The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor – 1994

All opinions aside… 1994 is a great year. Between Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption and Forrest Gump, we were treated with a great year for American movies. Let’s focus on that rather than what we think should have won.

Forrest Gump wins Best Picture, Best Director for Robert Zemeckis (talked about here) and Best Actor for Tom Hanks (talked about here). I understand the first two and like the second one (despite the fact that Hanks won the year before this, a decision I hate). Jessica Lange wins Best Actress for Blue Sky (talked about here), which was gonna happen at some point, and it worked out because they used her as an excuse to not give Jodie Foster her third statue in seven years. And Best Supporting Actress was Dianne Wiest for Bullets over Broadway (talked about here), which I don’t love, but understand.

And that leaves us with this, arguably the strongest category of 1994 (including Best Picture). I love all of these performances (well, the fifth one…), and picking a winner is really tough. But don’t worry, I totally did it.


And the nominees were…

Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction

Martin Landau, Ed Wood

Chazz Palminteri, Bullets over Broadway

Paul Scofield, Quiz Show

Gary Sinise, Forrest Gump

Jackson — Pulp Fiction. I think we know what this is about, I think we know how good Jackson was in it. Rather than talk, I will just post this:

Landau — Ed Wood is a terrific film. Personally, I think it’s Tim Burton’s best, next to Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and maybe Edward Scissorhands. It’s such a great ode to the “worst” director of all time.

In case you don’t know, Ed Wood is about the dude who made “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” a film that holds the title as one of the worst films ever made. And this is a biopic of sorts, about how this man so desperately wanted to make good movies, and just didn’t. And it’s so loving. And on his travels, Ed meets Bela Lugosi, who is old, doesn’t act anymore, and is hooked on heroin. And he still lives in his glory days, so to speak, and — well, you’ll just have to see the movie.

Martin Landau is fantastic as Bela Lugosi, and 9 out of 10 times, he’d be a unanimous winner and that’s that. The only thing that causes complications here is Samuel L. Jackson. Otherwise, Landau wins this without anyone thinking differently.

Palminteri — Bullets over Broadway is one of the few Woody Allen films I can stomach. It’s about John Cusack, a playwright, who gets his play financed by the mob. And as per the agreement, he has to put the gangster’s moll (Jennifer Tilly) in the play, and she stinks. Add that to a leading man (Jim Broadbent) who can’t stop eating and a female lead (Dianne Wiest) who is a drunk and serial overactor who starts sleeping with him in order to get more lines, and you have a play heading toward disaster. But Chazz Palminteri plays a hitman who is sent to keep an eye on things to make sure Tilly gets her part in adequate order. And he turns out to be a secret literary genius, and starts helping Cusack rewrite the play.

He’s very good in the role. Really funny, and really great. And Palminteri’s a dude who probably should have an Oscar for all the great character work he’s put in over the years (Bronx Tale alone). But here, he falls by the wayside, because the category is so strong. It sucks, but it happens.

Scofield — Quiz Show is a brilliant film about the great quiz show scandal of the 50s, where it was revealed that a show was fixed. And we see exactly that happen, and then the investigation that eventually happened because of it. And it is an utterly fascinating film and one of the best films of the 90s. It’s really great.

The gist of the film is that John Turturro is a guy who is on the show and can’t be beaten. He knows every answer. But the show doesn’t want him. They want someone more — not Jewish — who they can promote. So they get Ralph Fiennes. And he goes on, and they fix it so Turturro loses (they pay him off) and Fiennes goes on and starts a huge win streak. And eventually the feds get wind of the fix and the investigation is launched.

Anyway, Paul Scofield plays Fiennes’ father, who is a famous poet. And Fiennes desperately wants his approval. And eventually he does start to believe in his son when he starts winning at the game show, but then it comes out that Fiennes was cheating. Too bad.

Scofield got a veteran nomination here. That’s all it was. He shouldn’t have won. He got his Oscar in 1966. The film just needed at least one acting nomination in order to be taken seriously for Best Picture, and what better way to do it than a veteran nomination?

Sinise — Forrest Gump. You should know this film.

Gary Sinise plays Lieutenant Dan. Right there, he automatically becomes a top three contender for a vote. Problem is, in this category, it’s not enough.

My Thoughts: Look, I can’t not vote for Samuel L. Jackson. I just can’t. I know Martin Landau gave a terrific performance, and he totally deserved to win. I just, have to vote for Samuel L. Jackson. Just do.

My Vote: Jackson

Should Have Won: Jackson, Landau, (and to a lesser extent) Sinise. (And even Palminteri, to a lesser extent than the other three.)

Is the result acceptable?: Yes.

Performances I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, and fuck it, even Ed Wood — you’re dead to me.

Ed Wood might not be essential essential, as the other two are, but why not? It’s fucking amazing. So see it. Don’t be a schmuck.

Quiz Show is also fucking incredible. It’s so well made, it’s one of the best films of the 90s. I’d call this an essential film for everyone because it’s so good and because I’d say about 80% of the people who see this will enjoy it. The other 20% are cunts.

Bullets over Broadway is one of the few Woody Allen films I can stand. That is all I need to say.


5) Scofield

4) Palminteri

3) Sinise

2) Landau

1) Jackson

2 responses

  1. MovieFan

    Landau is easily the best here

    December 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm

  2. Chad

    You’re actually VERY close to my results. My rankings would have been:
    1. Martin Landau
    2. Samuel L. Jackson
    3. Gary Sinise
    4. Chazz Palminteri
    5. Paul Scofield

    August 16, 2013 at 1:59 pm

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