The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor – 1999

Most people know 1999, so I’ll save the editorial.

American Beauty wins Best Picture, Best Director for Sam Mendes (talked about here), and Best Actor for Kevin Spacey (talked about here). Hilary Swank wins Best Actress for Boys Don’t Cry (talked about here), and Angelina Jolie wins Best Supporting Actress for Girl, Interrupted (talked about here). All pretty standard. I’m sure most people have opinions on this year.

And this category — I understand it, but don’t love it. Michael Caine is Michael Caine. I get it. Performance-wise? Terrible choice. Why not Cruise, I have no idea.


And the nominees were…

Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules

Tom Cruise, Magnolia

Michael Clarke Duncan, The Green Mile

Jude Law, The Talented Mr. Ripley

Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense

Caine — The Cider House Rules is one of those books that’s not really about anything but has a story, and when they make it into a movie, everybody fawns over it. It’s one of those Oscar movies that is just so clearly an Oscar movie it’s sickening. Fortunately it wasn’t actually all that great, so it wasn’t going to win (thank god).

The film is about Tobey Maguire as an orphan who grew up in a New England orphanage, run by Michael Caine, a doctor who is addicted to ether and also performs illegal abortions. And Tobey grows up and becomes Caine’s assistant, but then decides he wants to leave and see the world, and goes around, meets people, does things — you know how it works. Mostly he goes to Charlize Theron’s farm, where he works as an apple picker. And she’s married to Paul Rudd, who goes off to war and comes back paralyzed, and then he lives in a shack with the black workers, and their thing eventually ends up in incest — it’s a whole thing.

Basically Michael Caine is there doing Michael Caine. If you’ve seen Michael Caine in anything this past decade, you know the performance he gives here. The reason he won this category is because he’s the veteran and the veteran always gets votes. Like Alan Arkin, like Jim Broadbent. Like Morgan Freeman. Most people considered this a surprise win, and it was, since the performance wasn’t really that good, and they just voted for the man.

I won’t be doing that. I love Michael Caine, but this performance just wasn’t worth voting for. (I don’t mind the win, but I’m not voting for it.)

Cruise — Magnolia is… it’s not really a film you want to explain in full. It’s, an experience. We’ll just explain Tom Cruise’s portion of the film.

Cruise plays a self-help guru whose system is called “Seduce and Destroy.” He’s really chauvinistic, and the whole thing is about teaching men to “tame” women. And we first see him during one of his seminars, and then giving an interview with a newswoman, who starts poking into his past, which we find out has been fabricated. Another portion of the film is about Jason Robards, a dying man, who wants to see Cruise, his son, again. And Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a nurse caring for Robards, and he goes to find Cruise. He then goes home, and has a brilliant moment with Robards. He simultaneously yells at him for ruining his life and also tells him not to die. It’s really amazing to watch.

Cruise, to me, deserved this award. I know he’s more of a lead actor, but this performance just blows every other one in this category out of the water. He’s who I’m voting for.

Duncan — The Green Mile is a film I’m assuming we all have seen. Tom Hanks, prison guard, Michael Clarke Duncan, accused of a crime he probably didn’t commit. Magical negro. You know the deal.

Duncan is really good in the role. He really is. I just refuse (and have, throughout this entire Quest) to vote for a magical negro performance. I’d love to give Michael Clarke Duncan an Oscar, but I steadfastly refuse to vote for a magical negro performance. Because those are the only ones the white Academy seems to be able to tolerate. And I hate that. So I’m not voting for him.

Law — The Talented Mr. Ripley is a fascinating film. Matt Damon is basically a con artist, able to forge signatures, impersonate people. And he gets in with a rich shipyard owner (James Rebhorn), who thinks he’s a friend of his son’s and wants him to go to Italy and bring his son (who is basically living it up in Italy and spending his ample allowance and not doing anything else) home. And Jude Law plays the son. And Damon goes to Italy and basically works his way into Law’s life (as well as Gwyneth Paltrow’s, who is Law’s girlfriend/fiancé). And Law adamantly refuses to go home, and continues living it up. And he brings Damon with him everywhere. And Damon is secretly in love with Law. And then eventually Law starts to suspect that Damon doesn’t actually know him (since he met him under the pretense that they went to college together), and Damon kills him (mostly accidentally, and then has to finish it off) and assumes his identity.

Law does a good job in the part. I like that they nominated him for it. But I don’t think it was that good. To me, this is a solid film, but it doesn’t have that extra, I don’t know, sheen, that makes it an Oscar movie. I wouldn’t vote for this performance. I’d vote Cruise over it ten times out of ten.

Osment — The Sixth Sense. You probably have heard of it.

Osment plays the kid. He sees dead people.

I’m actually kind of surprised he got nominated. I guess it’s a good performance. But it’s so hard to look objectively at this movie after the fact. It’s kind of a one-shot deal. After that, the mystery is gone. I wouldn’t vote for him anyway. I don’t really see this as an Oscar-winning performance.

PS: I remember watching this Oscar ceremony. It was my first one, too. And I remember watching it, at age 11, having seen the movie but not really caring for it, and yet rooting for either Osment or Duncan, because those were the two films I’d seen, and I wanted Duncan to win because I’d liked the movie, and I wanted Osment to win because it was cool that someone my age would win an award, and would be one of those things where, “People my age can do awesome stuff!” I just felt I needed to share that story. I’m still not voting for him.

My Thoughts: How is it not Tom Cruise? Didn’t like Caine’s performance (or his film), Osment had no chance, Duncan was great but was too magical negro (you know how I hate that), and Law — between Law and Cruise, I vote Cruise. So I vote Cruise. Plus he was amazing in the film. Why not him?

My Vote: Cruise

Should Have Won: Cruise

Is the result acceptable?: If you don’t think about the performance, yes. Caine was worth (is worth) a lead Oscar, and now has two Supportings. That’s an acceptable substitute, I feel.

Performances I suggest you see: I’m pretty sure Magnolia is essential. Even if it isn’t — why wouldn’t someone who likes movies not see all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films? Just see it, and stop questioning.

The Sixth Sense — kind of essential. No need to editorialize. I think society’s made this one essential.

The Green Mile — good film. Not Shawshank, but good. A bit overhyped, I feel, but still pretty solid. Most people my age or older have seen this, so I don’t really need to recommend it all that much. Younger people — if you’re getting into movies and search IMDB for stuff to watch, I’m sure you’ll figure out you need to see this.

The Talented Mr. Ripley is a really fine film. Highly recommended.

The Cider House Rules — meh. It’s okay. Too baity for me. Worth maybe a watch, but that’s about it.


5) Caine

4) Osment

3) Duncan

2) Law

1) Cruise

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