Archive for April, 2011

The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1998

Oh, 1998. The year that lives in infamy. I think I can sum it all up with three words: Shakespeare in Love.

Personally, I don’t know why people hate on the decision so much. I mean, sure Saving Private Ryan is a film most people prefer, but as films, I think they rate about even. Private Ryan has that amazing opening sequence, but the film peters out by the end. That last battle is kind of meh. Shakespeare, however, is a great film. It’s funny, entertaining, and really well made. The problem is though it’s a bit too — I don’t know, on the nose, maybe. There’s something that keeps it from being a “perfect” film. Plus, even though Private Ryan didn’t win Best Picture, it won the award that really mattered for it — Best Director. The split is really what makes this year okay for me. I will say though, that the fact that this one was (aliteration) the way it was, was one of the reasons that 2010 was not okay for any reason. Fool me twice — fuck you two. It would have been a lot more palatable if there was a Picture/Director split. But there wasn’t. And that’s why 2010 will — probably — I hope — go down as a greater offense in Academy history than 1998 did.

Oh yeah, also, Best Actor was Roberto Benigni for Life is Beautiful (not gonna say a word), Best Actress and Supporting Actress were Gwyneth Paltrow and Judi Dench for Shake-a-spere, and Best Supporting Actor was James Coburn for Affliction.


And the nominees are…

Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful

John Madden, Shakespeare in Love

Terrence Malick, The Thin Red Line

Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan

Peter Weir, The Truman Show (more…)

Pic of the Day: “Have I ever had you before?…So you don’t call me by my Christian name.”

The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1997

1997. Titanic. I think that about covers it.

Sure it’s not a perfect film, but, this isn’t Best Picture. This is Best Director. I don’t think many people would argue that Cameron didn’t direct the hell out of the movie. The only real issue with Cameron is his weak and/or contrived scripts. But he wasn’t nominated for that, was he?

Also in 1997, Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt won Best Actor and Best Actress for As Good As It Gets, Robin Williams won Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting, and Kim Basinger won Best Supporting Actress for L.A. Confidential. All around good films there. And yet, Titanic. It sucks when such good films are up against a film that can’t lose. (Gee, how many times has that happened?)


And the nominees were…

James Cameron, Titanic

Peter Cattaneo, The Full Monty

Atom Egoyan, The Sweet Hereafter

Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential

Gus Van Sant, Good Will Hunting (more…)

Pic of the Day: “What is it with men and asking for directions?” “I don’t want to play the gender card right now. You want to play a card, let’s play the “let’s not die” card.”

The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1996

1996 was a good year punctuated by shitty decisions. So many good films came out, and yet  — does anyone even think The English Patient is a great movie? Good? Fine. The minimum allowable to be considered good. But better than Fargo, it is not. Hell, better than Jerry Maguire it is not. These are the kind of years that really upset me. Because it’s like the Academy is striving to meet the standard of what they think their reputation is, and yet, they’re perpetuating this reputation by picking such shitty films.

And don’t think this poor decision-making ends at Best Picture. Best Actor went to Geoffrey Rush for Shine, a performance that lasts for about, oh, fifteen minutes. The rest of the time the character is played by two different actors. This wouldn’t be a big deal except, here’s who he beat: Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire), Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient), Woody Harrelson (The People vs. Larry Flynt) and Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade). Every single one of them would have been a better choice. I mean, have they seen Sling Blade?

Best Actress went to Frances McDormand for Fargo. They threw at least one bone. Best Supporting Actor was Cuba Gooding Jr. for Jerry Maguire, an okay decision, though some people would probably prefer William H. Macy for Fargo. Best Supporting Actress was Juliette Binoche for The English Patient. Most people, including herself, were not expecting her to win. That’s 1996 in a nutshell. Even the good decisions are questionable, and the bad ones are terrible.


And the nominees are…

Joel & Ethan Coen, Fargo

Miloš Forman, The People vs. Larry Flynt

Scott Hicks, Shine

Mike Leigh, Secrets & Lies

Anthony Minghella, The English Patient (more…)

Pic of the Day: “Martin hates boats. Martin hates water. Martin…Martin sits in his car when we go on the ferry to the mainland. I guess it’s a childhood thing. It’s a…there’s a clinical name for it isn’t there?” “Drowning.”

The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1995

At first glance, you’d think maybe they fucked up 1995. After all, this is one of six years where the DGA Best Director award and the Oscar for Best Director didn’t coincide. In fact, this is the second time in (exactly) a decade where the DGA winner wasn’t even nominated for Best Director at the Oscars. 1985 Steven Spielberg (rightfully) won the DGA for The Color Purple, and wasn’t even nominated for the Oscar. This year, Ron Howard won the DGA for Apollo 13 and wasn’t nominated for the Oscar.

Now — notice how I said “at first glance” — I really don’t think this is that big a deal. I think we’ve all established (see: 2001) that the Academy just fucking loves Ron Howard. However, I didn’t love the direction of Apollo 13. I mean, yeah, it’s a great movie, I watch it all the time, but, aside from having awesomely shot space sequences, the movie is about as generic as a Michael Bay movie in terms of character development. It’s so superficial it’s crazy. So, I’m kinda glad he wasn’t on this list of nominees, just so I wouldn’t have to worry about where I’d put him in my rankings.

Oh, yeah, recap. Best Picture went to Braveheart, a film I still can’t get a bead on. I like it, I like watching it, but is it really a Best Picture worthy film? I think the answer is yes and no. Yes, because this year was weak as fuck and it was the best choice, and no because, just, no. I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel like a Best Picture film to me. So, there’s that. Best Actor went to Nicolas Cage for Leaving Las Vegas. This year was stacked in terms of Best Actor and there were several good choices that could have been made. Best Actress went to Susan Sarandon for Dead Man Walking. I’ll speak my piece on that when the time comes. Best Supporting Actor was Kevin Spacey for The Usual Suspects. Kind of a lead, but, I think we’ll all take that one. That movie is boss. And Best Supporting Actress was Mira Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite, a Woody Allen film I actually like. Gasp. I know. I was surprised too. (more…)

Pic of the Day: “Just one more thing, Captain. What makes you so sure the baby is a male?” “Don’t fuck with me.”

The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1993

1993 is just one of those years — game over, man. There’s nothing you can do. It’s fucking Schindler’s List. There’s nothing else that wins here. So, really, what this year is gonna be is, kind of like a math problem — Schindler’s List is X, that’s the given, and what we’re gonna do, is just let x be there, and then talk about everything else, and try to find some good stuff around it. It’s still clearly the winner, but, let’s see what might get overlooked because of the big, Jewish elephant in the room. Babarshkowitz.

Note: If I were Jewish, that would have been a much better pun.

So, we know about Best Picture. Best Actor was Tom Hanks for Philadelphia, which I’ve spoken about already. Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress were Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin for The Piano, and Best Supporting Actor was Tommy Lee Jones for The Fugitive. I guess, because, they wanted to have fun amidst the dour mood of Dumberg over there. (Wow, I really need to up my Jew pun ratio. Catholicism has so much more to work with. Oh, sorry, too soon?)


And the nominees are…

Robert Altman, Short Cuts

Jane Campion, The Piano

James Ivory, The Remains of the Day

Jim Sheridan, In the Name of the Father

Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List (more…)

Pic of the Day: “That’s thirty minutes away. I’ll be there in ten.”

The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1992

1992 is a great year. I think they got pretty much everything right here. The degrees of getting it right are specific to each category, but I think every category was genuinely on the mark. I wonder how many years that’s happened with. I guess that’s another thing I’ll do at the end of all this. Tally up which years I agree with and disagree with the most. This one will be one of the better ones, I’m sure.

Unforgiven won Best Picture this year, and Gene Hackman won Best Supporting Actor for it as well. Best Actor was one of the biggest makeup Oscars in the world, to Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. Best Actress was Emma Thompson, in Howards End. Best Supporting Actress was Marisa Tomei for My Cousin Vinny. Great year, right?


And the nominees are…

Robert Altman, The Player

Martin Brest, Scent of a Woman

Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven

James Ivory, Howards End

Neil Jordan, The Crying Game (more…)

Pic of the Day: “I can’t make out whether you’re bloody bad-mannered or just half-witted.” “I have the same problem, sir.”

Lawrence of Arabia - 274

The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1990

Oh, you knew this day would come. The day where we talk about how Dances With Wolves beat Goodfellas. Yeah. Don’t worry, I’ll be brief about it. I think it’s all pretty understood by now. Plus, we’re gonna have to do it again once Best Picture rolls around. Let’s save it all until then.

So, to recap the rest of the year that isn’t the big two abominations, Best Actor went to Jeremy Irons for Reversal of Fortune. It’s widely regarded as a makeup Oscar for a film he wasn’t even nominated for. (I’ll tell you what that is when we get to Best Actor for this year. I’ll give you a hint. He mentions it in his acceptance speech.) Best Actress was Kathy Bates for Misery. She’s crazy as fuck in that movie. Best Supporting Actor was Joe Pesci for Goodfellas. That pretty much speaks for itself. And Best Supporting Actress was Whoopi Goldberg for Ghost, because, well, I guess they really like the magical negro. I don’t know. So that’s 1990. Let’s get into the film bashing…


And the nominees were…

Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather Part III

Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves

Stephen Frears, The Grifters

Barbet Schroeder, Reversal of Fortune

Martin Scorsese, Goodfellas (more…)

Pic of the Day: “Why are you lying?” “I have to.” “But your pants will catch fire.”

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium - 27

The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1989

1989. A number. Another summer. Why that wasn’t nominated, I have no idea. But, you know, shit happens.

1989 goes down as one of the worst Best Picture choices of all time, and rightfully so. It was a terrible choice. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a Best Picture movie. The movie was Driving Miss Daisy, which beat out such films as My Left Foot, Field of Dreams, Born on the Fourth of July and Dead Poet’s Society to win Best Picture. It’s the last (and really only) film to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination. Not win. Nomination. The only other films to do that are Grand Hotel (which only got the one nomination for Best Picture) and Wings (which was in first Oscar year). Both of those came really before the Academy figured themselves out. Assuming the Oscars as we know them really started in 1934, Driving Miss Daisy is the only film to win Best Picture without even a Best Director nomination. Thus ends the bad decisions of the 80s. Then the 90s came and they only made mistakes on like, two out of the ten years. Which is pretty good.

Best Actor went to Daniel Day-Lewis for My Left Foot, and Brenda Fricker won Best Supporting Actress for that film as well. Best Actress went to Jessica Tandy for Miss Daisy, because — well, she was old. Best Supporting Actor went to Denzel Washington for Glory. Not really bad decisions on anything except Best Picture there. I mean, Tandy wasn’t the best choice, but the category didn’t have a clear winner to take away from the sentimentality of the veteran nomination. So, you know, it doesn’t seem so bad.


And the nominees were…

Woody Allen, Crimes and Misdemeanors

Kenneth Branagh, Henry V

Jim Sheridan, My Left Foot

Oliver Stone, Born on the Fourth of July

Peter Weir, Dead Poet’s Society (more…)

Pic of the Day: “Tell me, was it necessary that you kill all of them? I only told you to scare them.” “People scare better when they’re dying.”

The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1988

I love 1988. I was born in 1988. Therefore I feel extra invested in what won this year. Why? I don’t know. It wasn’t a particularly strong year for movies. And the movie that won isn’t necessarily a “great” picture, but it is, at the same time, a great picture. In a different year it would almost certainly never hold up. But you know, whatever.

Rain Man won Best Picture this year. Everybody loves Rain Man, right? It’s a good picture. Maybe a bit too, sentimental, but, hey, whatever. Best Actor went to Dustin Hoffman, since — well, I guess he didn’t go full retard. Best Actress was Jodie Foster for The Accused. Best Supporting Actress went to Geena Davis (why?) for The Accidental Tourist, and Best Supporting Actor went to Kevin Kline for A Fish Called Wanda. I’m very ambivalent about this year. I think I agree with most of the choices, but then, maybe I don’t. Maybe it’s just a factor of, I like them because the year isn’t stronger. I don’t know. This year was always tough for me to call. I was too busy — marinating. And then, you know, sleeping and crying and throwing up all over the place (I was a puker). But, you know, it’s the 80s, so we don’t really expect too much. The Oscars are much like me in the 80s — we barely got out alive.


And the nominees were…

Charles Crichton, A Fish Called Wanda

Barry Levinson, Rain Man

Mike Nichols, Working Girl

Alan Parker, Mississippi Burning

Martin Scorsese, The Last Temptation of Christ (more…)

Pic of the Day: “Could you speak louder please, I’m a bit hard of hearing.” “As if I couldn’t tell.”

The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1987

1987 is another one of those generic 80s years. It’s not that they made a bad choice. The Last Emperor is a very good film. It’s just — not everyone is gonna go out and watch The Last Emperor. I bet it’s one of the least watched Best Picture choices of all time. It’s certainly the least-grossing Best Picture winner of all time. So it’s got that going for it.

Best Actor of this year was Michael Douglas for Wall Street. Best Actress was Cher for Moonstruck. Olympia Dukakis won Best Supporting Actress for that film too. Best Supporting Actor was Sean Connery for The Untouchables. So, clearly they got the men right this year. The women — up for discussion.

That’s really it. If you know The Last Emperor, you know there really isn’t much more to say about 1987.


And the nominees were…

Bernardo Bertolucci, The Last Emperor

John Boorman, Hope and Glory

Lasse Hallström, My Life as a Dog

Norman Jewison, Moonstruck

Adrian Lyne, Fatal Attraction (more…)

Pic of the Day: “I’m a big girl.” “Yeah, and in all the right places, too.”

The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1984

Just like the rest of the 80s, 1984 would be a hugely forgettable year if not for a good decision on Best Picture. Seriously, looking at the nominees they had to choose from, you almost have to sigh and go, “Thank god they didn’t screw that up.” Because they really did fuck up the 80s. I think America did as a country. You just have to be grateful when something good came out of it.

Just so we’re on the same page, Best Picture for 1984 was Amadeus, and F. Murray Abraham won Best Actor for it as well. Best Actress was Sally Field for Places in the Heart — yeah, we’ll get to that at some point. Best Supporting Actor was Haing S. Ngor for The Killing Fields, one of the categories I’ve actually done already, and Best Supporting Actress was Peggy Ashcroft in A Passage to India. Notice what I mean about a boring year aside from Best Picture? Yeah… the 80s are all about that.


And the nominees were…

Woody Allen, Broadway Danny Rose

Robert Benton, Places in the Heart

Miloš Forman, Amadeus

Roland Joffé, The Killing Fields

David Lean, A Passage to India (more…)

Pic of the Day: “Oskar…Do you like me?” “Yeah, a lot.” “If I wasn’t a girl… would you like me anyway?” “I suppose so.”

The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1981

God, I hate 1981. This year ends — actually, it doesn’t — it sits in the middle of a really terrible, five year stretch of Best Picture winners. Worst five-year plan this side of the Pacific. 1979 is Kramer vs. Kramer, a good film but not a Best Picture winner. 1980 is Ordinary People, one of the worst decisions of all time. 1981 is Chariots of Fire, perhaps the worst decision of all time. (When I get to it, though, in context it will make more sense than some of the other decisions. As a choice though, it’s the opposite of Sam Adams.) 1982 was Gandhi, a boring choice. 1983 was Terms of Endearment, a good film, but a weak choice in a weak year for nominees. Then, we got Amadeus, which broke the streak.But then the rest of the 80s were also a disaster (’85, ’87 and ’89 sucked, while ’86 and ’88 are up for discussion when the time comes), so, really, we had a really big cold streak after this too. This is just our lowest point.

I won’t even hide the fact that I hate this decision. Most times I’ll try to keep my opinions concealed enough so that when I get to Best Picture for this year there’s some sort of intrigue. Not here. This is universally proclaimed one of the top five, perhaps top three, worst Best Picture winners of all time. It’s that bad. We’re talking straight film. Nothing else. It really was bad. The rest of 1981 wasn’t so hot either. Sort of.

Best Actor went to Henry Fonda for On Golden Pond. It was the only choice, really, since they only nominated him once before — for The Grapes of Wrath — and he lost because of a blatant makeup Oscar for Jimmy Stewart. So there was no way he wasn’t winning here, and that’s that. Best Actress was Kate Hepburn, which was really insult to injury, since this was her fourth Oscar, and third in the span of 14 years. Right? ’67-’81? That span. She won three in that time. She also won for On Golden Pond. Best Supporting Actor was John Gielgud for Arthur, a decision I’m over the moon about. I love that movie so much. And Best Supporting Actress was Maureen Stapleton for Reds, which, to me, always felt like a career achievement Oscar mixed with a, “Hey, we know we don’t want to vote for you to win Best Picture, but we actually did like you more than we liked that other thing we voted for, so here’s another consolation prize.” The acting awards I guess weren’t so bad. I’ll need to look specifically to make my final decisions. But, overall, 1981 is a decent year marred by a horrible Best Picture choice. (more…)

Pic of the Day: “Let us pretend that you are a loving daughter, and I am a good father.” “This is a pleasant fiction, is it not?”