movie. It’s like reading a novel that’s written like a movie. (Looking at you, Dan Brown.) It’s a fun read (for most), but you’re not giving it a book award. Shit. I could have saved all that space if I made that analogy first. But, I’ll get more into this issue when I deal with the year itself.
Now, this cinematic vs. theatrical problem does extend over to the acting categories as well. Which person would you rather see win an Academy Award — the dude who plays Hamlet in a film, and basically just takes the entire text of the play as he’s done it on stage and puts it on film, or the dude who plays a migrant worker who goes down to Mexico with his friend and an old prospector, finds lots of gold and slowly loses his mind because he starts to think the other two are going to kill him and steal his share of the gold? See what I mean? Who you gonna wanna vote for — Othello or Atticus Finch? It’s a tough choice to make, and is exponentially tougher when, you actually kinda want to vote for Othello.
The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1999
I think this is the most recent category I’ve done since before the Oscars this year. I like to throw in one everyone knows amidst all the older ones.
If we recall, 1999 is one of those years that had a lot of good films, and really, there were a lot of good choices they could have made. A lot of people didn’t like the choice for Best Picture, even though a lot did. I think American Beauty was a fine choice. Did Sam Mendes need to also win Best Director? That’s up for discussion. But, they often coincide, so, it’s not that surprising. Best Actor was Kevin Spacey, which is a point of debate amongst people, which, I’ll make my feelings known whenever I get to it. Best Actress was Hilary Swank for Boy’s Don’t Cry, and Best Supporting Actor was Michael Caine for The Cider House Rules. I’m trying not to give my opinions away, because, at this rate, it’s so recent, everyone’s seen the movies, so I don’t need to pimp them, so really all they amount to is who the vote is for and what the rankings are. So there’s really not that much to say as preface.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1999
And the nominees were…
Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense
Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted
Catherine Keener, Being John Malkovich
Samantha Morton, Sweet and Lowdown
Chloë Sevigny, Boys Don’t Cry (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1931-1932
And we’re back with another three nominee category. I’m trying to accomplish two things with these: one, spread them out as much as possible, because, a three-person category feels like a cheat (and, if it’s like this one, really fucking difficult to pick, because, really, can you really say which one was the best?), and two, getting them out of the way as quickly as possible. Sure, a three-person category means less for me to write, but, it’s just less interesting. Plus I love talking about it, as much as the thought of actually writing because I have to feels like work, it’s easy once I get going. Seriously, get me talking about movies or Oscars, and I can just keep going.
So, 1931-1932, or as it’s best known in most circles, 1932. This is the year that made history that’s never been repeated (and never will). Grand Hotel won Best Picture without garnering a single nomination in any other category. That is — not win, surely other Oscar movies have won Best Picture without winning any other categories — the film won Best Picture without getting a single nomination outside of Best Picture. That’s — wow.
Other winners this year include Frank Borzage for Bad Girl — Borzage is one of the premier silent film directors and was a powerhouse in this era (he has two Best Director statues to prove it), but, I bet that unless you took a film class (or bought that awesome Murnau/Borzage at Fox boxset), you really have no idea who he is. Which is a shame — Helen Hayes for The Sin of Madelon Claudet, and that’s it. Remember, no supporting categories at this point. They were still figuring shit out. (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor – 1975
1975 is the kind of year you just glance at and then move on. It’s one of those years where, at face value, nothing is wrong, and then after the fact, you think, “Wait, were those the droids I was looking for?”
What I mean by that is — all of the choices they made (well, most of them. One of them — whatever), you look at them and immediately go, “Yeah, good choices. There’s nothing really wrong here.” But, when you do think about it, are they actually good choices?
Take Best Picture and Best Director from this year. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A classic film. A great film. There’s no denying that. Miloš Forman. A great director. Has made some classics — Amadeus, Man on the Moon, Ragtime, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Hair — there’s really no denying that the film and director are great. But — are they really worthy of winning Best Picture? Or more specifically, are they worthy of winning Best Picture this specific year? It’s just a thought. I’ll bring it up later when I actually go over the categories. It’s just something that I’ve been thinking about every time I go back to the categories. If you want to get a head start and try to see what I mean, take a look at what else (and who else) was nominated (and by exclusion, wasn’t). Just take a look. (Hint: My argument is going to have something to do with being cinematic vs. being theatrical.)
Anyway, the other major categories that happened this year basically amounted to a clean sweep for Cuckoo’s Nest. Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher took hom Best Actor and Best Actress. Interesting fact on that, because lord knows I’m all about the interesting facts. The only two times Jack Nicholson has won the Best Actor Oscar, his costar also won the Best Actress Oscar as well. That’s an interesting fact, right? Every time Jack has won, he helped his costar win too. That says something, methinks. What, I don’t know. But something. (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1993
Ah, 1993. The year that no one can ever refute. Is there anyone that can really speak ill of Schindler’s List? It’s weird to find a film so well made and about such an important subject that the only real grounds you have to speak ill of the film end up saying bad things about you as a person. That’s funny. Even I, who takes such glee in not liking films the rest of the world says are masterpieces, can’t speak ill of that film. The worst thing I can say about it is — it’s long, and it’s heavy, so, it’s not the first thing I’m going to pop on to watch when I’m looking for something. Which, doesn’t really say anything about the film as much as it does about — well, my temperament.
Anyway, this was a year that was pretty much ser in stone from the start. For Schindler’s List to have not won Best Picture would have been a bigger deal than whatever it had beaten. I do, however, have several gripes with their acting choices for this year. Three of the four, anyway. The fourth — whatever.
To keep you informed, Best Director, obviously, went to Spielberg. Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress went to Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin (who was 11 at the time) for The Piano, and Best Supporting Actor went to Tommy Lee Jones for The Fugitive. So, before I start discussing my feelings on those categories, I’m gonna get right into the one I should be talking about.
Though one last bit of trivia before I go, because I find things like this fascinating. This year marked Tom Hanks’s first of two back-to-back Oscars. The only other actor to win back-to-back Best Actor Oscars was Spencer Tracy (1937 & 1938). The great fact about these two is that, at the time they won both of their Oscars, they were both the same age — 37 & 38. That is, they won the first of the two Oscars at age 37, and the following year, both aged 38, won the second. That’s fucking awesome that it happened twice. (more…)
Pic of the Day: “You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn’t been very rich, I might have been a really great man.” “Don’t you think you are?” “I think I did pretty well under the circumstances.” “What would you like to be?” “Everything you hate.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1982
What can I say about 1982 that hasn’t already been said about 1996?
I haven’t actually said anything about 1996, but this year is analogous to that. The big, sweeping, historical epic that beat the great comedy and the really great drama. It’s hard to argue with it, because it’s an Academy-type film — you just have to shrug and say, “It’s what they like.”
As for the acting categories, I’d say, they got one really right, one was the safe choice, one was a bad choice and the final one was a good choice and also a safe choice. I’ll leave you to decide which is which out of this group. Best Actor was Ben Kingsley for Gandhi, which also won Best Picture and Best Director for Richard Attenborough (whom you may remember from such films as The Great Escape, and most notably Jurassic Park, in which he played the old man running the park. He also directed two of my favorite movies — Magic, featuring a jaw-droppingly brilliant performance by Anthony Hopkins and solid supporting work by Ann-Margret and Burgess Meredith, and Chaplin, featuring a jaw-droppingly good performance by Robert Downey Jr. as Charlie Chaplin. You may also know his brother, David, who narrates all the BBC nature documentaries, specifically Planet Earth. Who hasn’t gotten high and watched Planet Earth? David Attenborough’s voice is the soothing alternative to Robert Osborne. Those men can narrate anything. Fuck Morgan Freeman. I’ll take those two any day). Best Supporting Actor went to Lou Gossett Jr., for An Officer and a Gentleman, and Best Supporting Actor went to Jessica Lange for Tootsie. And now this category. I’ll ruin part of the suspense by saying this is the one they got really right. (more…)
Pic of the Day: “It should take you exactly four seconds to cross from here to that door. I’ll give you two.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1963
I hate having to talk about 1963. This is a year where there were no good nominees for Best Picture, and one of the worst choices among the bad choices won. So you get a year where an undeserving film won, but, because they didn’t nominate any good films, nothing could be done about it.
Not only that, they also seemed to get every single award wrong. Every one. I’m not making that up, either. In all the categories, there was clearly a better choice to be made. Let’s start with this one, because, historically, it’s the one that does work, but, when you isolate it — it was a bad choice.
BEST ACTOR – 1963
And the nominees were…
Albert Finney, Tom Jones
Richard Harris, This Sporting Life
Rex Harrison, Cleopatra
Paul Newman, Hud
Sidney Poitier, Lilies of the Field (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor – 1984
The 80s, I feel, are a pretty ho-hum Oscar decade. The 70s were all about auteurs and gritty innovation. Then the 80s were like, “Fuck that, the blockbuster is back!” and everything went all studio. Which meant the Oscars went back to all these boring, epic “Oscar films.” Actually, I’m pretty sure the 80s is the decade where the “Oscar” film really came into being. 1980 – family drama. 1981 – well, Chariots of Fire. 1982 – historical epic about Gandhi. 1983 – family drama. 1984 – historical epic about Mozart. 1985 – historical epic romance set in Africa. 1986 – Vietnam movie. 1987 – historical epic about a Chinese emperor. 1988 – family drama about a savant and his brother. 1989 – historical, I guess, epic (if we’re counting time span), about a woman and her chauffeur. More of a drama, I guess. Still, you can see where a specific type of movie started getting voted in.
1984, though, might be the best Best Picture choice of the 80s. Amadeus is an amazing movie. And Milos Forman definitely deserved Best Director. That movie is incredible. F. Murray Abraham was great as Salieri and deserved his Best Actor win. Though, Sally Field, for Best Actress, no matter how much they “really liked” her, did not deserve that win by a long shot. Oh, and Best Supporting Actress was Peggy Ashcroft for A Passage to India. See what I mean? Aside from Amadeus, a lot of the choices in the 80s are boring. This one is no different. (more…)
Pic of the Day: “I’m going to beat you with a crowbar until you leave.” … “You’re a pacifist!” “Shit.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1955
The great thing about 1955 is, it’s one of those years that’s so bland that it trips you up when you go back to it. It’s not that they made poor choices (far from it, actually), it’s just that it’s one of those years where, when you go back, it’s just a blank. There’s no real excitement or anything to make it stick in your mind. I don’t have enough separation from Oscar years to really know how accurate any example is going to be. But think something like — I don’t know, Super Bowls? One of those boring years, like 2005, when the Steelers beat the Seahawks. I always forget that one. It was boring. You have to think about it for a second (unless you have something that makes the memory catch quicker, like, winning $500 during the game. In which case you know goddamn well who won that game. You did). It’s like that.
Anyway, the reason it’s one of those “dead years” — is because the film that won Best Picture was Marty. Marty is a film that was originally a made for TV movie that they adapted for the screen. It still plays kind of like a play, since it’s mostly two people talking and has about four locations total. And it’s only like 95 minutes, which clocks in as the shortest Best Picture of all time. It does not, however, win for shortest Best Picture title. That goes to Gigi. And, Wings. But, it’s one of those films that, while great, probably would not have won if it were nominated any other year.
Delbert Mann won Best Director for the movie — I guess because it’s one of those, “Well, we’re giving it to one, might as well give it to the other one too,” as most years tend to work. Best Actress went to Anna Magnani for The Rose Tattoo. Who? Exactly. This is why no one remembers this year. Best Supporting Actor went to an actor in one of his first films roles — Jack Lemmon. Best Supporting Actress went to Jo Van Fleet for East of Eden. So it’s one of those years where — nothing makes it stand out from the ones around it. Namely, the year before when On the Waterfront wins and the year after, when Around the World in 80 Days wins. (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1974
1974. The year of The Godfather Part II. The year of career achievement awards and veteran awards. the year where they scarcely got anything right besides Best Picture. In fact, in anything not related to The Godfather the Oscars woefully fucked up this year.
Just to get who won out of the way, Coppola won Best Director for Part II and Robert De Niro won Best Supporting Actor. Art Carney won Best Actor for Harry and Tonto, and Ellen Burstyn won Best Actress for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Which leaves us with this:
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1974
And the nominees were…
Ingrid Bergman, Murder on the Orient Express
Valentina Cortese, Day for Night
Madeline Kahn, Blazing Saddles
Diane Ladd, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Talia Shire, The Godfather Part II (more…)
Pic of the Day: “Some day a car will stop to pick me up that I never thumbed. Yes. Fate, or some mysterious force, can put the finger on you or me, for no good reason at all.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1940
Oh, 1940, a year which will live in…
Actually, 1940 lives pretty much in obscurity, mostly because 1941 lives in infamy. This year is relegated to forgotten status, even though I bet if more people looked at it they’d probably have problems with the end results. I’m talking of several categories, not just Best Picture.
The reason 1940, especially the Best Actor race, is important is because, aside from how staggeringly wrong they got it, it’s actually the first real obvious makeup Oscar on record. The early Oscars, like Mary Pickford’s, are more career achievement and more — “these new awards just started recognizing the ‘best’ in the industry, and you’ve been considered aces for a while now, so we feel you ought to have one.” I don’t count those. This is the first real instance where they gave a performer an Oscar irregardless of film or performance. It’s pretty clear when you watch the film that the performance is not very worthy as a Best Actor-winning performance. And it’s also pretty clear which ones on this list are. So, in terms of history, this is the beginning of the cycle of makeup Oscars that continues to this day.
Also, so we can place this in context of what else happened this year, Best Picture went to Rebecca, Best Director went to John Ford for The Grapes of Wrath, Best Actress went to Ginger Rogers (Fred Astaire’s dancing partner, in case you were going to skip over the name for lack of recognition) for Kitty Foyle, Best Supporting Actor went to Walter Brennan for The Westerner (his third), and Best Supporting Actress went to Jane Darwell for The Grapes of Wrath (Good ol’ Ma). (more…)
Pic of the Day: “Did I ever tell you I been struck by lightning seven times? Once when I was just sittin’ in my truck just minding my own business.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1997
I did one of each of the other acting categories so far. Might as well round it out with a Best Supporting Actress. I’m saving Best Director because I have a lot of those done, and I think I’m going to do them all in a row. Also, I’ve been doing older categories, so I also thought I’d do a more recent one. My guess is most people have seen all or most of these movies.
1997 was one of those pass over years. The ones where you see what won, go, “Well, yeah, it’s (whatever),” and move on. Titanic, Ben-Hur, Schindler’s List — films that are so big and huge that you just gloss over the rest of the films because, “What’s gonna beat them?” These are the years I try to look more closely at, just because, while you can’t completely say something else should have won (Watch me.), you can still discover good films that generally fall by the wayside more than films in other years. (Note: This is not a concrete theory. I just assume the casual person is less likely to look in a year with a definitive winner than one where, “Chariots of Fire — what the fuck did that beat?”). So, I’m gonna try my best to turn you onto films that you may not have seen. (But, if you’re around my age and haven’t seen them, what the hell have you seen?)
Before I do that, let’s cover what else won this year. Best Picture went to Titanic, and Cameron won Best Director in one of the least surprising races of all time. Best Actor and Best Actress went to Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt for As Good As It Gets. Best Supporting Actor went to Robin Williams for Good Will Hunting. Those were all the winners. Now let’s get into this category, which is a surprisingly — I don’t really have a problem with the nominees, but I’m not ecstatic about them either. This year seemed to be one of those films years where the films were good, but not many acting performances were standout. Some years you get great performances but shit films, other years you get both — this one seemed to produce films that felt like ensemble pieces, where you couldn’t really be like, “that performance is the one.” So the result is a decent, but mostly unmemorable category. (more…)