The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1994

1994 is a very contentious year among people my age. More so than the Shakespeare in Love/Saving Private Ryan thing. The reason for that is — Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction. All three great films. Everyone has their preference. And even if you don’t, everyone recoils and is like, “Ooh…yeah. That’s tough.” I’m not getting into which was best here (I always take Quentin. Just saying.), but I’ll leave it at, Forrest Gump wins Best Picture, Best Director for Robert Zemeckis, and Best Actor for Tom Hanks, his second in a row, and the one of the two I actually think is a good decision.

Also this year, Jessica Lange finally wins her overdue Best Actress award for Blue Sky, mostly because her category was really weak, and her only competition was from Jodie Foster, who clearly gave the best performance in the category, but won twice already within the past seven years, and, she went full retard. Trust me, both things were factors. That’s why Lange won. And Best Supporting Actor this year was Martin Landau for Ed Wood. A great performance. It also beat Sam Jackson for Pulp Fiction and Gary Sinise for Forrest Gump. Mostly Sam Jackson. That was a tough pill to swallow, even though I love Landau’s performance there.

Anyway, that does it for everything else. Now, here — I hate this category. Hate it. I completely disagree with two of the nominees, and one film got nominated twice. So I count that as three, and I’m looking for alternatives. Guess what? There aren’t any. Unless we want to nominate Sally Field for Forrest Gump. We could stretch it and nominate Robin Wright Penn for it instead of Sally, but, Penn was clearly in the “lead” type role. But hey, they were possibilities. People seem to love Heavenly Creatures. How about nominating one of those two? Hell, give me something interesting. This is such a lifeless category.


And the nominees were…

Rosemary Harris, Tom & Viv

Helen Mirren, The Madness of King George

Uma Thurman, Pulp Fiction

Jennifer Tilly, Bullets over Broadway

Diane Wiest, Bullets over Broadway

Harris — Veteran nomination. Plain and simple. Not that Rosemary Harris didn’t deserve an Oscar nomination (you’ll know her best as Aunt May from the Spider-Man movies), but, this is a very boring film and she’s barely in it. That’s when I really hate when they decide to throw in a veteran nom.

The film is about T.S. Eliot and his marriage to Vivienne Haigh-Wood. You see, they were madly in love and married, but, he was unaware of her — condition. That is, she had some mental problems. And the rest of the film is him dealing with her condition. She has fits, he gets upset, he leaves her. She remains married to him all those years despite him being with other people. That’s the film, really. Pretty boring. The kind of shit the Academy loved nominating in the 90s. Miramax shit. (Oh hey, look at that. It was a Miramax film. And I just guessed.)

Rosemary Harris plays Viv’s mother. She shows up, says some shit, leaves. That’s it. At first she says Eliot shouldn’t marry her daughter and he doesn’t heed her warning. Then she comes back later and is like, “You should be taking care of my daughter better.” It’s an old aristocratic woman role. #5. Come on. We know how these work. Never gonna vote for it. Moving on.

Mirren — Dame Helen. What can I say about Dame Helen that hasn’t already been said about Judi Dench. (Rawr.)

The Madness of King George is about as evocative a title as you’re gonna get. Modern day Hollywood wishes it were this succinct. It’s about King George. He’s crazy. The end.

The film is basically about how people had no idea how to treat conditions back in the 18th century. He starts acting crazier and crazier and no one has any idea what the cause is. And they try all these crazy methods — I mean, look at the poster. It looks like him escaping from a loony bin — and nothing works.

Anyway, Helen Mirren plays his wife, and she gets to be worried about him, and in love with him, and gets to yell at people because she loves her husband. It’s that kind of performance. Honestly, in this category, I rank her no better than fourth, and maybe third for a vote since Wiest won already. I wouldn’t vote for it, but I wouldn’t be completely opposed had she won. And, honestly, from an Academy perspective, she might have even been a second choice here. Either way, I’m not voting for her, but she does a good job. It’s Helen Mirren. How could she not?

Thurman — Uma, Uma, Uma. Uma Thurman is actress I can’t tell if I like or not. I mean, I kind of like her, and then I really think I like her when she comes out with a Quentin movie (so, one a decade), and outside of that, she doesn’t really make much (and few of those films are legitimately good), so, I can’t tell. Anyway, this is her and Quentin, which, is when she’s at her best.

I’m not even gonna bother explaining Pulp Fiction. If you don’t know, you have no right to blame me for not telling you. The fault is entirely your own. Anyway, she has her bit in the middle where she goes on a date with Travolta, enters a dance competition, goes back to her place, accidentally ODs on heroin that she thinks is cocaine, and Travolta has to stab her in the heart with adrenaline. So — pretty standard, as rom coms go.

Thurman is great in the role, and anyone who loves Pulp Fiction is immediately going to have the reaction of, “Oh, yeah, of course she should win.” But you know what? I’m not voting for her. I know. I surprise me too. She’s clearly #1 on the rankings, but, I’m not voting for her. If anyone from this film was going to win, it was Sam Jackson. And I know this weak ass category works in her favor, but, really what did Uma do here but read Quentin’s lines? She didn’t particularly make the movie, she was just really good in it. I’m being kind of harsh, but that’s because I need to be in order to break away from the inherent bias that comes with me wanting to vote for Pulp Fiction for everything. But, no, I’m not voting for her.

Tilly — Yay, double nomination. Anyway, I say this every time a Woody Allen movie comes up (for full disclosure purposes) — I don’t like Woody Allen movies. Of the films he’s directed since Annie Hall (I haven’t seen the early comedies yet, since I’m saving them for the end, figuring those are the most likely films of his I’ll enjoy), of the ones I’ve seen, the only ones I like — like, legit like — are Annie Hall, the Alan Alda half of Crimes and Misdemeanors, Mighty Aphrodite, Small Time Crooks, Sweet and Lowdown (mostly for Samantha Morton’s performance) and Whatever Works. That’s not to say each film doesn’t have its problems (there are parts of all of them I downright loathe), but, of the films he made, those are the ones I do legit like. This one is the only film in that next level down. I tolerate this one. The rest — either dislike or downright hate. Just so we’re on the same page. His films are just not my thing. I leave them to those who enjoy them.

Anyway, this film is about John Cusack as a struggling playwright. He writes a new play, and the only way he can get it produced is to get mob backing. The problem is, the mobster forces him to cast his girlfriend — Jennifer Tilly — in the lead role. Add that to the fact that he hires a great (but fading) actress (played by Diane Wiest) to be the other lead role. But he starts having an affair with her, and she’s a drunk who keeps wanting more and more lines and wants to upstage everyone. And his leading man (Jim Broadbent) has weight problems, and keeps sneaking food all the time. And Jennifer Tilly is a terrible actress (she has the perfect voice for a gangster’s girl), who is the ditziest woman in the world. She tries hard, but knows she’s not very good, but has to do it because her boyfriend is making her. And she really wants to be good. And, Chazz Palminteri plays the gangster’s right hand man, who is assigned to watch over Cusack (and protect Tilly) to make sure he doesn’t try anything funny, and he turns out to be a literary genius, who rewrites the play, turning it into a brilliant piece of drama. It’s a screwball comedy, naturally.

It’s pretty good. I can’t say that I hated it. I can’t say I liked it really, either. The best part about it for me was watching the actors inhabit the role. Tilly, for me, was tops. She played this part perfectly. Here’s a short clip. This basically shows you how her part works within the film:

She’s really great.

Wiest — Diane Wiest, on the other hand, is the one that won from the film. It makes sense. She plays an overacting, alcoholic actress. She’s required to be over the top for the whole thing. It’s entertaining. Watch —

She’s the kind of actress who acts all the time. She’s good. But, personally, I’d vote for Jennifer Tilly over her. But in a category like this, I can see why she won.

My Thoughts: Instant reaction says — Uma Thurman, clearly. But when I stop and think about it — I really liked Jennifer Tilly’s performance a lot more. I just did. I thought she did a better job with her character than Uma did. That’s why I vote for her. I feel like the Academy felt the same way here, but, since Diane Wiest is more of an “Oscar” actress, they voted for her. I still would have taken Tilly here. That’s my vote.

My Vote: Tilly

Should Have Won: Can a person really have a preference here? (Objectively?)

Is the result acceptable?: It almost has to be, just because of the lack of choices here. I’d say about 98% of the way, it’s not acceptable, and then you go — “Well, who were they gonna vote for?” Helen Mirren probably wasn’t going to win (and the film isn’t that good. It’s just, okay), Rosemary Harris wasn’t the type of veteran that would win an Oscar (also, boring film). I don’t think the Academy, as stingy as they are, loved Pulp Fiction enough to vote Uma in. If they were gonna vote anyone, it was gonna be Sam. And Quentin, of course (which they did). Which really only leaves Diane Wiest and Jennifer Tilly. And of the two, Wiest is more the veteran, and played an over-the-top actress. I can see why they voted for it. So, when you think about it logically, this is acceptable. Otherwise, fuck no. Come on, man.

Performances I suggest you see: Pulp Fiction. If you haven’t seen it, you’re dead to the world. That is all.

And, I guess, Bullets over Broadway is a Woody Allen movie I can tolerate. so, I guess that alone makes it worth recommending. Better this than Interiors. Know what I mean?


5) Harris

4) Mirren

3) Wiest

2) Tilly

1) Thurman

2 responses

  1. I’m so glad someone finally agrees with me! I always thought that Tilly desereved the Oscar that year, for me she made that movie. Weist was too much for me in that part, I always thought that performance was overrated and Tilly was underrated. Thurman has only been good in Quentin movies (Kill Bill is my favorite) but she just isn’t a good actress.

    July 13, 2011 at 10:14 pm

  2. Personally, I think Wiest and Tilly pretty much tie for this one.
    My rankings are:
    1. Jennifer Tilly (tie)
    1. Dianne Wiest (tie)
    2. Uma Thurman
    3. Helen Mirren
    4. Rosemary Harris

    September 12, 2013 at 3:06 am

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