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The Oscar Quest: Reconsidered – The Best Actor Categories

We’ve gone through all the categories again and now it’s wrap-up time. I’ve decided that the proper way to wrap things up is to look at each of the six (original) Oscar Quest categories and compare how I voted the first time versus how I voted this time. The idea being to gauge where my tastes have changed over the past five years, as that was the purpose of going through and doing it again anyway.

Today is Best Actress. I’ve included a table of how I voted both times and color-coded the ones that are different so you can skim through easily. Then I’ll work my way through each of the categories where I changed votes, figure out why they changed and try to predict how it’s gonna go in another five years. 

Year The 2011/2012 Vote The 2016/2017 Vote
1927-1928 Emil Jannings, The Lost Command & The Way of All Flesh Emil Jannings, The Lost Command & The Way of All Flesh
1928-1929 Warner Baxter, In Old Arizona Warner Baxter, In Old Arizona
1929-1930 George Arliss, Disraeli Wallace Beery, The Big House
1930-1931 Jackie Cooper, Skippy Jackie Cooper, Skippy
1931-1932 Wallace Beery, The Champ Wallace Beery, The Champ
1932-1933 Paul Muni, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang Paul Muni, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
1934 William Powell, The Thin Man William Powell, The Thin Man
1935 Victor McLaglen, The Informer Charles Laughton, Mutiny on the Bounty
1936 William Powell, My Man Godfrey Walter Huston, Dodsworth
1937 Fredric March, A Star Is Born Spencer Tracy, Captains Courageous
1938 Leslie Howard, Pygmalion Leslie Howard, Pygmalion
1939 James Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington James Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
1940 Henry Fonda, The Grapes of Wrath Henry Fonda, The Grapes of Wrath
1941 Orson Welles, Citizen Kane Orson Welles, Citizen Kane
1942 James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy
1943 Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca
1944 Bing Crosby, Going My Way Cary Grant, None But the Lonely Heart
1945 Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend
1946 Fredric March, It’s a Wonderful Life James Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life
1947 Gregory Peck, Gentleman’s Agreement Gregory Peck, Gentleman’s Agreement
1948 Laurence Olivier, Hamlet Laurence Olivier, Hamlet
1949 Broderick Crawford, All the King’s Men Broderick Crawford, All the King’s Men
1950 William Holden, Sunset Boulevard William Holden, Sunset Boulevard
1951 Marlon Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire Marlon Brando, A Streetcar Named Desire
1952 Kirk Douglas, The Bad and the Beautiful Gary Cooper, High Noon
1953 Montgomery Clift, From Here to Eternity William Holden, Stalag 17
1954 Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront
1955 Frank Sinatra, The Man with the Golden Arm Frank Sinatra, The Man with the Golden Arm
1956 Rock Hudson, Giant Rock Hudson, Giant
1957 Alec Guinness, The Bridge on the River Kwai Alec Guinness, The Bridge on the River Kwai
1958 Paul Newman, Cat on a Hot Tin Rooff Paul Newman, Cat on a Hot Tin Rooff
1959 James Stewart, Anatomy of a Murder James Stewart, Anatomy of a Murder
1960 Burt Lancaster, Elmer Gantry Burt Lancaster, Elmer Gantry
1961 Paul Newman, The Hustler Maximilian Schell, Judgment at Nuremberg
1962 Gregory Peck, To Kill a Mockingbird Gregory Peck, To Kill a Mockingbird
1963 Richard Harris, This Sporting Life Paul Newman, Hud
1964 Peter Sellers, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Peter Sellers, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
1965 Richard Burton, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Richard Burton, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
1966 Paul Scofield, A Man for All Seasons Paul Scofield, A Man for All Seasons
1967 Paul Newman, Cool Hand Luke Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate
1968 Peter O’Toole, The Lion in Winter Peter O’Toole, The Lion in Winter
1969 John Wayne, True Grit Dustin Hoffman, Midnight Cowboy
1970 George C. Scott, Patton George C. Scott, Patton
1971 Gene Hackman, The French Connection Gene Hackman, The French Connection
1972 Marlon Brando, The Godfather Marlon Brando, The Godfather
1973 Jack Lemmon, Save the Tiger Jack Lemmon, Save the Tiger
1974 Al Pacino, The Godfather Part II Al Pacino, The Godfather Part II
1975 Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon
1976 William Holden, Network Peter Finch, Network
1977 Richard Dreyfuss, The Goodbye Girl Richard Dreyfuss, The Goodbye Girl
1978 Robert De Niro, The Deer Hunter Jon Voight, Coming Home
1979 Dustin Hoffman, Kramer vs. Kramer Dustin Hoffman, Kramer vs. Kramer
1980 Robert De Niro, Raging Bull Robert De Niro, Raging Bull
1981 Dudley Moore, Arthur Dudley Moore, Arthur
1982 Paul Newman, The Verdict Paul Newman, The Verdict
1983 Robert Duvall, Tender Mercies Robert Duvall, Tender Mercies
1984 F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus
1985 William Hurt, Kiss of the Spider Woman William Hurt, Kiss of the Spider Woman
1986 Paul Newman, The Color of Money Paul Newman, The Color of Money
1987 Michael Douglas, Wall Street Michael Douglas, Wall Street
1988 Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man
1989 Daniel Day-Lewis, My Left Foot Daniel Day-Lewis, My Left Foot
1990 Richard Harris, The Field Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune
1991 Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs
1992 Robert Downey Jr., Chaplin Denzel Washington, Malcolm X
1993 Liam Neeson, Schindler’s List Liam Neeson, Schindler’s List
1994 Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump
1995 Nicholas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas Nicholas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas
1996 Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade
1997 Jack Nicholson, As Good as It Gets Jack Nicholson, As Good as It Gets
1998 Ian McKellen, Gods and Monsters Ian McKellen, Gods and Monsters
1999 Kevin Spacey, American Beauty Kevin Spacey, American Beauty
2000 Russell Crowe, Gladiator Tom Hanks, Cast Away
2001 Denzel Washington, Training Day Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind
2002 Nicolas Cage, Adaptation Adrien Brody, The Pianist
2003 Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Bill Murray, Lost in Translation
2004 Jamie Foxx, Ray Jamie Foxx, Ray
2005 David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
2006 Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
2007 Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
2008 Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler Sean Penn, Milk
2009 George Clooney, Up in the Air Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
2010 N/A Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
2011 N/A Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
2012 N/A Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
2013 N/A Mathew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
2014 N/A Michael Keaton, Birdman
2015 N/A Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
2016 N/A Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Out of 89 Best Actor categories, I’ve changed my opinion on 25 of them. Which is a cool 28% overall and 30% of the ones I have to compare.

  • 1929-1930, Wallace Beery in The Big House over George Arliss in Disraeli

Arliss makes the most sense on paper. I just have become bored with those stagey, theatrical early stuff. Wallace Beery at least was in an interesting movie and had a cool role. So I switched the vote over there. Arliss is probably the better choice, but that doesn’t mean I need to vote for him.

  • 1935, Charles Laughton in Mutiny on the Bounty over Victor McLaglen in The Informer

I love the McLaglen performance, but Laughton’s is so iconic and so good, he’s the right choice. Not sure where I go with this next time, since it’s basically a 50/50. Both are great. I’ll probably keep flipping back and forth between them.

  • 1936, Walter Huston in Dodsworth over William Powell in My Man Godfrey

I took Powell originally because between Ziegfeld and My Man Godfrey, and my love of Powell for The Thin Man, I felt he deserved it. But the actual best performance in the category was Walter Huston. So he became the vote, and will likely continue being the vote. Because that performance is just so good.

  • 1937, Spencer Tracy in Captains Courageous over Fredric March in A Star Is Born

I like the March performance, but as the years go on, I’m starting to think of him more as a good actor with a knack for overdoing it at times. I was also against the Tracy performance because I hated that he won two in a row. So I deliberately shied away from taking him. Now, I’m much more okay with this performance. The other one he won for — no. But this one is good. And March — that performance is good, but not something I feel I needed to take. Maybe I’ll go back to it. That’s entirely possible.

  • 1944, Cary Grant in None But the Lonely Heart over Bing Crosby in Going My Way

Crosby felt like a compromise in a weak category. You gotta take Crosby over Fitzgerald. Knox is a ho hum nominee. Boyer is fine but I never loved that performance, and five years ago I didn’t quite love the Cary Grant performance. Now, on my reconsideration tour, I made sure to give None But the Lonely Heart another shot. And I loved it this time around and Cary Grant became the clear choice. I think I’ll stick with him, since Crosby is just amiable in his film and doesn’t really have any sort of heavy lifting to do. But it’s a weak category. For all I know I could completely change course at some point.

  • 1946, James Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life over Fredric March in The Best Years of Our Lives

This is a tough one. I love both these performances. March may have a slight edge on better acting, but Stewart wins on how iconic his performance is. I’ll be torn between these two every time I go through this category. No surprise at the switch, especially given my swing over to It’s a Wonderful Life this go round. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see me switch again going forward.

  • 1952, Gary Cooper in High Noon over Kirk Douglas in The Bad and the Beautiful

I love The Bad and the Beautiful. That, Kirk Douglas not having an Oscar and Gary Cooper already having one is what led to this vote. But if I’m being honest, I think the Cooper performance is better. So I went over to him this time. And I think I’ll probably continue with him, unless someone else in the category jumps up (which can happen. Jose Ferrer is very good in Moulin Rouge).

  • 1953, William Holden in Stalag 17 over Montgomery Clift in From Here to Eternity

I didn’t take Holden the first time because I knew I’d take him later and I wanted to get someone else who hadn’t won a vote. This time, not having to deal with all that, I took Holden, since he gave the best performance. Simple as that. He’ll be the vote going forward.

  • 1961, Maximilian Schell in Judgment at Nuremberg over Paul Newman in The Hustler

Newman being the vote for The Hustler any time is no surprise to anyone. This time, though, I made sure to specifically rewatch the Schell performance because I so derided it last time (mostly because I was in that mode of — only one performance can be good and had already sided with Newman), I had to really see what I thought about it. And I came away truly, truly impressed. I can’t guarantee he’ll continue being the vote, but it’ll be between him and Newman every time I look at it.

  • 1963, Paul Newman in Hud over Richard Harris in This Sporting Life

I think I took Harris because I probably voted for Newman like four times that first time and felt I should spread the wealth to an actor I like a lot who never got any other chances to get voted for. But if I’m being honest — Newman gave the best performance, so he’s the vote. Never gonna take the winner here, so it’ll likely be these two going forward.

  • 1967, Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate over Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke

This is a hell of a category. I could have taken anyone last time and I could take anyone in the future. Legit five possible choices here. Hoffman, Newman and Tracy are the most likely contenders, but honestly this could go any which way. Its one of the strongest, if not the strongest Best Actor category of all time.

  • 1969, Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy over John Wayne in True Grit

I took Wayne the first time because it was my only opportunity to vote for him. It’s clear he didn’t give the best performance in the category. I’m cool with him winning, but if I’m being honest and taking what the best performance is, it’s someone else. I love the Burton performance, but the Hoffman one is so iconic, that puts him over the top. I’ll probably need to look at this category more specifically next time to see who I think is best. But I suspect it’ll be Hoffman.

  • 1975, Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon over Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Nicholson, Pacino, they’re both worth taking, and I’ll always be voting between these two. Honestly it’s 50/50 every time, so it’s not even that there was a change so much as the vote swung Pacino’s way this time.

  • 1976, Peter Finch in Network over William Holden in Network

For some reason, I didn’t fully like the Finch performance last time. I did originally prefer the Holden performance. And he is great. I know De Niro is iconic and so is Stallone, but I always did love the Holden performance. This time — Finch all the way. He’s so fucking good in Network, and he’ll keep being the choice going forward, I imagine.

  • 1978, Jon Voight in Coming Home over Robert De Niro in The Deer Hunter

Voight’s better. I just love Deer Hunter. That’s why I took De Niro the first time. His character is more passive than I considered the first time. Voight, I think, was better, and was the proper choice. I think I’ll continue taking him in future votes.

  • 1990, Jeremy Irons in Reversal of Fortune over Richard Harris in The Field

One of the weakest categories of all time. I took Richard Harris because I love him and I thought he was awesome in The Field. Irons probably gives the best performance, but it’s not really a category that matters so much. Otherwise — never gonna take Costner, never gonna take Depardieu. De Niro — ehh. So it’s pretty much either of these two in the future. I suspect I’ll stick with Irons, but who knows.

  • 1992, Denzel Washington in Malcolm X over Robert Downey Jr. in Chaplin

Denzel gave the best performance. That much I think we can all agree on. I just love the Downey performance as Chaplin, and that’s why I took it. Pacino is great but it’s clear why he won in this specific category. Other years, he could win and it would be fine. And then there’s Eastwood, who’s great in Unforgiven. But Denzel is best and Denzel was the vote this time. I could go off him in the future, but it will always be made clear who the best performance was.

  • 2000, Tom Hanks in Cast Away over Russell Crowe in Gladiator

I took Crowe because the first time was all about logistics for me. Crowe deserved one, between 1999-2001, and this one made the most sense for him to win. Plus Hanks already had two. But, when you cut all that shit out and vote the best performance, Hanks gets my vote. I love what he does in Cast Away. I’m cool with Crowe winning, and theoretically could switch my vote back over to him, but my heart’s always been with Hans.

  • 2001, Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind over Denzel Washington in Training Day

I took Denzel last time to get Denzel an Oscar. I never truly thought he gave the best performance in the category. As such, my vote this time shifted to the person who did: Russell Crowe. Not an overall great category. Either I’ll be taking Crowe on the best performance or Denzel because he’s awesome in Training Day. Not very many surprises here.

  • 2002, Adrien Brody in The Pianist over Nicolas Cage in Adaptation

2002 is an incredible category. You can take Cage, you can take Daniel Day-Lewis, you can take Jack Nicholson, you can take Brody. Some, I guess, could even take Michael Caine. It’s a hell of a category. I figured my opinion would change, especially since I completely changed course on my opinion of The Pianist. Taking Brody was a direct result of that. Going forward — I feel like it’ll be either Adrien Brody or Daniel Day-Lewis. Because every time I go back and watch Gangs, I love that performance even more. This will be a fun one, because it’s so strong you can legitimately take the entire category.

  • 2003, Bill Murray in Lost in Translation over Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

I took Depp the first time because I love the Sparrow character. We all knew Murray delivered the goods and should have won. He did the best work. And since this go around was about who did the best work, Murray became the vote. I can’t guarantee I won’t go in for Depp again, since I consider him as good a choice as Sean Penn for Mystic River was.

  • 2005, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote over David Strathairn in Good Night, and Good Luck

Hoffman gives the best performance. Love Strathairn, but Hoffman gave the best performance. He’s the vote this time. Maybe I go to Strathairn in the future, given my love of his film, but Hoffman’s clearly tops in this category.

  • 2006, Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland over Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond

Whitaker’s the only one you could vote for in this category. At the time, I took DiCaprio because I was really voting for him in The Departed, for which he wasn’t nominated. But there’s no way I can stomach actually voting for Blood Diamond now. Fuck that. Whitaker, despite not really being a performance I love, becomes the best choice in one of the weakest categories of all time.

  • 2008, Sean Penn in Milk over Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

Love the Rourke performance, but even at the time I quietly knew the Penn performance deserved to win more. He’s absolutely incredible here. I could definitely see myself going back and forth on them in future installments, since they’re both completely worthy of the votes.

  • 2009, Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart over George Clooney in Up in the Air

Bridges gave the best performance and was the best choice. I took Clooney originally out of liking that film and performance best and partly because we knew Bridges would win so I felt no compulsion to take him. But he was the right choice. Maybe I’ll see Up in the Air again and swing back to Clooney, but I doubt it.

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