I love this category. Why? Because it’s strong enough to not suck and weak enough to where what had to happen could happen and not seem like it upset anything. Because Paul Newman had to win this year. There was no other option. And, because the category is the way it is, not only is it a great decision, nothing was upset by it.
As for the rest of 1986, the Academy surprisingly made almost all great decisions. It remains one of the few bright spots of the black hole that is the 80s. (I fucking hate the 80s when it comes to Oscars. And movies too. I think it was a really shitty decade for movies.) Platoon wins Best Picture and Best Director for Oliver Stone, both of which were by far the best decisions they could have made in those categories (with all due respect to David Lynch). Then Best Actress was Marlee Matlin for Children of a Lesser God, which I like a lot as a decision (mostly because, were they actually gonna vote for Sigourney Weaver for Aliens? Really?). Then Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress were Michael Caine (talked about here) and Dianne Wiest for Hannah and Her Sisters. I respect both actors, but I don’t particularly like either decision. But, really, the Supporting categories don’t make a year, so overall I consider this year a success.
Now, let me take a brief second to point out how badly the Academy needed to make this one up. Paul Newman was nominated for seven Oscars before he won here (and they gave him a career achievement Oscar the year before this, because they realized they’d fucked up), for these films: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Rachel, Rachel (though that one was for Best Picture), Absence of Malice and The Verdict. He should have won, probably three times out of those. Him not winning here would have been like Martin Scorsese not winning for The Departed. Throats would have been cut. (Or, torn out — Swayze style.)
BEST ACTOR – 1986
And the nominees were…
Dexter Gordon, Round Midnight
Bob Hoskins, Mona Lisa
William Hurt, Children of a Lesser God
Paul Newman, The Color of Money
James Woods, Salvador (more…)