The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1992
This is one of the weakest categories I’ve ever seen. And the whole fake “controversy” surrounding this is just a red herring. Honestly, if anyone other than Marisa Tomei won this category, it would have been forgotten long ago. Seriously, all of the other choices would have been boring as hell. I refuse to listen to anyone who says the category should have turned out differently, because that would be like saying, “We should have given Becket Best Picture in 1964 (over My Fair Lady, Dr. Strangelove and Mary Poppins).” You know? Why would anyone argue for a boring decision?
As for the rest of 1992 — Unforgiven wins Best Picture, Best Director for Clint Eastwood (talked about here) and Best Supporting Actor for Gene Hackman (talked about here). I love all of these decisions. Al Pacino (finally!) wins Best Actor for Scent of a Woman (talked about here) and Emma Thompson wins Best Actress for Howards End. Hate the film, love the woman, and this was the best year for her to win. And her competition sucked. I’d have voted differently in the category, but her winning is totally cool. So, in all, I really like 1992. All the decisions work for me.
Now, let’s deal with this piece of shit category…
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1992
And the nominees were…
Judy Davis, Husbands and Wives
Joan Plowright, Enchanted April
Vanessa Redgrave, Howards End
Miranda Richardson, Damage
Marisa Tomei, My Cousin Vinny
Davis — I don’t like Woody Allen movies. I have to say this every time one of his films come up because it’s something you need to know. It’s like when pedophiles have to go door to door and tell everyone who lives on their block that they’re a convicted sex offender, because — isn’t that something you’d like to know before you start a relationship with a person? Plus, knowing I don’t like Woody Allen movies qualifies everything I’m about to say. If you like them, you know that you should take what I say with a grain of salt, because you might respond differently to the film than I did. It’s just — I, personally, don’t need much psychoanalysis in my life. I’m okay with who I am, and I really don’t need to see another person go through it on screen.
To clarify, Woody always said his films were a form of psychoanalysis for him. He also doesn’t like them very much himself. He doesn’t like Annie Hall, Manhattan, all the films of his that people adore. And I think that’s telling. Like when he came out and said what his six favorite movies he made were (of which this film is one of them), he didn’t include many of his famous films. And people were like, “What the hell? Clearly the man doesn’t know his own work.” They were literally critiquing the man’s personal choices. But I think that’s very telling. I think it shows how people tend to make more of his films than there is.
I will say, though, up front, that I haven’t watched his early comedies. I haven’t seen anything he made before Annie Hall, and I haven’t seen a lot of films in between. Mostly the stuff not nominated for Oscars. I’ll get around to it (just because so many people tell me I need to see his stuff that I’m making it a point to see it all so I can definitively say, “I don’t like this stuff.”), just not yet. Of the films of his that I saw, the only ones I like unequivocally are: Annie Hall, Mighty Aphrodite, Small Time Crooks, and Whatever Works. I like Bullets over Broadway, but don’t love it, and I love Samantha Morton’s performance in Sweet and Lowdown. Everything else I’ve seen is a mixture of haven’t seen, don’t care, dislike, or outright loathe. In fact, maybe I’ll write an article about it soon. Get it out there. Anyway, I don’t like Woody Allen movies.
Husbands and Wives is basically Woody Allen dealing with his failing marriage to Mia Farrow (and eventual relationship with her adopted daughter). He and Farrow play a couple, and the other couple is Sydney Pollack and Judy Davis. They show up and announce they’re getting divorced. And since they seemed so happy, this throws Allen and Farrow’s marriage into doubt. He starts seeing Juliette Lewis, one of his students (age 18 while shooting the film. Yeah…). And then both Davis and Pollack start seeing other people, he with a cocktail waitress and she with Liam Neeson. And they end up running into one another and having fights and stuff, and basically the film ends with them getting back together and Farrow ending up with Neeson and Allen ending up alone. Yeah, I didn’t like this. It’s shot documentary style, which — way to make it worse.
Davis is fine, though. She does a good job with it. Most people say she should have won here. I say fuck that noise. No way. She’s good, and is a second choice here, just because the category blows so hard, but no way I’m voting for her.
Plowright — This is a film that exemplifies what’s wrong with Hollywood in the early 90s. Here’s a film that’s about nothing. Nothing happens, and it’s boring as fuck. A bunch of British women go on vacation. They go to Italy. They live in a castle. They talk about shit and sit around. It’s prim and proper. Fuck, this movie was boring. Even at 90 minutes. I implore you, do not watch this movie, ever. Just don’t. Trust me.
Joan Plowright plays the requisite old, stuffy lady. This role is one that occurs most often in this category. It’s their chance to give veteran actresses a nomination. We generally ignore these, and, given the quality of the film, will ignore this just the same.
God, this movie sucked.
Redgrave — Howards End is a Merchant-Ivory film. That about explains it. It’s about a middle class British family. Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter are sisters. And Emma Thompson makes friends with Vanessa Redgrave, a rich old woman from a good family. And she doesn’t like how stuffy and proper society is — she much prefers when she was a young girl and was more like Emma Thompson. And she befriends Emma, and confides in her. Then she dies. And leaves Emma her house. Which is a point of contention among her family, because Emma’s of a lower class, and they don’t like the poor getting property. And Anthony Hopkins is the eldest son, who is supposed to prevent her from having the house. But, he falls in love with her and marries her. And they’re married, and its still a point of contention, but then he dies, and she gets the house anyway. It’s a pretty boring film.
Vanessa Redgrave is in it for like, three scenes, and dies within the first twenty minutes. Veteran nomination. She’s here because of who she is. And because the category really sucks. And that’s cool. But, honestly, not worth voting for. The fact that she’s a #3 here is just — hilarious. This category is so bad.
Richardson — Damage is a film that I just hated. Through and through. It felt like one of those erotic thrillers Joe Eszterhas would write. But worse, because at least his are liberally peppered with sex and over the top shit (see: Basic Instinct, Showgirls). This is not that at all. I don’t know what the hell this was.
Jeremy Irons is married to Miranda Richardson. He meets Juliette Binoche. She’s a femme fatale. He starts sleeping with her. He becomes obsessed with her. They have sex a lot, in quasi-public places. Boring shit happens. She gets engaged to another man, he gets jealous. She tells him it’s because of her dead brother. They fuck. Her mother comes to visit, says they should stop fucking. Irons wants to tell his wife him and Binoche are fucking, but can’t. He goes to end it, but can’t. They fuck. The fiancé comes, sees them, and falls down some stairs and dies. The public finds out about the affair (he’s in Parliament or some such shit). He resigns. She marries another dude. He ends up alone, still obsessed with her. God, this movie sucked. But at least Leslie Caron had a cameo. That was something worthwhile for about two minutes.
Miranda Richardson plays Irons’ wife. She basically is there the whole film, not knowing about the affair. She pops up occasionally, not doing much. Then the affair comes out, and she’s like, “You probably should have just killed yourself.” That’s it, really. She does nothing here. This is one of those performances that should have come nowhere near being nominated, even in a category as bad as this. If I could rank this below #5, I would. (It seems as though Richardson was nominated because she was in this, Enchanted April and The Crying Game, and they were looking for a way to get her a nomination because of the year she had.)
Tomei — I don’t know how this isn’t your winner by default. Of the rest of the nominees, you have, boring, boring, barely in the film/veteran/too easy/past winner, Woody Allen. Obviously the Woody Allen is the only other one you can consider, but, against this performance — how? Really. How? To me, Marisa Tomei in this category is the equivalent of being held under water for too long an getting that first breath of air. Like, “Thank god.”
My Cousin Vinny, in case you don’t know, is one of the funniest films of the 90s. Directed by Jonathan Lynne (who also directed Clue, which is a film that has a very, interesting, shall we say, reputation. A lot of people hate it, yet some like me have a weird fascination with it because it’s just — I don’t know what it is), this is honestly one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. If I had to rank the comedies of the 90s (and I’m planning on it at some point), this would be in the top ten. Easily. Possibly number one. I don’t know.
It’s about two college kids who decide to road trip to school. They’re played by Ralph Macchio and Mitchell Whitfield. They get to some rural ass town in Alabama. They buy groceries at a local mart, and, several miles later, are arrested. They believe this is because they accidentally shoplifted a can of tuna. They find out it’s for murder. They don’t know what’s going on, and can’t afford an attorney. They call in a cousin of theirs — Joe Pesci. He’s just passed the bar (after six tries) and has never tried a real case. He shows up in Alabama with his fiancée, Marisa Tomei, sticking out like a sore thumbs (very Brooklyn, in very Alabama), to try the case. And the thing is — the two of them, they agreed they weren’t gonna get married until he won his first case. But she’s stressing, because her niece is getting married, and her “biological clock” is starting to tick (as she says in that great monologue). And he’s fucking up this case royally, because he knows nothing about being a trial lawyer. And she starts helping out, and eventually takes the stand at the end — honestly, if you haven’t seen it, just watch it. And if you have, you know how awesome she was in this movie.
You know I’m voting for her. So in lieu of an explanation, I give you this scene:
My Thoughts: Look at this category. How could anyone really argue against Marisa Tomei here?
(Here is a large and unnecessary rationalization why for those people who just want to be dicks:
First off — Miranda Richardson — terrible film to nominate her for. Nominate her for The Crying Game instead. Still, clearly a #5. She did nothing in that film. Joan Plowright — clearly a veteran nomination. Not worth a vote. Just — there. Vanessa Redgrave, fine, but, she won already. Not gonna win for this kind of role, because she’s barely on screen. Which really only leaves Judy Davis and Marisa Tomei.
I understand why people say Judy Davis should have won. She gave a good performance and was really only one out of two. Plus, she arguably should have won in 1984 for A Passage to India (lead too. Not Supporting). But, how can you not vote for Marisa Tomei? I mean, really. She stole that entire fucking movie. Just stole it. Plus, which of those two actresses has had a more Oscar-worthy career? Overall? Tomei earned this, completely. There’s no way I vote for anybody but Marisa Tomei here, and there’s no way anybody else should have won.)
My Vote: Tomei
Should Have Won: Tomei
Is the result acceptable?: The only one in the category, really. I don’t care what people say about Judy Davis — Marisa Tomei was the only acceptable result here. I mean, have you seen the movie? Tell me she wasn’t the best thing about it. This is very acceptable, and one of the better overall decisions of all time. Because this is what supporting performances are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be flashy and fun and steal scenes. Great decision. I don’t care what anybody says.
Performances I suggest you see: My Cousin Vinny is the only film on this list worth seeing. It’s hysterical, and features so many quotable lines and classic scenes. If you haven’t seen this film by now, there might be something wrong with you. You’re really missing out on a funny, funny movie. I’m notoriously picky on my comedies, so the fact that I’m recommending this should tell you how funny it is. See it.
Everything else — meh, take it or leave it. Just watch My Cousin Vinny.