The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1992
I like 1992 a lot. Because this could have turned into a really bad year. But the Academy rallied. I say that because, based on the precursors, it seems like The Crying Game or Scent of a Woman were possibly favorites to win here. Though, Unforgiven did have the most nominations (along with Howards End), so maybe it was always gonna win. Either way, I’m glad they went the way they did.
Clint Eastwood won Best Director for the film (talked about here), which is nice. He deserved it (plus the other nominees were so weak). Gene Hackman also won Best Supporting Actor for the film (talked about here), which was a good decision. They were gonna give it to either him or Nicholson, and while I liked Nicholson’s performance better, I’m glad they gave it to Hackman. Best Actor this year was Al Pacino for Scent of a Woman (talked about here), which, just logistically, was a good decision. The man was so horrendously overdue by this point, it was best to just give him something. Of course, the win came at the expense of a brilliant Denzel Washington in Malcolm X and Robert Downey Jr. in Chaplin, but sometimes it’s best to just correct mistakes. Denzel got his second Oscar anyway. It worked out as well as it could have. Best Actress was Emma Thompson for Howards End (talked about here). The performance wasn’t particularly good (nor was the film), but it was just her time. It also allowed Holly Hunter to win after this, and the category wasn’t that strong. So it’s fine. And Best Supporting Actress was Marisa Tomei for My Cousin Vinny (talked about here). I don’t care what anyone says, I think this is a terrific decision. The category was one of the worst in history. It was between her and Judy Davis, and I think Tomei’s been more of a lasting actress than Davis, having given more awards-worthy performances over her career. (I also liked her performance better and didn’t despise her film, so that also helped.)
Overall, this is a year that could have turned out very sour, and instead, turned out all right. I don’t disagree with the winners (just the films two of them won for). And then we get Unforgiven as a Best Picture, which is amazing. It’s really the film on here that’s held up the best. Chalk up another great decision to the 90s (making up for those awful 80s).
BEST PICTURE – 1992
And the nominees were…
The Crying Game (Miramax)
A Few Good Men (Columbia, Castle Rock Entertainment)
Howards End (Sony Pictures Classics)
Scent of a Woman (Universal)
Unforgiven (Warner Bros.) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “You’re saying this only to make me go.” “ I’m saying it because it’s true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” “But what about us?” “We’ll always have Paris.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1993
1993 is a real easy one to recap, since one of the consensus best films of the Oscars was up this year — Schindler’s List. I doubt there are many people who would argue with this choice.
Steven Spielberg also (finally) wins Best Director for the film (talked about here). Unfortunately, the film does not also win Best Actor for Liam Neeson, because they decided to give the award to Tom Hanks for Philadelphia (talked about here), which I think is a terrible decision. Not only should Liam Neeson have won here, but Daniel Day-Lewis, Anthony Hopkins (and even Laurence Fishburne) gave better performances than Hanks did. I rank this as one of the worst Best Actor decisions of all time. Then, Holly Hunter won Best Actress for The Piano (talked about here). This is because the Academy was stupid and gave Cher an Oscar over her in 1987 and because the Academy couldn’t contain themselves the year before this and gave Emma Thompson an Oscar for a lesser performance than this one. But, Holly got an Oscar, so it works out, even if I don’t like the film all that much. Anna Paquin also won Best Supporting Actress for the film (talked about here), which I consider one of the worst decisions of all time in the category. Nearly everyone else in the category gave a better performance than she did. Speaking of everyone else giving a better performance than the winner, Tommy Lee Jones won Best Supporting Actor for The Fugitive (talked about here). It’s pretty clear they were voting for the man and not the performance, because Ralph Fiennes, Pete Postlethwaite and Leonardo DiCaprio were all better than Jones was. But I grudgingly accept this because I love Tommy Lee Jones. Still, he shouldn’t have won.
But these questionable middle decisions are all pushed aside because of a strong Best Picture choice. That’s how these work. A great Best Picture choice hides all other terrible ones. But at least we got a strong Best Picture choice. That’s nice. That’s not always a guaranteed.
BEST PICTURE – 1993
And the nominees were…
The Fugitive (Warner Bros.)
In the Name of the Father (Universal)
The Piano (Miramax)
The Remains of the Day (Columbia)
Schindler’s List (Universal) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “You said if I came in late for another shift, you’d fire me.” “I’ll fire you tomorrow.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1994
Ah, 1994. I love seeing people get upset at this. This year gives me no trouble whatsoever. Yet when everyone points to questionable decisions in recent years, this and 1998 are almost always the first two to come up (2005 has also crept into that conversation). Yet to me — it makes perfect sense. The Academy will always be the Academy.
Outside of Best Picture, Forrest Gump wins Best Actor for Tom Hanks (talked about here), which on its own is a good decision (the category sucked and he was great. The only really questionable part was him having won the year before this, which I feel shouldn’t have happened), and Best Director for Robert Zemeckis (talked about here), which was a given based on the Best Picture win. Best Actress was Jessica Lange for Blue Sky (talked about here), which is a bad decision, but makes sense knowing that Lange was considered heavily overdue, and the Academy didn’t want to give Jodie Foster a (deserved) third Oscar in seven years. Best Supporting Actor was Martin Landau for Ed Wood (talked about here), which was a really good decision. I just had to stand by Sam Jackson there. And Best Supporting Actress was Dianne Wiest for Bullets Over Broadway (talked about here), which I think was a bad decision (Jennifer Tilly was much better in that same film).
As for this category — look, when Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption (let’s also not forget Quiz Show) are nominated for Best Picture, there are going to be strong opinions. Gump is clearly the most Academy-friendly of the bunch, therefore it stands to reason it won. End of discussion. It makes sense. So there’s no point in saying it shouldn’t have won, because it’s a great film, and the Academy will always vote for something like this. Your opinion may be different (as mine is), but it doesn’t make this that terrible a decision.
BEST PICTURE – 1994
And the nominees were…
Forrest Gump (Paramount)
Four Weddings and a Funeral (PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Working Title)
Pulp Fiction (Miramax)
Quiz Show (Hollywood Pictures)
The Shawshank Redemption (Columbia, Castle Rock Entertainment) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “You know when I was your age, I went out to fishing with all my brothers and my father, and everybody. And I was, I was the only one who caught a fish. Nobody else could catch one except me. You know how I did it? Every time I put the line in the water I said a Hail Mary and every time I said a Hail Mary I caught a fish. You believe that? It’s true, that’s the secret. You wanna try it when we go out on the lake?”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1995
1995 is one of the strangest years in recent Academy history. Because seemingly, Apollo 13 was the film this year. It won all the major precursors — the PGA, the DGA (this is one of the only 6 times in history where the DGA and Oscar winner differed), SAG — and yet was almost completely shut out here. Must have been a real interesting race, that’s for sure.
Aside from this category, Braveheart also wins Best Director for Mel Gibson (talked about here), which is a good decision by virtue of the fact that Ron Howard wasn’t even nominated in the category. Then Best Actor was Nicolas Cage for Leaving Las Vegas (talked about here), a decision I love. (It was him or Anthony Hopkins, and Hopkins had one already.) Best Actress was Susan Sarandon for Dead Man Walking (talked about here). I don’t like this decision, I felt Elisabeth Shue was much better in Leaving Las Vegas, but Sarandon was going to win one anyway, so this was as good a time as any. Best Supporting Actor was Kevin Spacey for The Usual Suspects (talked about here). I can’t be objective on this category, so I just say good for him. And Best Supporting Actress was Mira Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite (talked about here), which was a perfect decision. She was amazing in that movie.
But this category — I wonder what it is that led to such a drastic change in voting. Was it that Braveheart was more emotional for the voters? Actually, what I bet it was is that people saw Apollo 13 as more of a populist film without any heart, whereas the Academy can never turn down an actor-director. (By the way, I also see this category as directly responsible for what happened in 2001.)
BEST PICTURE – 1995
And the nominees were…
Apollo 13 (Universal, Imagine Entertainment)
Braveheart (Paramount, Icon)
Il Postino (Miramax)
Sense and Sensibility (Columbia) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “How many of your friends have I killed?” “I’m a twenty-year man. I can tell the difference between punks who need a little lesson in manners, and the freaks like you who just enjoy it… And you’ve killed six of my friends.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1996
1996 is one of the years I hate most in Academy history. To me, almost every major decision they made was a bad one. It’s one of those years where you can’t really do anything, because the Academy is always going to be the Academy, so we have to live with it. But at least here, we can all agree that they made a terrible decision, even if it was the one they were always going to make.
Outside of this category, The English Patient wins Best Director for Anthony Minghella (talked about here), a foregone conclusion and Best Supporting Actress for Juliette Binoche (talked about here), a decision I actually really like. I think that even though Lauren Bacall was a very deserving veteran, her performance was decent at best and her film was beyond terrible (and Barbara Hershey’s film/performance was way too on-the-nose). Best Actor this year was Geoffrey Rush for Shine (talked about here), which I hate as a decision. I love Geoffrey Rush, I think he deserves an Oscar (Supporting would be better), but I felt his performance was clearly a supporting one in the film, and that Billy Bob Thornton was so good in Sling Blade (and even Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient) that Rush is one of the most inexplicable winners I’ve ever seen. Best Actress was Frances McDormand for Fargo (talked about here), which I love, because the film’s great and she’s great in it, but she’s really a supporting character, and Emily Watson’s performance in Breaking the Waves is so good that I’m shocked she didn’t win (Brenda Blethyn was also amazing in Secrets & Lies). And then Best Supporting Actor was Cuba Gooding, Jr. for Jerry Maguire (talked about here), which, while I love the performance — William H. Macy really should have won. He really should have.
So that’s 1996. I like two categories. And one of them — ehh, maybe it’s not the best decision. So overall, I think this is a pretty terrible year. One of my least favorites. And, like most bad years, it all starts at Best Picture.
BEST PICTURE – 1996
And the nominees were…
The English Patient (Miramax)
Fargo (Gramercy Pictures)
Jerry Maguire (TriStar)
Shine (October Films)
Secrets & Lies (Fine Line Features) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “Next time, we don’t date the girl with eleven evil ex-boyfriends.” “It’s seven.” “Oh, well, that’s not that bad.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1997
Sometimes the Academy is the Academy, and there’s really no other way things can turn out. This is one of those times. When a film like Titanic comes along — no other film has a chance. Big, epic, romantic, makes the cry — it has it all. The quintessential Oscar film. It also having broken every box office record also helps.
Outside of the relative sweep for the film (it won 11/14 Oscars, losing Actress, Supporting Actress and Makeup), which included Best Director for James Cameron (talked about here), Best Actor and Best Actress went to Jack Nicholson (talked about here) and Helen Hunt (talked about here) for As Good as It Gets. These are both generally regarded as weak decisions, given the nature of the film, but I’m okay with them. Titanic was gonna overshadow everything else anyway, and seeing as how Nicholson’s main competition was Robert Duvall (I don’t buy the Fonda thing at all), and Nicholson was gonna win one anyway, I think this was acceptable (unless of course we don’t want Adrien Brody winning in 2002). And Helen Hunt — the category was terrible. I know Judi Dench, but I hate voting for on-the-nose performances (meaning: costume dramas) in this era. Then Best Supporting Actor went to Robin Williams for Good Will Hunting (talked about here), which he was overdue for and makes sense, and Best Supporting Actress went to Kim Basinger for L.A. Confidential (talked about here), which really wasn’t a great performance, but at least the film got recognized. The performance that should have won (Joan Cusack), at least, to me, anyway, was never going to win. So that’s an acceptable substitute, I guess.
I guess I’ll use this space to say, even though Titanic was always going to win, L.A. Confidential is such a great film. Even though we’d all have preferred for it to have won, it’s better that it worked out this way. Sometimes it’s better to think positively about the “what if” than live with the reality of it happening.
BEST PICTURE – 1997
And the nominees were…
As Good As It Gets (TriStar)
The Full Monty (Fox Searchlight)
Good Will Hunting (Miramax)
L.A. Confidential (Warner Bros.)
Titanic (Paramount, 20th Century Fox) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “Received your message. We can hear you. Are you wounded? Repeat. Are you wounded? Are you bailing out?” “What’s your name?” “June.” “Yes June, I’m bailing out. I’m bailing out but there’s a catch, I’ve got no parachute.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1998
1998 is, as we all know, one of those Oscar years that is brought up as an example of all the bad the Academy represents; “The Academy being the Academy.” And, just like 2010, it’s one of those decisions that makes sense considering who they are and what they like, isn’t as bad as some other decisions because at least they choose a good film (it just might not have been the best film), and at least here (unlike 2010) they gave the other film Best Director. So it’s not that terrible a decision. It’s just not most people’s preferred decision.
As for the rest of the year — it’s filled with other not-so-good decisions, which makes the Best Picture decision feel worse. Shakespeare in Love, outside of this category, won Best Actress for Gwyneth Paltrow (talked about here), which is historically a terrible decision, but honestly, I don’t really know what woud have been a better one. (Yes, I know Cate Blanchett, but that film is just way too on-the-nose to give her an Oscar. It was a terrible category, is what it was.) It also won Best Supporting Actress for Judi Dench (talked about here), which despite all the shit it catches for being so short on screen time, is a good decision.
Best Actor this year was Roberto Benigni for Life is Beautiful (talked about here), which I think we can all agree is one of, if not the single worst Best Actor decision in the history of the category. (But despite everyone’s opinion, Edward Norton was not the better choice, Ian McKellen was.) Best Supporting Actor was James Coburn for Affliction (talked about here), which is good in the sense that James Coburn is awesome, but terrible in every other way (Billy Bob really should have won this). And Steven Spielberg winning Best Director for Saving Private Ryan (talked about here) is one of the best decisions in that category.
Now, let me just say, before I talk about the films — this is really not that bad. Looking at it historically, there were much, much worse decisions. It’s only bad in context.
BEST PICTURE – 1998
And the nominees were…
Elizabeth (PolyGram Filmed Entertainment)
Life is Beautiful (Miramax)
Saving Private Ryan (DreamWorks, Paramount)
Shakespeare in Love (Miramax/Universal)
The Thin Red Line (20th Century Fox) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “Look at my red hands and my mean face… and I wonder ’bout that man that’s gone so wrong.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1999
1999. Not terribly much to say here. 1999 as a year had a lot of good films. It’s one of those years where a field of 10 would have been helpful, because there were a lot of films (specifically The Matrix) that would have probably gotten on the final list.
Outside of this category, American Beauty won Best Actor for Kevin Spacey (talked about here) and Best Director for Sam Mendes (talked about here). It should have also won Best Actress for Annette Bening, but Hilary Swank won for Boys Don’t Cry instead (talked about here). Michael Caine won Best Supporting Actor for The Cider House Rules, in what was essentially a veteran win (talked about here). And Angelina Jolie won Best Supporting Actress for Girl, Interrupted (talked about here).
This is one of those years where the race was not terribly interesting. From the looks of it, American Beauty was the film all the way through the race, with The Insider as a film people would have liked to have seen win, but never really caught any momentum at all (no acting nominations). The Sixth Sense got that blockbuster/unexpected surprise spot (a la The Blind Side and The Help, for recent comparisons). The Cider House Rules got the “classic” Oscar bait film spot. Or, as it’s known in this era — the Miramax spot. And The Green Mile is that on-the-nose, emotional film that tugs at the heartstrings, but is looked at disparagingly by real Oscars people (like Million Dollar Baby). It’s a good list from an academic perspective, but otherwise pretty average, bordering on weak. There are really only two films here, and only one really ever had a shot here. This was American Beauty all the way.
BEST PICTURE – 1999
And the nominees were…
American Beauty (DreamWorks)
The Cider House Rules (Miramax)
The Green Mile (Castle Rock Entertainment, Warner Bros.)
The Insider (Touchstone Pictures)
The Sixth Sense (Hollywood Pictures) (more…)
Pic of the Day: “Who am I, Kylie?” “Who how? What now?” “Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I’m saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I? And how can a fox ever be happy without, you’ll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?” “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but it sounds illegal.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1927-1928 (Comedy & Dramatic)
(Note: THIS CATEGORY IS NOT FINISHED. I still need to watch one of the nominees. I still have not been able to find Sorrell and Son in any cheap/acceptable format. If anyone has it or knows where it can be procured, let me know, so this category can be finished.)
The very first Best Director category. It’s split up into two. So we’ll deal with one then go into the other one afterward. First let’s recap the year.
Best Picture was also split into two categories. The “Outstanding Production” of the year was Wings, while the “Unique or Artistic Production” went to Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. Then Best Actor was Emil Jannings for The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh (talked about here). And Best Actress was Janet Gaynor for Seventh Heaven, Street Angel and Sunrise (talked about here). All of them are good decisions.
And these categories — based on what was nominated (for the first one), or simply based on the effort (the second one), they were both good choices (the second being really good).
BEST DIRECTOR – 1927-1928 (Comedy)
And the nominees were…
Lewis Milestone, Two Arabian Knights
Ted Wilde, Speedy (more…)
Pic of the Day: “This story is neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1928-1929
(Note: THIS CATEGORY IS NOT FINISHED. I still need to watch one of the nominees. I still have not been able to find Drag in any cheap/acceptable format. If anyone has it or knows where it can be procured, let me know, so this category can be finished.)
1928-1929 is the second year of the Oscars, one where there were no official nominees. They just mailed out ballots and whoever got the most votes won, and the unofficial nominees were the people who got the most votes. These were them for the Best Director category.
As for the rest of the year — The Broadway Melody wins Best Picture, because it was the film to best utilize the wonderful new technology called sound, Warner Baxter wins Best Actor for In Old Arizona (talked about here), quite possibly the least interesting or cared about category ever, and Mary Pickford wins Best Actress for Coquette (talked about here), which is a great historical decision that helped to legitimize the category. That’s it, really.
Remember, we’re working on a different set of rules for these categories than we would for contemporary ones. Though, even with the different set of rules, I really can’t understand this one. Not even a little bit. You just invented sound — why wouldn’t you give Best Director to a sound film? Or even if not, why would you give it to that film? (Though, admittedly, he was nominated three times, so maybe that had something to do with it.)
BEST DIRECTOR – 1928-1929
And the nominees were…
Lionel Barrymore, Madame X
Harry Beaumont, The Broadway Melody
Irving Cummings, In Old Arizona
Frank Lloyd, The Divine Lady & Drag & Weary River
Ernst Lubitsch, The Patriot (more…)
Pic of the Day: “Carol, did you know the sun was gonna die?” “What? I never heard that… Oh, come on. That can’t happen. I mean you’re the king, and look at me, I’m big! how can guys like us worry about a tiny little thing like the sun, hmm?”
The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor – 1955
1955 is a bit of a forgotten year in Academy history. Mostly because it’s small. A small film won the big awards, and the rest of the awards aren’t particularly memorable. So most people tend to overlook it.
Marty wins Best Picture, Best Director for Delbert Mann (talked about here), and Best Actor for Ernest Borgnine (talked about here). I love all the decisions, mostly because I love Marty, and because the year was very weak, and I think it was the best film in the bunch. (Could have done without Best Director, but whatever. James L. Brooks won for his film, so it’s not like it hasn’t happened.)
Best Actress was Anna Magnani for The Rose Tattoo (talked about here), which I don’t like because she’s not really an actress who needs an Academy Award, plus I felt Susan Hayward was much better in I’ll Cry Tomorrow, and if she’d won here, she wouldn’t have had to win in 1958 and then either Deborah Kerr or Rosalind Russell or Elizabeth Taylor could have won. (Kerr and Russell never won Oscars, and if Taylor won that year, she wouldn’t have had to win in 1960, and then Shirley MacLaine, the fifth nominee in 1958, could have won. Amazing what one decision can do, huh?) Oh, and Jo Van Fleet won Best Supporting Actress for East of Eden (talked about here). I understand it, but I went another way.
And then this category — meh. Pretty weak. But, Jack Lemmon is awesome. So he makes this feel a bit better.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – 1955
And the nominees were…
Arthur Kennedy, Trial
Jack Lemmon, Mister Roberts
Joe Mantell, Marty
Sal Mineo, Rebel Without a Cause
Arthur O’Connell, Picnic (more…)
Pic of the Day: “Voila! The ZF-1. It’s light. Handle’s adjustable for easy carrying, good for righties and lefties. Breaks down into four parts, undetectable by x-ray, ideal for quick, discreet interventions. A word on firepower: Titanium recharger, three thousand round clip with bursts of three to three hundred, and with the Replay button – another Zorg invention – it’s even easier. One shot, and Replay, sends every following shot to the same location. And to finish the job – all Zorg oldies but goldies: Rocket launcher, arrow launcher – with explosion of poisonous gas heads – very practical – our famous net launcher, the always-sufficient flamethrower – my favorite – and for the grand finale: the all new ice cube system.”
The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor – 1956
I don’t really like 1956. I hate almost all the decisions. Save two.
Around the World in 80 Days wins Best Picture. Mostly people don’t like this one. It’s definitely not the weakest ever, because I can at least understand why they’d vote for it, but, Giant is such a better film. On so many levels. So I don’t like that one. And I don’t like Best Actor, which went to Yul Brynner for The King and I (talked about here). I like Yul Brynner, and I like that he has an Oscar, but, for a variety of reasons explained in the article, I don’t think he should have won. I also despise the Best Actress choice for the year, which was Ingrid Bergman for Anastasia. You can read all the reasons I hate that decision here.
The two decisions I do like from 1956 were Best Supporting Actress, which went to Dorothy Malone for Written on the Wind (talked about here), which I really like (even though the category was tough to call), and Best Director, which went to George Stevens for Giant (talked about here), which is seriously one of the most gorgeously shot films of all time.
Now, this category — I don’t like. And it has nothing (really) to do with who won. It’s just — I felt the category was weak, the performance was barely worth an Oscar, plus, he had one already. Add to that a film and an actor I really like not winning, and it adds up to me just not liking this one.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1956
And the nominees were…
Don Murray, Bus Stop
Anthony Perkins, Friendly Persuasion
Anthony Quinn, Lust for Life
Mickey Rooney, The Bold and the Brave
Robert Stack, Written on the Wind (more…)